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David Lyon: The Governor that Never Was

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By Eric Elezuo

“If you have tears, prepare to shed them now…”

The above expression by Mark Antony in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar came to mind as the Supreme Court declared its landmark judgment which threw the entire nation into a frenzy and shock, depending on your side of the divide. It ruled that the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), My David Lyon, who was elected governor of Bayelsa State in November 2019 will no longer be governor. This was barely 24 hours to his inauguration, and even as the former governor-elect was rehearsing for the ill-fated inauguration.

A five-member panel of the apex court led by Justice Mary Odili nullified the election of Mr Lyon on the grounds that his deputy, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, presented false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in aid of his qualification for the governorship election in the state held on November 16, 2019.

In the judgment, delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, the final arbiter ordered INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Lyon and Degi-Eremienyo and immediately declare the party with the highest number of lawful votes and geographical spread the winner of the election. The decision did not just draw tears; it drew pains, heartbreak and blood. The Supreme Court judgment came exactly one month after it sacked the former Imo State governor, Emeka Ihedioha, who had been in office for eight months, replacing him with APC’s Hope Uzodinma, who came a distant fourth in the March 9, 2010 governorship election in Imo State.

With the judgment, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Diri Duoye, was declared winner and inaugurated as governor of Bayelsa State the following amid pockets of protests and subsequent three-day curfew.

The PDP and its governorship candidate, Mr Diri, had filed a suit against Messrs Lyon and Degi-Eremienyo, and INEC, seeking the disqualification of the APC deputy governorship candidate.

They had claimed that Mr Degi-Eremienyo gave false information in his CF 0001 form submitted to INEC.

It is more painful that Lyon was sacked just two days after he survived a court process against a member of his party, Heineken Lokpobiri, who approached the apex court, asking it to declare him the winner of the APC governorship primary held in the state. He claimed that the party wrongly gave the ticket to Mr Lyon who eventually contested and won the governorship election.

But in its judgment read by Justice Iyang Okoro, the Supreme Court said, “The sole issue is resolved against the appellant. Accordingly, the appeal lacks merit and is hereby dismissed.”

But that was not to be when PDP approached the court. Recall that prior to the election on November 12, Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja had disqualified the APC governor-elect on the grounds that his deputy provided false information to INEC.

Mr Ekwo held that there was no connection between the name on the candidate’s school-leaving certificate, first degree (BA), master’s degree and the affidavits he swore.

However, the Court of Appeal, in its wisdom, set aside the decision of the trial court and affirmed the election of the APC candidates. The three-member panel of the appellate court led by Justice Stephen Adah said that the PDP did not prove their case against the APC candidates. The court held that Mr Degi-Eremienyo submitted an affidavit which showed evidence of his change of name from Adeyi-Eremienyo to Degi-Eremienyo.
Dissatisfied with the decision of the Court of Appeal, Diri and his party filed an appeal at the apex court, and the outcome, like they say, is history, leaving in its wake ‘sorrow, tears and blood’.
Today, David Lyon, who was governor-elect, and had only a couple of hours to become full fledged governor, is addressed simply as former governorship candidate of the APC. From records, as at Friday, February 14, 2020 when INEC rose from its emergency meeting, and a certificate of return presented to Diri, Lyon’s ceased to exist in electoral body’s registered, and is deemed not to have contested the election, not to talk of winning it.
Lyon, born to Mr and Mrs Arukubu Lyon Ekpeke of Abebiri family of Eubiri compound, Olugbobiri community in Olodiama clan, Southern Ijaw LGA, Bayelsa State, on December 20, 1970, can only look back and cherish the days he was erroneously declared and called governor-elect and endowed with appurtenances of state glory; the days he had to visit President Muhammadu Buhari in Aso Rock, and addressed as Buhari’s newest baby boy by party chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.
In 1978, Lyon became equipping himself for the task ahead when he attended Saint Gabriel’s State School Olugbobiri where he finished from in 1983 before proceeding to Community Secondary school, Olugbobiri, from 1984 to 1988. He obtained his National Certificate of Education (NCE) in Mathematics and Chemistry at the Rivers State College of Education.

Lyon started his career as a foreman in Western Geophysical Company Limited, before moving on to become the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Darlon Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited, Darlon Group Nigeria Limited and Arutex and Sons Nigeria Limited.

Lyon joined politics in the Third Republic, as a member of the defunct, National Republican Congress (NRC). He contested and won a councilorship election at Ward 4 in Southern Ijaw, but the military incursion aborted his tenure in 1997. He went on to become a founding member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Southern Ijaw. He was later appointed as the Caretaker Committee Chairman of Apoi Olodiama Local Government Development Center in 2000.

