A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has reacted to the judgment of the Supreme Court on the governorship election in Bayelsa State.
In an exclusive with Channels Television, he said the apex court made a mistake when it treated a pre-election matter as a post-election case.
“What their Lordships ought to have done was to ask the lawyers, ‘can you address us with respect to our jurisdiction?’
“Because Section 133 of the Electoral Act stipulates that upon the conclusion of an election and once candidates are declared, any challenge of the conduct of the election, of the qualification of the candidates shall be heard and determined by an Election Petition Tribunal,” Falana stated.
On February 13, a five-man panel of the Supreme Court led by Justice Mary Peter-Odili sacked David Lyon and Biobarakuma Degi-Eremieoyo of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winners of the November 16, 2019 governorship poll.
The court then ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to the APC candidates and issue fresh certificates to the candidate of the party with the next highest votes, and with the required constitutional spread of votes in the results of the election.
It disqualified Degi-Eremieoyo as a candidate in the election for submitting forged certificates to INEC, stressing that the deputy-governorship candidate had infected the joint ticket with which he and Lyon ran for and won the election.
This led to the declaration of Senator Douye Diri and Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winners of the election and subsequent swearing-in as the governor and deputy governors of Bayelsa State.
The leadership of the APC and Degi-Eremieoyo have separately asked the apex court to review its judgement on the election.
In his reaction, Falana who has disagreed with the APC led government on many issues insisted that the apex court made a mistake.
He stressed that the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter, saying it should have gone before the Election Petition Tribunal.
Ahead of the review of the judgment by the Supreme Court, the senior advocate was hopeful that the opportunity would further develop and strengthen the country’s laws.
He said, “The election was held on the basis of the judgement of the Court of Appeal which was to the fact that yes! Degi-Eremieoyo changed his name many times, not that he forged any of his certificates; there was no such proof. Therefore, he can contest the election.”
“On the basis of that judgement, the people voted; which means by that judgement, the election was valid and legal.
“As of that date, there was no pending appeal before the Supreme Court whereby INEC could be accused of having violated the doctrines of lis pendens i.e. ‘since you knew a case was in court, why did you hold election? As was the case of Peter Obi and INEC,” he added.
Falana stated that it was after the conclusion of the election that the PDP filed an appeal in the Supreme Court.
He stressed, “With profound respect, the attention of the Supreme Court was not drawn to the legality of that appeal; the case had become spent.”