Mike Odiegwu, Yenagoa
A governorship candidate of the Liberation Movement (LM) in the last election in Bayelsa State, Vijah Opuama, has approached the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja seeking the disqualification of the newly sworn-in Deputy Governor, Mr. Lawrence Ewrujakpor.
Opuama, in a petition he filed through his lawyer, Aluzu Ebikebuna, further prayed the court to cancel the November 16, 2019 governorship election and order a fresh poll alleging that the election conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) failed to comply with the 1999 Constitution.
The candidate listed INEC, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri and his Deputy, Lawrence Ewrujakpor, as respondents to the petition.
Opuama in the petition alleged that Ewrujakpor, the 4th respondent, submitted an affidavit to INEC, the 1st respondent, that contained false information.
He said in a statement of facts to support the petition: “I know that the 4th Respondent was admitted into Rivers State University of Science and Technology in the year 1991. The 4th Respondent is given notice to produce his admission letter into Rivers State University of Science and Technology to read Secretarial Administration.
“The 4th Respondent is due to graduate in 1994-1995 in that he was offered a four-year duration course of Secretarial administration. The Petitioner avers that upon graduation in 1994-1995, the 4th Respondent was supposed to enroll in the compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme having being born on 5th September 1965.
“The 4th Respondent was not qualified to contest the election in that he submitted an affidavit containing false information to the 1st Respondent. The 4th Respondent’s Degree certificate dated 3rd February 1998 purportedly issued by Rivers State University of Science and Technology and the 4th Respondent’s certificate of exemption from National Youth Service Corps purportedly issued on 2nd February 1998 are inconsistent with one another other and contradictory to one another and both forged.
“I know that by virtue of National Youth Service Corps Act, certificate of exemption from national youth service under the Act is only issued to persons who have successfully graduated from the University and have their Degree certificate as approved by the University’s Senate.
“I know that it is upon University Senate issued certificate that a candidate’s name and result is forwarded to National Your Service Corps (NYSC) for call-up to National Youth Service or exemption as the case may be.
“I know that in the 4th Respondent submitted in his INEC Form for the 16th November 2019 election a purported National Youth Service Corps certificate of exemption dated 2nd February 1998.
“I know that the said purported National Youth Service Corps certificate of exemption dated 2nd February 1998 is false and forged in that the 4th Respondent only graduated on 3rd February 1998.
“The 4th Respondent knows that the NYSC exemption certificate he submitted to the 1st Respondent is false and/bears false information and is forged as it was purportedly issued before his University senate approved certificate.
“The 4th Respondent knows that his purported Degree certificate dated 3rd February 1998 contains false information and is forged in that it ought to be issued before the date on his NYSC exemption certificate and/or in 1994/1995 when he was eligible for NYSC”.
Apart from the alleged forgery, which he relied to seek the nullification of the election, Opuama also claimed that Governor Diri, the 3rd respondent and his deputy were not qualified to contest the election on grounds of multiple nominations.
He said: “I know that that both 3rd and 4th Respondents are not qualified to contest the election for invalid multiple nomination. I know that the 3rd and 4th Respondents did not poll any valid vote at the election of 16th November 2019 for the office of Governor of Bayelsa State as they were severally and jointly not qualified to contest the election.
“The 3rd and 4th are not entitled to any valid vote at the election of 16th November 2019 for the office of Governor of Bayelsa State as they were severally and jointly not qualified to contest the election.
“The purported 143,172 votes polled by the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Respondent are invalid in that the 3rd and 4th Respondents are not qualified to contest the election and the 2nd Respondent had no candidate at the election of 16th November 2019 for the office of Governor of Bayelsa State.
“Petitioner avers that a candidate is not qualified to contest election into two different constituency election within the same election year or circle.
“The Petitioner avers that 3rd Respondent allowed himself to be nominated for both Bayelsa Central Federal Constituency election in the 2019 General election and the election to the office of the Governor of Bayelsa being another Constituency for the 2019 election as candidate of the 2nd Respondent.
“The Petitioner states that the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Respondents secured a minimum of 25% of the total votes cast in only 5 Local Government Areas falling short of the two-third requirement of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria which ought to be six Local Governments.
“The Petitioners aver that a candidate can be declared winner where he has more than the required one-quarter of all votes cast in at least two-third of all the Local Governments. The Petitioner avers that a candidate is not entitled to be returned where he fails to secure one-quarter of all votes cast at the election in at least two-third of all the Local Governments”.
He prayed the court to declare that the 3rd and 4th Respondents were severally and jointly not qualified to contest the election to the office of Governor of Bayelsa State held on 16th November 2019.
He said: “That it may be determined and declared that the 3rd Respondent was not duly elected or returned by majority of lawful votes cast at the election to the office of Governor of Bayelsa state held on 16th November 2019.
“That it may be determined that the Bayelsa state Governorship election of 16th November 2019 be nullified for substantial non-compliance with the provision of the Constitution of Federal republic of Nigeria,1999 (As Amended), Electoral Act, 2010 (As Amended) and its place, make an order for fresh election to be conducted by the 1st Respondent with the Petitioner and other qualified candidates”.