Gov. Diri

The Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal has upheld the re-election of Governor Douye Diri, dismissing the petition filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Timipre Sylva. The three-man panel, led by Justice Adekunle Adeleye, delivered a unanimous verdict, citing a lack of credible evidence from the petitioners.

In its decision, the tribunal struck out all additional proof of evidence and statements on oath submitted by the petitioners as incompetent. According to the tribunal, election petitions must be filed within 21 days of the election result declaration, and must include written statements from all intended witnesses at the time of filing. The late submission of additional evidence by Sylva and his party was viewed as an improper attempt to amend their case.

The tribunal also dismissed allegations against Deputy Governor Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, who was accused of submitting forged University Degree and National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Exemption Certificates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The tribunal found no credible evidence supporting these claims, noting that such allegations were pre-election matters that should have been addressed before the Federal High Court. The tribunal further stated that these allegations were statute-barred, as they were not challenged within 14 days of certificate submission to INEC.

Furthermore, the tribunal noted that Ewhrudjakpo’s educational qualifications had already been validated by a court of competent jurisdiction, and that he was eminently qualified to contest the election.

The tribunal highlighted contradictions in the petitioners’ requests, pointing out that Sylva and his party simultaneously sought to be declared the valid winners of the election while also calling for the election to be invalidated. The petitioners failed to present any electoral material to substantiate claims of irregularities during the election. Additionally, they were unable to prove, on a polling unit-by-polling unit basis, how alleged non-compliance affected the election outcome.

Justice Adeleye, who read the lead judgment, emphasized that some allegations in the petition contained elements of criminality that required proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The tribunal ultimately upheld the preliminary objections filed by the respondents challenging the competence of the petition.