The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, on Thursday, held that Seriake Dickson was validly elected as governor of Bayelsa State in the last governorship election held in the state, having dismissed the appeal filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate in the state, Chief Timipre Sylva, challenging his election.
A five-member panel of justices of the appellate court, headed by Justice Jimmi Olukayode Bada, held that Sylva and its party failed to prove the allegations of electoral malpractices, violation of Electoral Act and other irregularities in the conduct of the election which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) returned Dickson as winner, having scored the highest number of votes in the election.
In the unanimous judgment, the Appeal Court held that the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which sat in Abuja, was right to have upheld the election of Dickson as Bayelsa State governor.
The court resolved all the five issues raised by Sylva and his party in favour of INEC, Dickson and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who were respondents in the appeal.
Justice Bada, who read the judgment, said the foundation of the grounds of the appellants’ appeal was eroded when they participated in the rescheduled election in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state on January 9, 2016, adding that the appellant’s had no legal right to challenge the outcome of the election held on December 6, 2016, as they (appellant) cannot aprobate and reprobate.
He agreed with the submissions of the respondents that the decision to postpone the election in Southern Ijaw to January 9, 2016 was taken by INEC and other stakeholders, and an unilateral decision the state Resident Electoral Commissioner as claimed by Sylva and his party.
Justice Bada said the appellants failed to present evidence before the court to substantiate their allegations against the respondents in the conduct of the election which INEC returned Dickson as winner, adding that “he who asserts must prove.”
The court held in the judgment that the “the contention of the appellants has no merit. They were expected to provide evidence to prove their claim that the election was marred by irregularities, electoral malpractices, allocation of votes, snatching of ballot boxes and gross violation of electoral act. These allegations were not proved by the appellants.
“I am in total agreement with the judgment of the lower tribunal because its decision was based on the evidence placed before it,” Justice Bada stated, adding that the tribunal was right in its judgment which dismissed the petition of the APC and its governorship candidate and upheld Dickson’s election as the governor of Bayelsa State.
The Appeal Court, therefore, held in the judgment that the appeal by the APC and its governorship candidate lacked merit and it was accordingly dismissed.
“With the resolution of all the five issues against the appellant, I am of the view that this appeal is devoid of merit and it is accordingly dismissed,” Justice Bada held.
Sylva and his party had challenged Governor Dickson’s election at the tribunal on the ground that the governor was not lawfully returned through majority votes by INEC.
But in a unanimous decision, the three-man panel of the tribunal, led by Justice Kazeem Alogba, held that the APC failed to prove its case and that the election held in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area on January 9, 2016 was lawful and valid in law.
The tribunal further held that from the evidence adduced before it, the election of December 6, 2015 was inconclusive and was rightfully rescheduled by INEC through the REC.
It also held that contrary to the position of the petitioner, election took place in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state.
Sylva’s Counsel, Daniel Nwoko told newsmen that the judgment of the appeal court would be tested at the Supreme Court because there were aspects of the judgment that needed clarification.
Counsel for Dickson, Emeka Etiaba, on his part, lauded the judgment and praised the justices for the industry put into the judgment.