In 2015, he decamped to the All Progressives Congress and contested the Bayelsa State governorship primary election in September 2019, where he emerged as the party’s candidate.

The story of David Lyon will have a special place in history books as the almost governor or the governor that never was. He will have his chance again in 2023, maybe.

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Just In: Court Sentences Funke Akindele, Husband to 14-Days Community Service, N100,000 Fine Each

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The Chief Magistrate Court 1 Ogba has sentenced actress Funke Akindele and her husband, Abdulrasheed Bello aka JJC Skillz, for defying the social distancing order of the Lagos state government.

The court in its ruling ordered the couple to pay a fine of N100,000 each and also sentenced them to 14 days community service, three hours per day, excluding Saturday and Sunday.

The couple must also visit 10 important public places within Lagos State to educate the public on the consequences of non compliance with the restriction order and must submit the names and phone numbers of every person who attended their house party.

Furthermore, the court ordered that they shall be placed on isolation by the State Government to determine their COVID-19 status. Failure to abide by the above directives shall attract more severe punishments.

The charge sheet filed against them read:

”On 04/04/2020, the two accused persons held a party at their residents with over twenty persons in attendance contrary to the social distancing directives made in pursuant to Regulation  8(1)(a) and (b) & 17(1)(i) of the Lagos State Infectious Disease (Emergency Prevention) Regulations 2020 and therefore committed an offence under Section 58 of the Public Health Law Cap P16 Vol. 9, Laws of Lagos State 2015.”

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NCDC Denies Funke Akindele As Brand Ambassador

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has denied claims that Nollywood actress, Funke Akindele, is its brand ambassador.

This is coming on the heels of Akindele’s arrest for violating the government-ordered lockdown and ban on large gatherings after she hosted a celebrity-studded house party in honour of her husband, JJC Skills, on Saturday.

Though the actress on Sunday apologised for the action, she was arrested at her residence in Amen Estate off the Lekki-Epe Expressway and taken to the State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, Yaba.

The police have also summoned her husband and Naira Marley who were at the party.

Until her arrest, the actress had been the ‘face’ of the DettolNigeria/NCDC campaigns for personal hygiene and social distancing sensitisation against the pandemic.

In reaction, the NCDC said on its verified Twitter account on Sunday that the agency had no connection with the actress as a ‘brand ambassador’.

“As an agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria, NCDC has not engaged brand ambassadors as part of our response to COVID-19. We continue to emphasise that all Nigerians maintain social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID,” it wrote

Meanwhile, DettolNigeria, which contracted Funkẹ as their brand ambassador, has condemned the actress’ misconduct.

“We have been made aware through social media that Funke Akindele recently, acting in her personal capacity, had a celebration which is against the caution to the public on social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said.

“The NCDC partnered with Dettol on a public service message to educate our communities about preventive measures against COVID-19. Funke is not a brand ambassador of the NCDC.

The company frowned at the breach of order regarding COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a responsible organisation and brand, Dettol does not condone any breach of the guidelines on COVID-19.”

The company did not, however, state if it would take any action on its partnership with the actress.

Risk of fine, jail term With the violation of the government-ordered lockdown and ban on large gatherings, the couple risks a fine or jail term as comeuppance for the violation.

The Lagos Infection Diseases Regulations 2020 (the Regulations) prescribes a jail term of one month or N100,000 fine or both for persons found guilty of hosting gatherings or flouting the lockdown order.

“Where there is a violation of a close down or stay at home order, security agencies shall have power to arrest without warrant and may detain any person who violates the close down or stay at home order for at least forty-eight (48) hours.

“Where the arrested person is found guilty, the person is liable to a fine of one Hundred Thousand Nara fine (N100,000.00) or one (1) month imprisonment or three (3) months Community service,” it reads in part.

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Doctors Reject FG’s Plan to Invite Chinese Medical Team

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The Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) has rejected the Federal Government’s proposed invitation of an 18-man Chinese medical team to support the country’s fight against Coronavirus.

The President, Francis Faduyile, in a statement Sunday said the move is a misplaced priority. He described it as “a thing of embarrassment to the membership of the Association and other health workers who are giving their best in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic under deplorable working conditions.”

The plan of inviting an 18-member team of Chinese medical experts to Nigeria has been criticised since it was announced Friday by health minister, Osagie Ehanire.

