Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Bayelsa State Governorship Election Tribunal sitting in Abuja on Monday dismissed an application by the Liberation Movement (LM) seeking to be joined as a co-petitioner in the petition filed by its governorship candidate against the outcome of the November 16, 2019 state election.
The party’s governorship candidate in the election, Vj Opuma, had filed the petition on February 20th without joining his political platform.
This was shortly after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had deregistered LM on February 6th, two weeks earlier.
However, after issues had been joined in the preliminary objection filed by the state deputy governor, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, who contested the competency of the petition, LM subsequently brought its application seeking to be joined as a co-petitioner.
The application for joinder was filed by the party on May 5,th, about 15 days after the competencer of the petition was challenged by the deputy governor through a motion of preliminary objection.
Counsel to the deputy governor Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume, SAN, had predicated its objection on the ground that the non-joinder of the party was fatal to the petition and that it should be declared invalid.
Ruling on the joinder application on Monday, the tribunal agreed with the arguments canvassed by Ume and accordingly dismissed the application for lacking in merit.
The Chairman of the three-man tribunal, panel Justice Mohammed Cirajo, who delivered the judgment, held that there was no justification for the party to file the application to join the petition 74 days after it was filed by its governorship candidate in the election.
In addition, Justice Cirajo said the reasons tendered by the applicant to explain the delay was not tenable in law.
The party had explained that it did not join the petition from the outset because it was as of the time deregistered by the electoral commission and only sought to be joined after the Federal High Court in Abuja stopped its deregistration.
Justice Cirajo ruled that contrary to the party’s claim, the ruling of the Federal High Court in Abuja delivered on February 17th and cited by the applicant did not restrain the INEC from deregistering LM, but only restrained the electoral body from deregistering the 33 political parties who were the plaintiffs in the case.
‘Despite the damaging counter-affidavit to the application for joinder, there was no better or further affidavit,’ Justice Cirajo held.
‘The inevitable conclusion is that the application lacks merit, and it is hereby dismissed,’ he ruled.
Ewhrudjakpo’s lawyer, Ume, had maintained that LM’s application ‘is misleading’ by ‘pretending’ that the party was one of 33 political parties who initiated the Federal High Court suit and obtained the judgment restraining INEC from deregistering them.
‘The applicant is rather insulting the intelligence of the honourable tribunal by deposing to falsehood,’ the counter-affidavit read in part.