By Saliu Gbadamosi-abuja
The last is yet to be heard of the November 16, 2019 Bayelsa State governorship election as some prominent politicians in the state have approached the Federal High Court, Abuja, in three different suits to challenge the February 14, 2020 decision or action of the Independent National Election Commission (INEC).
Following the dramatic decision of the Supreme Court on February 13, nullifying the election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, David Lyon, who won the governorship election, INEC declared Senator Dounye Diri of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) winner of the election.
Diri was subsequently sworn in as the new governor of the state, replacing Seriake Dickson, who completed his second term in office.
Not satisfied with the INEC’s decision, the politicians, Samuel Adaga and four others in case number FHC/ABJ/CS/354/2020 and Felagha Adika Patrick and three others in case number FHC/ABJ/CS/498/2020 respectively, approached the Federal High Court, Abuja, to judicially challenge the decision.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to set aside the February 14, 2020 INEC’s action, which paved the way for the eventual swearing in of Senator Diri as the Bayelsa State governor.
Respondents in the three separate cases are Secretary, INEC and the electoral body itself.
Though the plaintiffs, through their counsel, Abdul Muhammed, in their separate originating summons stated that they were not challenging the Supreme Court’s disqualification of David Lyon, they, however, urged the court to determine and adjudge that in the circumstances the legal and logical consequence of the Lyon’s disqualification is the automatic application of the clear provisions of Section 140(2) of the Electoral Act.
They sought a declaration of the court that the defendants acted outside their legal powers in making a decision or determination in respect of the November 16, 2019 governorship election in the state, adding that the actions of the defendants on the facts presented are contrary to the provisions of Sections 1(2); 5(1) (a) and (b); Section 6; 14(2) (a); 179; 184 and 285(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as Sections 27; 65; 68; 74; 133; 138(1) and 140 of the Electoral Act.
The plaintiffs also sought a declaration that it is a constitutional imperative desirable to be affirmed by the courts that only the election tribunal and to the exclusion of the defendants have powers to legally and validly change or amend the declared result of the state’s November, 2019 governorship election as is consistent with relevant provisions of the Constitution and Electoral Act.
Meanwhile, in a motion on notice, dated May 4, 2020, the counsel to the plaintiffs sought an order of court to consolidate the three suits before it for convenient, effective and expeditious hearing of the suits.
As of the time of filing this, the court has considered the application for consolidation.
The judicial challenge to the actions of INEC was initially fixed for mention on May 13, 2020 but had to be adjourned as the court did not sit due to the confusion and uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic.
Counsel for the plaintiffs, Abdul Muhammed, however, expressed his confidence that court Registrar would soon communicate a new hearing date to the parties.
Meanwhile, the matter came up on the 27th of this month but the court could not sit because of the death of a judge in Osun state. The matter had been adjourned to the 17th of March, 2021.