The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) had advised the federal government against the plan, saying it was unnecessary to invite Chinese doctors as Nigeria was already handling the crisis effectively.

Clarification

But the Director-General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Garba Abari, further clarified the reasons behind the proposed visit on Saturday.

He said the Chinese medical team were only coming to share experiences with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and not to directly take charge of the fight against COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

According to him, they will be sharing experiences on how the pandemic was handled in China and giving expert suggestions to our medical teams.

“Whatever information the Chinese medical team makes available to NCDC will be filtered and applied to address the peculiar challenges of the country on handling the COVID-19 scourge.

“This is a global pandemic and from wherever assistance comes, you cannot reject it”, the official noted.

Rejection

The clarification, however, did not stop Nigerian doctors from opposing the plan.

Rejecting the invitation, the NMA president said the government in arriving at the decision, did not take into consideration the extant laws regulating the practice of medicine in Nigeria as enshrined in the Medical and Dental Council Act.

“This is one such circumstance where the Medical and Dental Council of Nigerian should be consulted to grant necessary approvals to foreigners to interact with Nigerian patients”, Mr Faduyile explained.

He also said the association of Nigerian doctors was subjected to the “ignominy of not being carried along in arriving at such a decision”.

Read the Full Statement Below

(1) The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) received the news of the intention of the Federal Government of Nigeria to invite Chinese doctors into the country at this time of a global pandemic with great dismay and utter disappointment.

(2) It is a thing of embarrassment to the membership of the Association and other health workers who are giving their best in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic under deplorable working conditions, and a fragile health system to be subjected to the ignominy of not being carried along in arriving at such a decision.

(3) The lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), grossly inadequate test kits and test centres across the country, and the absolute lack of any form of insurance for the workforce are primordial issues begging for attention at this time.

(4) We are therefore profoundly dismayed to learn that the Federal Government is instead inviting the Chinese who from available accounts are not out of the woods themselves. The spike in cases and the death toll from COVID -19 in Italy coincided with the arrival of the Chinese in the guise of offering assistance. Even the United Nations has only just recently commended the efforts of Nigeria so far.

(5) The Association notes with grave concern that the Government did not take into consideration the extant laws regulating the practice of medicine in Nigeria as enshrined in the Medical and Dental Council Act. This is one such circumstance where the Medical and Dental Council of Nigerian should be consulted to grant necessary approvals to foreigners to interact with Nigerian patients.

(6) The Association appreciates the commendable work done by doctors and health workers at the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the various isolation centres across the country. It expects the Government to show appreciation by channelling the available resources and donations to improving testing facilities to detect more cases and ramp up capacity to train more workers.

(7) The Association is aware of a large pool of General Medical and Specialist Practitioners who are either unemployed or underemployed that can be engaged instead of bringing foreigners who aside from national security concerns may not be conversant with our culture, terrain and peculiar challenges.

(8) The Association believes that this invitation is ill-timed and of no overbearing significance considering that whatever experiences the Chinese have can be shared by digital technology through conferencing bearing in mind that Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu has only just returned from China. We are not averse to the donation of equipment and supplies because we can always do with such support as even the developed countries receive support.

(9) In rejecting the invitation of the Chinese doctors, the NMA would instead urge the Federal Government to review and approve better welfare incentives to the frontline medical personnel. The provision of adequate personal protective equipment, opening and properly equipping more isolation centres and health facilities across the country is an excellent first step. Deploying more resources to facilitate testing as we are beginning to witness community transmission of COVID 19 is equally a better application of scarce resources.

(10) The Government should declare a state of emergency in the Health sector and use the opportunity to fix our health institutions as a matter of urgency in a bid to stem the rot.

(11) The NMA urges the Government to expand the Presidential Task Force to include other critical stakeholders including journalists and the civil society to ensure more robust engagement especially as the decisions of the task force has implications for the health, wealth and security of our country.

(12) It is a great disservice to the morale of the long-suffering frontline health workforce if the Government goes ahead to invite these Chinese doctors. The invitation demeans their sacrifices so far in this pandemic. We fail to see how the 18 man team would impact the current efforts in any significant way.

(13) The Association, however, expects that the Government would rescind the decision in the overall interest of the country.

(14) The NMA would loathe reviewing her participation in the fight against COVID-19 considering the grave implications and the risk to the lives of her members should the Government go ahead with this ill-thought-out invitation at this time.

(15) The Association remains committed to the Nigerian people and the Government. We support the efforts of our frontline health workers in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and we expect reciprocal trust from the Government.

Signed: Dr. Francis A. Faduyile
NMA PRESIDENT.

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