The Bayelsa State Governorship Election Tribunal sitting in Abuja on Monday dismissed an application by a political party, Liberation Movement, seeking to be joined as a co-petitioner in a petition challenging the outcome of the November 16, 2019 poll in the state.
The party’s governorship candidate in the election, Vijah Opuma, had filed the petition on February 20, 2020 without joining the party as a co-petitioner.
He had filed the petition barely two weeks after the Independent National Electoral Commission deregistered LM on February 6, 2020.
LM subsequently, on May 5, 2020, filed an application seeking to be joined as a co-petitioner in the case about 15 days after the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, challenged the competence of the petition on the basis that the exclusion of the party from the petition as co-petitioner had rendered the petition invalid.
In opposing the application, Ewhrudjakpo, through his counsel, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN), asked the tribunal to dismiss LM application for joinder.
In its ruling on Monday, the three-man tribunal led by Justice Mohammed Cirajo, upheld Ume’s opposition and dismissed the application for lacking in merit.
Delivering the lead ruling, Justice Cirajo 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.
The judge also held that the excuse by LM that it did not join the petition from the outset because it was as of the time deregistered by INEC and only sought to be joined after the Federal High Court in Abuja stopped its deregistration, was not tenable.
Justice Cirajo ruled that contrary to the party’s claim, the ruling of the Federal High Court in Abuja delivered on February 17, 2020 and cited by the applicant did not restrain 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.
He ruled that “the inevitable conclusion is that the application lacks merit, and it is hereby dismissed”.
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.
It added that “the applicant is merely engaging in half-baked after-thought”, adding that “the application amounts to amending the parties to the petition and same is too late in the day”.
“That the absence of the said political party that sponsored the petitioner was fatal to the petition has been duly raised in a preliminary objection which the petition responded, processes adopted and ruling reserved,” the Deputy Governor’s lawyer argued.
He also stated, “That the acknowledgment of the applicant at this late hour that the applicant is a necessary party shows that its absence renders the petition invalid as earlier pointed out by the fourth respondent.”
The respondents to the petition are INEC, the Peoples Democratic Party and Governor Douye Diri.
Opuama, in his petition, asked the tribunal to disqualify Ewhrujakpo for submitting an affidavit to INEC that contained false information.
He also urged the tribunal to order the cancellation of the November 16, 2019 governorship election.
These Online Businesses would fetch you lots of money! No Training Required, Just gather your Profit daily! Lots of Freebies too: Free Bulk SMS Credit, Free Domain Registration and Web Hosting, Branded Apps, Recharge Voucher, Online Payment and more! Start Now »