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Tribunal Declares Atiku’s Evidence As Drop in the Ocean, Affirms Buhari as Duly Elected

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The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal in Abuja on Wednesday dismissed the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, challenging the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari at the February 23, 2019 election.

The five-man bench led by Justice Mohammed Garba unanimously dismissed the case for lacking in merit after resolving all the five issues raised in the case against the petitioners.

Justice Garba, who read the lead judgment, resolved all the five broad issues raised by the petitioners  in favour of the respondents.He held that none of the grounds on which the petition was anchored was proved.

Comparing the evidence led by the petitioners to the quantum of their allegations,  Justice Garba said, “It is like a drop in the ocean”.

He ruled, “In the final result, I have come to the conclusion, which is inevitable and unavoidable, that the petitioners have not discharged the burden of proof required of any of the grounds of the petition in paragraph 15 of the petition.This petition is accordingly and hereby dismissed in its entirety.”

The tribunal held, among others, that contrary to the contention of the petitioners, Buhari had the educational qualification to contest the presidential election.

It held that the petitioners failed to provide any proof that Buhari did not attend the Provincial Secondary School, Katsina and obtained his West African School Certificate from there in 1961.

“It is established that a candidate is not required under the Electoral Act to attach his certificate to Form CF001 before the candidate is adjudged to have the requisite qualification to contest the election,” Justice Garba said.

Citing a previous Supreme Court judgment, the tribunal said, “Submission of educational certificate is not a requirement to contest election.

“In effect, the 2nd defendant (Buhari) went through secondary education and then proceeded to military school. The military school is higher than secondary education.”

Justice Garba also referred to a statement issued in 2015 by the then Director of Army’s Public Relations, Brigadier-General Olajide Laleye, denying that Buhari’s certificate was with the Army’s board.

According to the judge, the denial by Laleye was only to the effect that Buhari’s certificate was not in his personal file but not to the effect that he did not have a certificate.

He pointed out that from Laleye’s statement the Army had verified Buhari’s results at the point of his enrolment into the Army in 1961.

He said Laleye admitted that Buhari possessed some credits and a pass in his West African School Certificate which qualified him to be commissioned into the Nigerian Army.

He said Buhari’s results mentioned in Laleye’s statement must have been copied from Buhari’s Form 99A submitted to the Army Board at the point of his enrolment into the Nigerian Army in 1962.

Justice Garba held, “The 2nd defendant is not only qualified, but also eminently qualified to contest the February 23, 2019 presidential election,” adding, “The fact that he did not attach his certificate cannot lead to the conclusion that he is not educated up to secondary education.”

The tribunal also dismissed the claim of the petitioners that Provincial Secondary School, Katsina, was not in existence as of 1961 when Buhari claimed to have obtained his West African School Certificate from there.

He ruled, “There is no scintilla of evidence that the school stated in Form CF001 submitted to INEC was not  in existence as of that time.

“They have failed to discharge the burden of proof of the allegations of non-qualification or submission of false information which is fundamental in the aid of the qualification of the 2nd defendant to contest the election.”

Justice Garba added, “The onus rests squarely on the petitioners to prove their assertion that the 2nd respondent does not possess the educational qualification to contest the election or that he submitted false information which is fundamental in nature to aid his qualification. This, I have mentioned, that the petitioners failed to prove. The petitioners cannot therefore rely on any failure in the case of the respondents.

“I also have no doubt in my mind that the petitioners have failed to prove that the 2nd respondent does not possess the qualification to contest the election into the office of the President as stipulated in sections 131, 137, 138 of the Constitution.

“I am also of the firm view that the petitioners have failed to prove that the 2nd respondent submitted false information which is fundamental in nature to aid his qualification to contest the election into the Office of the President as prescribed in section 35(1) of the Evidence Act, 2011.”

The tribunal also ruled that the election manual issued by INEC for the conduct of the 2019 presidential election did not provide for electronic transmission of results of the election.

It added that the petitioners failed to prove that election results were transmitted electronically.

It added that petitioners’ Witness 59, David Njorga, from Kenya, did not qualify to be referred to as an expert witness, as he only relied on third party information to make a case for the existence of a server into which the results of the election were allegedly transmitted.

The tribunal held that Njorga relied on hearsay information posted on a website, www.factsdontlie.com, by a purported whistleblower who was never known.

It added that card reader was not used to transmit results during the election but was for mere authentication of ownership of voter cards.

It added that the petitioners merely dumped documents particularly result sheets and voter register on the tribunal without demonstrating them by attaching the evidence of any of their 62 witnesses to the documents in their bid to prove the allegations in their petition.

It held that none of the documents tendered by the petitioners was utilised to prove the allegations, such as over-voting or non-accreditation of voters.

Other members of the panel, Justices Abdul Aboki, Joseph Ikyegh, Samuel Oseji and Peter Ige concurred with the ruling.

The judgment, which lasted over eight hours on Wednesday, started at 9.30am and ended at about 5.58pm when the other members of the panel delivered their supporting opinions.

