Adebisi ONANUGA and Robert EGBE
Senior lawyers on Friday backed the Supreme Court’s judgment on the governorship election in Bayelsa State.
Senior Advocates of Nigeria ((SAN) Dr Paul Ananaba and Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa advised aggrieved persons to express their grievances lawfully.
But a Lagos lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, said the judgment appeared to be punishing the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate, David Lyon for the “sins” of his running mate.
Dr Ananaba told The Nation that there was nothing strange in the judgment.
According to him, the Electoral Act has already provided that anybody that makes a false declaration would be disqualified.
He also noted that the constitution provides for two persons, a governorship candidate and a deputy governorship for governorship election.
Ananaba said: “The Supreme Court is the highest court of the land and they have delivered their judgment on Bayelsa State and their judgment is final.
“Even before Lyon went for election, he knew that there was a high court decision which was overturned by the Court of Appeal.
“It was not as if one person was running. There has to be a deputy governor. If there is one person, it doesn’t meet constitutional requirements.
“Section 31 (5) and (6) of the Electoral Act is very clear that if you make false declaration, you can be disqualified.
“So, there is nothing strange in the judgment.”
Ananaba however expressed worry that the judgment came a day before Lyon was to be sworn into office as governor, noting that he would have made so much preparation for the swearing in.
“Going forward, such decision should be given early enough and not for one to have made preparations only to be told he cannot be sworn in again,” he added.
Adegboruwa also agreed that both APC candidates were lawfully disqualified.
He said: “By the terms of the Supreme Court judgment of 13/2/2020, the two candidates sponsored by the APC for the Bayelsa governorship election became disqualified.
“The Supreme Court treated them as if they were never candidates in the election, that is they should not have been part of the election ab initio.
“The disqualification of the APC candidates by the court automatically voids whatever result APC polled in the election. Thus, all the votes cast for the APC candidates automatically become voided by reason of the Supreme Court decision and cannot be added to total valid votes.
“The total lawful votes for the Bayelsa Governorship Election prior to the Supreme Court judgment was 499,551, out of which APC had 353,552, which has now been voided by the Supreme Court, leaving total lawful votes cast to be 145,999, from which INEC is to calculate the 25% spread. PDP has 143,172, which clearly meets 25% of the lawful votes of 145,999.”
According to the silk, INEC could not have calculated 25 percent of the voided votes, “which in the eye of the law are null and do not exist.”
He said by “virtue of section 287(1) of the 1999 Constitution, INEC should immediately issue Certificate of Return to the PDP candidate, without further ado.
“Anyone dissatisfied with the decision of the Supreme Court should follow due process of law.”
Adegboruwa blamed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), political parties and President Muhammadu Buhari for the confusion.
He said: “The judgment of the Supreme Court is an indictment on INEC, the political parties and the President who has failed to fulfill his promise of electoral reforms.
“It is not proper for our leaders to keep pushing us to the point where the will of the people to choose their leaders during elections is upturned by the courts.”
But Ogunye, compared the Bayelsa judgment with that of the court judgment in the Kogi State APC primary.
Sharing his thoughts in a post on his Facebook wall, the lawyer noted that the Bayelsa judgment appeared to be confusing.
Ogunye said: “As a lawyer, I am keenly interested in the doctrine of judicial precedents and the principle of stare decisis. In the Kogi State precedent, (James) Faleke, following the death of Abubakar Audu, was named as the deputy governor candidate by a “cheating” Oyegun- led APC leadership.
“He declined the Greek gift and refused to submit his nomination papers for the run-off election after Bello was substituted for Audu.
“Alas, the Supreme Court, in its wisdom, held that the Kogi State House of Assembly should fill the vacuum, by electing a deputy governor for Bello. It did not nullify the election, on the ground that Bello was not appropriately coupled.
“The current Bayelsa Election Judgment is akin to punishing the governor-elect for the “ sin” or crime of the deputy governor-elect, when there is no proof that they are co-conspirators.”
He advocated for a reformed electoral system.
“I will wish that our electoral system be thoroughly reformed to preserve the ultimate right of the people as electorate to choose their political leaders. I do not want the courts ‘electing’ our political leaders.
“Lawyers rejoice in the knowledge of the certainty of law. But it appears the law is in our clime not certain anymore. What appears certain now is the last pronouncement of the law interpreters. Our legal jurisprudence appears confusing at this time,” Ogunye said.