The Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, has asked the state governorship election tribunal sitting in Abuja to dismiss the petition alleging that he tendered forged documents to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
In a preliminary objection, he filed through his team of lawyers led by Mr. Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume, SAN, Senator Ewhrudjakpo, maintained that the petition that was entered against him by the governorship candidate of Liberation Movement (LM), Vijah Opuama, lacked competence and is statute-barred.
The petitioner had insisted that the Bayelsa deputy governor used bogus credentials to contest the governorship election held in the state on 16 November 2019, alleging that he gave false particulars in the Form CF 001 he submitted to INEC.
Consequently, the petitioner is praying the tribunal to disqualify the Governor, Duoye Diri, his deputy, Senator Ewhirudjakpo, and their political party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, on the ground of the infraction and order for a fresh election in Bayelsa state without the disqualified party.
However, in the preliminary objection, he predicated on section 6 (6) of the 1999 constitution, and section 145(1) of the Electoral Act, 2010, Senator Ewhirudjakpo, contended that the petition is statute-barred having been filed outside the mandatory statutory period of 21 days.
Besides, he argued that the petition is incompetent as the petitioner lacked the locus standi to solely contest the outcome of the election without joining the political platform (LM), which sponsored him to participate in the election.
Relying on section 137(1)(b) of the Electoral Act, the Applicant argued that LM, being the party that sponsored the petitioner in the Bayelsa governorship election, is a necessary party to determine the petition before the tribunal.
Ewhirudjakpo’s lawyer, Ume, SAN, further submitted that as at when the petition was filed on February 20, 2020, the petitioner’s party (LM), had long ceased to exist as a political party in the country, having been de-registered by INEC on February 6, 2020.
Ume said it was given the fact that the petitioner failed to join his political party in the petition, contrary to the provision of section 177(1)(C) of the 1999 Constitution. He, therefore, prayed the tribunal to strike out or dismiss the petition for being incompetent.
The tribunal had earlier issued a subpoena duces tecum (witness summon) for the Bayelsa deputy governor to appear before it on June 1 to tender a copy of his alleged forged National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, Exemption Certificate, dated February 2, 1998.