The Bayelsa State All Progressives Congress governorship candidate David Lyon’s hope of assumption of office on Friday (today) as the fifth governor of the state was on Thursday dashed by a judgment of the Supreme Court.
The APC and the Peoples Democratic Party were shocked by the judgment, which created uncertainty in Bayelsa State as both parties disagreed on its interpretation. In the Supreme Court, there were signs that both parties did not expect any surprise as only a handful of their supporters were in the scanty courtroom when the case was heard and judgment later delivered.
The court nullified the election of Lyon and his running mate, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, who were declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission as winners of the November 16, 2019 governorship election in the state. The judgment was delivered by a five-man panel of the apex court led by Justice Mary Peter-Odili.
The panel, in its unanimous judgment, ordered the candidates of the party with the next highest votes and the required constitutional spread of votes in the results of the governorship election declared by INEC to be sworn in as their replacements. In what appeared to be a twist of fate, as the apex court was delivering the judgment, Lyon was rounding off preparations for his inauguration.
As part of the preparations, the ex-governor-elect did a rehearsal at the Samson Siasia Stadium, where he was driven round the main field in a motorcade on Thursday. Also, the outgoing Governor of the state, Henry Dickson, a PDP member, had already concluded arrangements to meet with Lyon very early on Friday (today) with a view to handing over official documents to him at the state Government House.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary, Mr Fidelis Soriwei, stated that Dickson was preparing to preside over a valedictory meeting of the state executive council when the news about the Supreme Court ruling filtered in. At exactly 1:15pm on Thursday, the Supreme Court in its judgment in Abuja put paid to the preparations when it nullified the candidacy of Lyon’s deputy, Degi-Eremienyo, on the grounds that he presented false information about his educational qualifications in his Form CF001 submitted to INEC as a candidate for the 2019 election.
Justice Ejembi Eko, who read the judgment, noted that the claims” by Degi-Eremienyo appeared to be “fraudulent”, pointing out to “several names he uses variously chameleonically to suit the changing environment.”
He ruled that Degi-Eremienyo’s disqualification on the basis of submitting false information to INEC had infected the joint ticket with which he and Lyon contested the election and emerged victorious. He said, “In sum total, the joint ticket of the first and second respondents (Lyon and Degi-Eremienyo) sponsored by the 3rd respondent, APC, was vitiated by the disqualification of the first respondent (Degi-Eremienyo).
“Both candidates disqualified are deemed not to be candidates in the governorship election.” Delivering the lead judgment, Justice Eko, nullified the APC’s victory, restored and affirmed the earlier judgment of Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which disqualified Degi-Eremienyo’s candidacy and nullified the party’s ticket for the poll.