Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, has asked the state governorship tribunal sitting in Abuja to dismiss the petition filed against him by the governorship candidate of Liberation Movement (LM), Vijah Opuama, saying the suit is incompetent.
The petitioner has alleged that Mr Ewhrudjakpo submitted forged documents containing false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 16 November 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa State.
The petitioner is praying the tribunal to disqualify the Governor, Duoye Diri, his Deputy Ewhirudjakpo and their political party – the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – and to order a fresh election without the disqualified PDP.
But picking holes in the petition, the deputy governor in his preliminary objection filed by his counsel, Mr Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume, SAN, urged the tribunal to dismiss and or strike out the petition for being incompetent.
In the preliminary objection brought pursuant to section 6 (6) of the 1999 constitution, section 145(1) of the Electoral Act, 2010 and other relevant laws, Mr Ewhrudjakpo contended that the petition is statute-barred having been filed outside the mandatory statutory period of 21 days.
Mr Ume, who argued that the petition is incompetent, added that the petitioner lacked the locus standi to solely contest the outcome of the election without joining the political platform (LM) that sponsored him to participate in the election.
On this ground, the senior lawyer referred the tribunal to section 137(1)(b) of the Electoral Act to emphasise that LM, being the party that sponsored the petitioner in the November election, is a necessary party for the purpose of determining the petition before the tribunal.
In addition, Mr Ume submitted that as of when the petition was filed on February 20, 2020, or thereabout, the petitioner’s erstwhile political party (LM) has long ceased to exist as a political party as it has been de-registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) since February 6, 2020.
Mr Umeh noted that it was for these reasons that the petitioner failed to join the political party that sponsored him in his petition contrary to section 177(1)(C) of the 1999 constitution.
Ume submitted that situating the legal position of the petitioner to his own petition, his political party cannot reap from the judgment of the Federal High Court in suit No: FHC/ABJ/ CS/ 444/2019 between Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD)& 32 Ors Vs AGF and Anor, since it was not a party to the suit.
It is also the position of the deputy governor that it was too late in the day for the petitioner to now file a motion seeking to join his political party (LM) as a party to the petition since his preliminary objection contesting the competence of the petition has since been taken and issues already joined by parties.