NIGERIA’S ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has written to the Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) demanding that it conduct fresh elections in Bayelsa State because the new governor failed to meet the statutory requirements for office.
Last Thursday, Nigeria was thrown into turmoil as the Supreme Court in Abuja nullified the election of David Lyon of the APC less than 24 hours before he was due to be sworn-in. Ruling that Mr Lyon’s election was nullified because his running mate Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo has submitted forged academic certificates, the court said the candidate who scored the next highest number of votes should be declared winner in his place.
In November last year, Bayelsans went to the polls to elect a new governor in what was a straight fight between Mr Lyon of the APC and Senator Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). After the polls, Inec declared Mr Diri the winner but the PDP challenged the declaration in court and on Thursday secured a legal victory.
A five-man panel Supreme Court judges led by Justice Mary Peter-Odili ordered Inec to withdraw the certificate of return issued to the APC candidates as the winners of the November 16, 2019 governorship election. It then instructed Inec to issue fresh certificates to the candidates of the party with the next highest votes and with the required constitutional spread of votes, which was the PDP.
Consequently, Senator Diri was sworn-in as governor on Friday but the development sparked widespread protests as APC supporters took to the streets. Adams Oshiomhole, the APC national chairman, has vowed to fight the development, stating that the court judgement did not void the votes that the APC polled at the election and the implication of this is that the votes of the party must be reckoned with.
Mr Oshiomhole said: “In the said judgement of the Supreme Court, the candidature of our governorship and deputy governorship candidates were nullified and the commission was ordered to issue fresh certificate of returns with the highest number of votes and with the required geographical spread. It is however to be noted that the Supreme Court did not void the votes that our party polled at the election and the implication of this is that the votes of the All Progressives Congress must be reckoned with in determining whether any other candidate polled majority of lawful votes cast in one-quarter of at least two thirds majority of the state.
“We have reviewed the judgement of the Supreme Court and we are of the firm opinion that the candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party cannot be issued certificate of return and or sworn in as the Governor and Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State respectively. We are aware of that section 179(1)(b) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria mandatorily requires a candidate for an election to the office of governor of a state to have not less than one quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two thirds of all the local government areas in the state before the candidate can be deemed to have been duly elected as the Governor of the State.”
His letter highlighted the fact that Bayelsa State has eight local government areas, hence the two thirds of at least eight local government areas will be approximated to six local government areas. However, Inec has said that it can only conduct fresh polls if ordered to do so by the courts.