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Bayesla Guber: Why Appeal Court strikes out ANDP’s application

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…awards N600, 000 cost
…hearing begins Sept 23

Court of Appeal yesterday struck out an application by members of the James Femowei-led factional National Executive Council of the Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party, ANDP, seeking to be joined in the appeal challenging the judgement of the Bayesla Governorship Petition Tribunal.
The tribunal had in a majority judgement by two out of the three-man panel of justices voided the outcome of the gubernatorial election that held in the state on November 16, 2019, over the exclusion of ANDP in the contest.

In a unanimous ruling, a three-man panel of the appellate court led by Justice Stephen Adah, struck out the joinder application while ruling on the preliminary objection filed by counsel to the ANDP, Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN).

Justice Adah in his ruling agreed with the lawyer that the application was frivolous and unnecessary while holding that the applicants as executive members of the party lacked the locus standi to file an application to be joined in an election petition.

The court specifically held that “by the provision of sections 133 and 137 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), the applicants are not one of the persons entitled to file an election petition or appeal.

“There is no room for executive members of a political party to be joined in an election petition. The notice of preliminary objection is upheld as the applicants have no locus standi to bring the motion,” Justice Adah ruled.

Besides, the court described the application which was argued by their counsel, Dominic Anyiador, as an attempt to waste court’s time in entertaining the appeal before it.

The court accordingly ordered the applicants to pay the cost of N200, 000 to each of the three respondents.

Those who brought the ill-fated application for joinder were factional chairman of the ANDP Femowei; Barnabas Nwaguma (National vice chairman); Fortune Oyadonghan (National publicity secretary); Fred Ikhaghu (National director, NGO/Volunteers) and Mrs. Linda Nyam (director, Admin/Records).

Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal has fixed September 23, 2020, to commence hearing in the six pending appeals before it.

Justice Adah stated that in the said date, the court would entertain the application filed by counsel to Governor Duoye Diri, Gordy Uche (SAN), seeking the consolidation of the six pending appeals.

The tribunal had on August 17 nullified the election of Governor Diri and his deputy, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, on grounds that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, unlawfully excluded the ANDP from the November 16, 2019, governorship election in the state.

The appeals before the court are filed by Governor Diri, INEC, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Ibinene Stephen, Owei Woniwei and Vijah Opuma.
In his 12 grounds of appeal, Governor Diri urged the appellate court to set aside the majority judgement of the tribunal which nullified his election and uphold the minority verdict.

Two members of the panel, Justices Sikiru Owodunni and Yunusa Musa, said they found merit in ANDP’s contention that it was unlawfully excluded from participating in the governorship election by INEC, despite the fact that it fulfilled all the statutory requirements.

However, in a dissenting judgement, chairman of the tribunal, Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, affirmed Governor Diri’s election after he dismissed the petition for being statute-barred.

Justice Sirajo said there was evidence that ANDP was disqualified from the election for fielding an ineligible candidate in the said election.

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