The Bayelsa State Deputy Governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo has urged the state governorship election tribunal (now sitting in Abuja) to dismiss a petition filed against him, the Governor, Senator Duoye Diri and two others, for being incompetent.
The petitioner, Vijah Opuama, who was the candidate of Liberation Movement (LM), in the last governorship election in the state, alleged that Senator Ewhrudjakpo submitted forged documents and documents that contain false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 16 November 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa State.
Opuama wants the tribunal to among others, void the election, disqualify Diri, Ewhirudjakpo and their political party – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – and order for a fresh election without the disqualified PDP.
In a preliminary objection filed through his team of lawyers, led by Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN), Ewhirudjakpo picked holes in the petition and urged the tribunal to dismiss and or strike out the petition for being incompetent.
Ewhrudjakpo contended that the petition is statute barred having been filed outside the mandatory statutory period of 21 days.
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), that sponsored him to participate in the election.
Citing Section 137(1)(b) of the Electoral Act, Ewhrudjakpo stressed that LM being the party that sponsored the petitioner in the November 16, 2019 election, it is a necessary party for the purpose of determining the petition.
He added that as at when the petition was filed on February 20, 2020 or thereabouts, the petitioner’s erstwhile political party (LM) has long ceased to exist as a political party as it has been de-registeted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) since February 6, 2020.
The Deputy Governor noted that it was for this obvious reasons that the petitioner failed to join his political party that sponsored him in his petition contrary to Section 177(1)(C) of the Constitution.
Ewhrudjakpo argued the petitioner’s political party cannot reap from the judgment of the Federal High Court in suit No: FHC/ABJ/ CS/ 444/2019 between Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD)& 32 Ors Vs AGF and Anor, because it (LM) was not a party to the suit.
He contended that it was too late in the day for the petitioner to now file a motion seeking to join his political party (LM) as a party to the petition, because his preliminary objection, contesting the competence of the petition, has since been taken and issues already joined by parties.