Lyon’s deputy: Supreme Court verdict stain on me

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All Progressives Congress (APC) deputy governorship candidate in the Bayelsa State governorship election in Bayelsa State Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo on Thursday said the Supreme Court judgment which nullified their victory has damaged his reputation.

The party on Thursday filed an application for a reversal of the February 13 verdict.

The Supreme Court held that Degi-Eremienyo, who was a running mate to David Lyon, presented forged certificates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Degi-Eremienyo, who spoke for the first time to reporters in Abuja, said the allegations were not proven, and that those who issued the certificates were never contacted.

He said: “The aim of this press conference is to defend my reputation which the Justices of the Supreme Court, whether consciously or unconsciously, subjected to scurrilous scandal, assault and unfair imputation.

“The judgment of the Supreme Court that I was not qualified to contest as the deputy governorship candidate of APC and my attendant disqualification adversely affected the governorship candidate of the APC.

“The result was that our hard-earned victory, not just for ourselves, but our party and the majority of the good people of Bayless state who have entrusted us with the mandate to democratically govern them, is threatened.

“The event of my disqualification is distressing and traumatising to me personally and, of course, a greater trauma was inflicted on my party, the governorship candidate and the good people of Bayelsa who signified their choice of who should be their governor and deputy governor.

“It is this unsolicited assault on my personality and reputation by the judgment in question that has constrained me to chart this course.

“Unless unfair imputation to character is quickly corrected, it assumes the toga of truth.

“It was clearly a desperate and calculated attempt not just to grab power through the judicial process but equally to tarnish my good image and bring same to disrepute on completely false and unproven allegations.”

Senator Degi claimed that he was denied a fair hearing.

“As a lawmaker, I know that what Section 182(1) (j) of the Constitution contemplates is that a candidate cannot present forged educational certificates not belonging to him to aid his constitutional qualification.

“Forgery can, therefore, not be defined in different context simply to lower the burden of proof in order to meet a political end.

“The seeming discrepancies in my name, which I have adequately explained by an affidavit, was not impeached by any evidence that the names were misspelt by the issuing authorities.

“The issuing authorities who are accessible by my accusers were not called to impeach my assertion in the affidavit explaining away these errors I stated which were not illegal.

“As a lawmaker, I have enormous regard for the judiciary. I am aware that my party has headed to Supreme Court for a review of the judgment.

“By the grace of God, our second journey to the Supreme Court will end in celebration.”

The APC on Thursday prayed the Supreme Court to reverse the verdict.

The party’s application was filed by its team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), with Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), wants the Supreme Court to set aside the “wrong” interpretation given to the February 13 verdict and its execution by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The party is, among others, contending that the Supreme Court misinterpreted the November 12, 2019 judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which it affirmed.

The APC argued that the Supreme Court acted without jurisdiction and denied it fair hearing when it disqualified its governorship candidate on the eve of his swearing in.

It is contending that the Federal High Court, in the judgment by Justice Inyang Ekwo, refused the plaintiffs’ prayer to disqualify Lyon.

The party also faulted the interpretation given to the Supreme Court judgment by INEC in deciding to issue a certificate of return to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate.

It said: “After reinstating the judgment of the trial court in the judgment of this honourable court of the 13th February 2020, in SC.1/2020 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) & 2 Ors. v. Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo & 3 ors., this honourable court proceeded to disqualify the governorship candidate of the applicant (Lyon David Pereworimin) despite the fact that the trial High Court refused to grant the reliefs for his disqualification and there was no appeal against same.

“In this honourable court’s judgment of 13th February 2020, the court erroneously and inadvertently stated that the trial High Court consequentially disqualified the applicant‘s governorship candidate even though the trial court made no such order and when the trial court indeed refused to grant the express orders sought by the plaintiffs therein for his disqualification.”

The APC wants the Supreme Court to set aside portions of its judgment.

The first is where the apex court held that the Federal High Court, in disqualifying the party’s deputy governorship candidate, also disqualified its governorship candidate.

