Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC has stated categorically that the Electoral umpire has, as at the morning of Friday November 15, 2019, been served with only Two Court Orders concerning the status of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in connection with the November 16, 2019 Bayelsa State Election.
(1) The Court Order Nullifying the September 3, 2019 Bayelsa APC Primary which was challenged by an aspirant Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri and granted by an Abuja High Court and
(2) A Court Order granting a Stay of Exceution on a previous Court disqualifying the Deputy Governorhip candidate of the Bayelsa APC, Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo from participating in the November 16 polls.
These clarifications were made by Mr. Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, INEC”s National Director of Publicity and Voter Election, while speaking on a live Television programme Kaakaki, aired by this morning (November 15, 2019,) on the African Independent Television, AIT Friday, November 15, 2019.
Mr. Osaze-uzzi, who recalled similar cases in Rivers and Zamfara states, equally took time to decry the penchant of politicians to always attempt to derail INEC’s painstaking preparations for elections with conflicting Court orders, and also chided public office holders like Ministers, who call press conferences to make announcements about the status of political parties and elections, which should constitutionally be the duty of INEC and while stressing that only INEC has the authority to clarify court orders it has been served in relation to elections, assured that the Commission, as an unbiased, independent umpire, would always act promptly on any court it has been duly served by the Courts.
The matter was further clarified by the INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, who stated categorically on another Television programme, Sunrise Daily, aired by Channels Television this morning too, (Friday Nov. 15, 2019), that there was no Court Order stopping the Bayelsa Election but only a Court Order which voided the Sept. 4 Bayelsa APC primary and ruled that neither the plaintiff nor the defendant in the Bayelsa APC Primary case should be recognized as qualified and eligible to participate in the Nov 16 Bayelsa polls.
According to Okoye, all the materials for the election have arrived and the non-sensitive materials have already been transported to the designated areas while all preparations and arrangements including security, transportation and other logistics have been put in place to ensure a hitch free election.
“We have already printed the ballot papers and all the eligible political parties cleared for the election, including the APC are all on the ballot. The Supreme Court has already made it clear that it is political parties that participate in elections, not individuals and there is no court order as at now, stopping the Bayelsa APC from participating in Nov 16 election.
“What the court has said is that neither the name of the plaintiff nor that of the defendant in the Bayelsa APC primary, should appear on the ballot, since the primary election which they participated in has been nullified by the court. What this means is that the election will go ahead as scheduled, with APC on the ballot and we will have to deal with the issue of candidates when we get to the stage of FORM EC8, which has to do with collating and announcing the votes which has accrued to individual candidates and their political parties” Okoye clarified.
Recall that a Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, on Thursday, Nov 14, had nullified the Bayelsa APC governorship primaries that produced Chief David Lyon as the candidate of the Party for the Nov. 16 poll in the state.
NAN reports that delivering judgment on the suit filed by Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri, himself an aspirant in the primaries, challenging the conduct of the governorship primaries of APC which held on Sept.4, Justice Jane Inyang, held that the primaries were conducted arbitrarily outside the rules of the party.
According to her, since the process was conducted in violation of the party’s constitution and guidelines as clearly spelt out for the conduct of governorship primaries, none of the aspirants should be fielded as the party’s candidate and therefore restrained the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), from including Lyon as the APC candidate in the governorship election slated for Saturday Nov 16.
Justice Inyang had noted that according to the APC guidelines for the conduct of the 2019 governorship primaries, the results were expected to be declared by the returning officer for the pre-election, Gov. Mai Kala Buni of Yobe and not Sen. Emmanuel Ochega, Secretary of the election Committee.
The judge further held that the APC violated its own rules in the composition of the election panel when it constituted a one-member committee and not seven members as stipulated in the party rules.
“It has been established by judicial authorities and several judgments that political parties are bound by their own rules, the committee that conducted the primary threw caution to the winds and it is my ruling that the primaries stand nullified.
“The results announced by Sen Emmanuel Ochega is not valid as he is not the returning officer for the election.
“And I make an order restraining INEC from recognising any of the aspirants that participated in the said primaries”, Inyang said.
Listed as respondents in the case are the APC, Lyon and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Lokpobiri who had filed challenging the primary election had equally claimed that he won the Sept. 4 governorship primaries conducted by the APC, using the direct primary mode, but the APC had gone ahead to submit the names of those candidates who had emerged from an alleged Indirect Primary election.
Counsel to Lopkobiri in reaction to the court ruling, had described the judgment as strange for according to him, the judgment delivered by Justice Iyang, was not part of their prayer when they approached the court.
In a swift and related development however, the leader of the APC in Bayelsa State and Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, had almost immediately following the High Court ruling, called an emergency Press Conference in Yenagoa, the state capital, where he informed newsmen that a stay of execution order on the Bayelsa primary judgment, had been granted to the part, even as he asked party supporters and faithful to stand firm.
Meanwhile, the APC Governorship candidate, David Lyon’s counsel says the party has begun the process of appealing the court’s judgment.
All these were coming fast on the heels of a Federal High Court, Abuja judgment which had voided the candidacy of the deputy governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the November 16 election in Bayelsa State.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a judgment on Tuesday, Nov 14, had held that Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo gave false information in his CF0001 form submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commissioner (INEC) to contest the election.
Ekwo, who declared that there was no nexus in the name on his school-leaving certificate, first degree (BA), Master’s and the affidavits he swore, gave the judgment on a suit filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against the APC governorship candidate, David Lyon, Degi-Eremienyo and INEC, seeking the disqualification of Degi-Eremienyo.
The judge who further held that all the documents the APC deputy governorship candidate tendered documents bore different names, then proceeded to disqualify Degi-Eremienyo on the ground that he provided false information to the electoral umpire to stand for the election.
The Bayelsa Governorship election is due in less than 24 hours and the sensible assumption now is that the last has certainly not been heard in the determination of Bayelsa APC as a participant in the Saturday, Nov 16 polls.