Court of Appeal has struck out the preliminary objection filed by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, against the appeal by the All‎ Progressives Congress, APC, and its candidate, Timipre Sylva, challenging the judgement of the state election tribunal which upheld the election of Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State.
The appellate court further refused the application by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to amend its brief by adding some words which it claimed were mitted.
The Court of Appeal is sitting on the multiple appeals arising from the judgement of the Bayelsa State governorship election tribunal.
Meanwhile, the Appeal Court has reserved judgements in the three appeals after taking submissions from counsels to parties to the appeals.
Arguing the main appeal, lead counsel to the appellants, Mr Sabastine Hon (SAN) submitted that the tribunal was in great error when it dismissed the petition.
Hon further submitted that the governorship tribunal ‎misinterpreted section 26 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2011, which he said talked of postponement and not cancellation of an election.
He argued that the cancellation of the December 6, 2015, governorship election in Southern Ijaw mades any other decision taken by INEC null and void.
The councel added that contrary to the position of the respondents that the appellants waived their rights by participating in the January 9, 2016, re-scheduled election, the appellants indeed tendered a protest letter against the cancellation and that there was no opportunity to go to court.
Hon therefore urged the court to grant the reliefs sought by his clients, including the alternative reliefs.
In his arguments against the appeal, counsel to Governor Dickson, Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) said the appellants did not supply the results of the December 6, 2015, election but rather brought evidence showing that they participated in the January 9, 2016, election.
It was his contention that an election that did not produce result was no election, citing section 27 of the Electoral Act, 2011.
Oyetibo further argued that before the tribunal, the appellants did not produce evidence from polling units to prove allegations of electoral fraud and other forms of malpractices.
In urging the court to dismiss the petition, the lawyer argued that the appellants also failed to prove allegations of electoral violence.
The election petitions tribunal sitting in Abuja upheld the election of Governor Dickson while the APC and its candidate, Timipre Sylva, appealed the judgement.
In a unanimous decision, the three-man tribunal led by Justice Kazeem Aloba said the APC failed to prove its case.‎
In a marathon judgement delivered, the tribunal held that the election held in Southern Ijaw Local Government on January 9, 2016, was lawful and valid in law.
The tribunal further held that from evidence adduced before it, the election of December 6, 2015, was inconclusive and was rightfully rescheduled by INEC through the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC.
It also held that contrary to the position of the petitioner, election took place in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area.
According to the Tribunal, “allegations of acts of criminality, violence and snatching of ballot boxes, the onus of prove lies on the shoulders of the petitioners to prove beyond all reasonable doubt.
“It is trite that he who assets must prove. The petitioners must adduced ‎by cogent and verifiable evidence beyond reasonable doubt
“Petitioners fell short of the requirements to prove allegations of non- voting ‎by calling only seven witnesses instead of calling witnesses from each of the polling units.
“The criminal allegations were not proved by the petitioners as required by law which is beyond reasonable doubt.
“The tribunal further cancelled a substantial number of forms EC8 which is the results sheets of the election on the ground that they did not contain the signatories or stamps of INEC officials as required by section 63 (2) of the Electoral Act.
“A substantial number of the results sheets tendered by the petitioners did not contained signatories and stamp of INEC officials.”
The DVD tendered by the petitioners ‎rather than help their case contradicted their evidence that the Residence Electoral Commission (REC) did not adduced reason for the cancellation of the December 6, 2015 election in Southern Ijaw.
“The REC did not unilaterally cancelled the election but INEC did and gave reasons for the cancellation to include serious violence and irregularities. The REC clearly stated that election was inconclusive as a result of violence.
“To save the integrity of the process, INEC decided to cancel the election and this was clearly explained by the REC in the DVD tendered by the petitioners themselves.
“The petitioners through PW51 by their own showing contradicted their evidence that no valid reasons by adducing reasons for the cancellation. The petitioners are trying to run away from the word inconclusive”.
The tribunal said from the evidence before it, ‎the December 6. 2015 governorship election in Southern Ijaw Local Government was inconclusive as results were not collated from the wards.
“Election is process‎ and once any any aspect of process is not completed, you cannot say that the election was completed.
In addition, the Tribunal held that some of the petitioners witnesses ‎testified against party interest that election took place in all the units in Southern Ijaw on January 9, 2016.
“A traditional ruler who testified for the 2nd Respondent that the petitioner, Sylva came to his ward to solicits for votes against the the January 9, 2016 election and that testimony was not contradicted.”
‎INEC properly ordered a rescheduling of election to January 9, 2016.
The petition is full of allegations that are not substantiated or backed up with prove as required ‎by law.
Besides, the tribunal held that allegations were made against persons and security agencies who were not parties to the petition.
‎In dismissing the appeal, the tribunal held that the petitioners did not deserve the reliefs sought in their petition.‎
However, the APC and Sylva vowed to appeal the judgment.
Sylva, who spoke through his lawyer, Felix Okorotie immediately after the judgment described it as a miscarriage of justice.
In his own reaction, Sylva’s media adviser, Doifie Buokoribo accused the tribunal justices of bias, expressing optimism that the judgement would be overturned by the higher courts.
“We tested their judgment before up to the Supreme Court and we won, this very one cannot be an exception,” Okorotie said.

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