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APC Lambasts INEC for Declaring Diri Bayelsa Gov’ship Election Winner

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The All Progressives Congress (APC) has berated the electoral umpire, INEC, for its decision to declare the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Douye Diri, as governor of Bayelsa State.

Abiding by a Supreme Court directive, INEC on Friday declared Mr Diri governor-elect after it nullified the votes cast for the APC candidate, David Lyon, in the November 16 election in the state.

Mr Lyon was sacked on Thursday by the apex court on the grounds that his deputy, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, presented a false certificate to the electoral body, INEC, in the build-up to the election.

In a press briefing on Friday at the party secretariat in Abuja, the APC chairman faulted INEC for issuing a certificate of return to Mr Diri.

“INEC expressly disobeyed the Supreme Court order which insisted on (votes) spread.

“Democracy is a game of numbers, it would not have been the intention of the Supreme Court that the man who did not have the spread be sworn-in as a governor. That is why the Supreme Court made that provision.

“We will employ every peaceful legal means to upturn this illegal decision of INEC,” Mr Oshiomhole said, suggesting the party could approach the Supreme Court again.

The party chairman also cautioned PDP and Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers against celebrating their victory through Supreme Court as “the PDP has crossed one river and they still have many rivers to cross.”

In his argument, Mr Oshiomhole said the certificates presented by
Mr Degi-Eremienyo to INEC when he contested for the Senate was the same he presented as a deputy governorship candidate.

“The qualifications for being a governor is the same qualification of being a senator. It is the same documents that they used for his election as a senator that he provided to INEC. There is no evidence that he subtracted or added.

“So, if he was eligible to be a senator in the eyes of the law and suddenly become illegible to be a deputy governor,” he said.

Mr Oshiomhole also claimed in his address that the just concluded governorship election in Bayelsa State was won by APC for the first time without ‘firing a single shot.’

However, PREMIUM TIMES and other election observers witnessed several cases of violence and manipulations during the election.

Following the Supreme Court’s Thursday judgement, Mr Oshiomhole said that nobody should be sworn-in as the governor of Bayelsa on Friday. Among the criticisms that trailed the APC chairman’s reaction was from the Rivers governor, Nyesom Wike.

“The federal government should warn Oshiomhole to stop making remarks that will destabilise Nigeria.

“What he is doing in Edo State is not proper and he should not bring it to the rest of the Niger Delta,” Mr Wike warned Oshiomhole.

“Between me and my very dear friend (Nyesom Wike), who has the history of electoral violence?” The APC national chairman said in reaction on Friday.

“I have ran as a governor twice and to my credit I launched one man one vote. I fought the PDP godfather and I defeated them, without firing a gunshot. We emphasized the power of the ballot, peaceful ballot.

“Do you know how many lives were wasted, do you read your newspaper? Police officers were beheaded, where? Soldiers were beheaded, where? Rivers! Who was declared winner of such election violence, was it not Wike?

“When a tortoise continues to challenge the antelope for a race, know that something is wrong.

“He wants to use me to regain his dubious membership of the PDP,” he alleged.

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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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Tension As Police Impose curfew on Bayelsa Amid Inauguration

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The Bayelsa State Police Command on Friday imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the state following an outbreak of protests and violence in different parts of the state.

The state Commissioner of Police, Uche Anozia, announced the curfew at a press conference in Yenagoa, the state capital, shortly before the swearing-in of Senator Douye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party as the governor of the state and Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo as his deputy, by the state Chief Judge, Justice Kate Abiri, at the Government House.

There had been severe tension in the state since the Supreme Court on Thursday annulled the victory of the APC candidate in the November 16, 2019 governorship election, Mr David Lyon, and his running mate, Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo.

While Lyon was already rehearsing for the inauguration scheduled for Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that the APC ought not to have participated in the election because Degi-Eremienyo, his running mate in the election, forged his certificates.

A five-man panel of the apex court, headed by Justice Mary Peter-Odili, ordered that INEC should withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Lyon and his running mate and declare as winner of the election the candidate with the highest number of lawful votes cast with the requisite constitutional spread.

Sequel to the court order in the lead judgement delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, the commission on Friday declared Diri as the winner of the election.

INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, while addressing a news conference at its headquarters, said by virtue of the Supreme Court judgement, the total number of votes cast in the election was 146,999, out of which the candidate of the PDP scored 143,172 with geographical spread.

But as early as Thursday evening, shortly after the ruling of the apex court, there were protests against the judgment in some parts of the state, including Yenogoa, and it continued until Friday morning.

The protesters, who were believed to be supporters of the APC, took to the streets setting bonfires on major roads in the state.

The angry APC supporters, comprising women and youths, blocked different areas of the Mbiama-Yenagoa Road, burning tyres and traffic control stands in sight.

They said the verdict of the apex court was unacceptable, insisting that it was either Lyon or no other person. The National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, had also posited that no one would be sworn in on Friday, arguing that no other candidate had the constitutional spread to be governor.

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