The second is where it held that joint ticket of the APC candidates was vitiated by the disqualification of the deputy governorship candidate and that both candidates are deemed not to be candidates in the election.

APC further prayed the Supreme Court to set aside the portion of the judgment where it ordered INEC to declare as winner the candidate with the highest number of lawful votes; where it ordered INEC to withdraw the certificate of return issued to its governorship candidate and the issuance of fresh one to the candidate with the highest number of lawful votes.

The APC argued that it was wrong for the Supreme Court to have voided its candidates’ participation in the election, when, the judgment by the Federal High Court, disqualifying its deputy governorship candidate, was stayed as at when the election was conducted.

It stated: “By an originating summons dated 12th September 2019 in Suit NO: PHC/ABJ/CS/ 1101/2019 between Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) & 2 Ors. v. Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo & 3 ors., the respondents approached the Federal High Court for a total of 10 reliefs.”

“In the judgment of the Federal High Court, per Ekwo J., delivered on 12th November. 2019, the said court granted only six of the reliefs.

“In the drawn-up order of the Federal High Court duly signed by the trial judge, the six reliefs granted are clearly encapsulated therein.

“In specific reference to the reliefs for the disqualification of the governorship candidate of the applicant (Lyon Dovid Pereworimin), the trial court refused to grant the plaintiffs’ prayers to disqualify him.

“It was only the Deputy Governorship candidate of the applicant (Biobarakuma Degl-Eremienyo) that the trial High Court made an order of disqualification against.

“Applicant and its governorship and deputy governorship candidates timeously appealed the judgment of the Federal High Court to the Court of Appeal and also applied for a stay of execution of the said judgment pending appeal.

“By an order made on 13th November 2019 in CA/A/1053/M/2019 between Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo & Anor v. Peoples Democratic Party & ors., the Court of Appeal, Abuja Judicial Division, stayed the execution of the judgment of the trial High Court delivered on 12th November 2019.

“As at the time the governorship election in Bayelsa State was conducted on 16th November 2019, the order for stay of execution granted by the Court of Appeal was subsisting and there was no appeal against it.

“The judgment of the Court of Appeal was delivered on 23rd December 2019 whereby the Court of Appeal set aside the decision of the trial High Court delivered on 12th November 2019.

“There was no cross-appeal to the Court of Appeal against the decision of the trial High Court refusing to make an order disqualifying the governorship candidate of the applicant.

“In the judgment of this honourable court delivered on 13th February 2019, this honourable court set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal and restored the decision of the trial High Court.

“In the enrolled order of the judgment of the trial High Court, no disqualification order was made against the applicant’s candidate (Lyon David Pereworimin), whether consequentially or otherwise.

“After reinstating the judgment of the trial court in the judgment of this honourable court of the 13th February 2020…, this honourable court proceeded to disqualify the governorship candidate of the applicant despite the fact that the trial High Court refused to grant the reliefs for his disqualification and there was no appeal against same.

“In this honourable court’s judgment of 13th February 2020, the court erroneously and inadvertently stated that the trial High Court consequentially disqualified the applicant‘s governorship candidate even though the trial court made no such order and when the trial court indeed refused to grant the express orders sought by the plaintiffs therein for his disqualification.

“This honourable court acted without jurisdiction by holding as in (xiii) and (xiv). supra (as contained in the two paragraphs above) and also breached applicant’s right to a fair hearing.

“With respect, the portions of the judgment of this honourable court highlighted in the body of this application constitute a nullity.

“With respect, the decision of this honourable court of 13th February 2020…was premised on and vitiated by a fundamental error.

“With respect, the decision of this honourable court of the 13th February 2020…is contrary to public policy.

“By a press statement made on 14th February 2020, the Chairman of the 4th (INEC) respondent purported to interpret the judgment.

“In the said press statement, the fourth respondent reviewed the judgment of this honourable court, gave it a different interpretation and came to a wrong conclusion, thus declaring the second and third respondents as the Governor and Deputy Governor-elect of Bayelsa State, respectively.

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