The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Friday, October 2, upturned the August 17, 2020 verdict of the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal which had sacked Governor Duoye Diri from office and ordered fresh poll to be conducted within 90 days.
A five-man panel of the Court of Appeal led by Justice Adezila Mshelia set aside the tribunal’s verdict and affirmed Diri’s election in its judgment delivered on Friday, October 2.
The three-man election petition tribunal sitting in Abuja had, in a split decision of two-to-one, nullified the November 16, 2019 Bayelsa State governorship election as a result of the unlawful exclusion of the Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party and its candidate, King George, from the exercise.
Dissatisfied with the judgment, Diri, his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, and the Independent National Electoral Commission had filed separate appeals against it.
The Court of Appeal upheld the appeals on Friday by holding that ANDP was not unlawfully excluded from the election.
The appellate court held that there was enough evidence to show that the case of the ANDP was statute-barred, the party, having not filed its petition within 14 days as stipulated by law.
Ogbunya, in the judgment, agreed with Diri, the appellant, that the case of the ANDP which ought to be filed within 14 days was filed five months after the cause of the event.
On another grounds of appeal, Justice Ogbunya also agreed with the appellant that INEC was right in excluding the ANDP from the November 16 governorship poll.
This was on grounds of disqualification of the ANDP’s deputy governorship candidate, who was said to be underage at the time of the election.
Justice Ogbunya held that on the whole, Diri’s case had merit and he subsequently affirmed his election as governor of Bayelsa.
He further set aside the majority judgment of the tribunal that nullified the November 16 governorship poll and ordered fresh elections.