Appeal Court dismisses case seeking to nullify Bayelsa, Kogi elections

Appeal Court dismisses case seeking to nullify Bayelsa, Kogi elections

The Court of Appeal in Abuja has dismissed the case brought by the Action Peoples Party (APP), challenging the propriety of the last governorship elections held in Bayelsa and Kogi states.

The court's decision to dismiss the appeal was taken shortly before hearing the applications by interested parties, who sought to be made parties in the case.

Those who sought to be joined include the Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri, his deputy, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, their party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello and his party, the All Progressive Congress (APC).

Those who sought to be made parties in the appeal by the APP are the current beneficiaries of the elections, who would have been affected by the outcome of the case.

Shortly before the conduct of the elections late last year, the APP had sued the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) before the Federal High Court, Abuja, querying the alleged exclusion of its candidates.

In the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1163/2019, the party claimed that INEC prevented it from replacing its candidates earlier disqualified by the electoral umpire.

It particularly prayed the court to among others, declare "that any subsequent conduct of the 2019 Kogi and Bayelsa states' governorship election without the replaced candidates of the plaintiff, is null and void by reason of such exclusion."

The Federal High Court, in its judgment, held against the APP, and proceeded to uphold the decision by INEC to reject the candidates replacement list submitted to it by the party on the grounds that the list was brought outside the stipulated time.

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, in the judgment delivered on February 21, 2020 held that INEC was right to have excluded candidates of the party (APP) from participating in the governorship election in Kogi and Bayelsa states in 2019.

Justice Ojukwu was of the view that the APP replaced its withdrawn candidates outside the statutory period of 45 days to the date of the 2019 Kogi and Bayelsa states' governorship election.

It was the judgment of the Federal High Court that the APP appealed to the Court of Appeal, Abuja, which was dismissed in a ruling by a three-member panel led by the Acting President of the court, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem.

The court had scheduled hearing for Thursday (April 16, 2020) on all pending applications and the substantive appeal.

But shortly after the appeal was called and lawyers to parties announced their appearances on Thursday, appellant's lawyer, Obed Agwu stunned all when he announced his intention to withdraw the appeal.

Agwu said: "The appellant is desirous to withdraw the appeal against the respondent.

"We have filed a notice of withdrawal of the appeal, in accordance with Order 11, Rule 1 of Court of Appeal Rules, 2016. The said notice of withdrawal is dated and filed on April 14, 2020.

Responding, lawyer to INEC (listed as the only respondent in the appeal), Alhassan Umar (SAN) said he was served with the said notice of withdrawal "this morning in court.

We have. no objection to the decision of the appellant to withdraw, but we will be asking for cost of N3m only."

Lawyers to all those, who applied to be joined in the appeal, led by Chris Uche (SAN) – representing Diri – prayed that the court to invoke its power under Order 11 Rule 5 of its Rules to dismiss the appeal as if it has been argued.

Uche expressed. displeasure at the appellant's conduct, who he noted, subjected the court and lawyers to others in the case to needless stress, when it knew it was unprepared to pursue the appeal.

He prayed the court to sanction the appellant by imposing cost.

The court' three-man panel, after taking argument from parties, rose for several hours.

When it returned around 1.30pm, the court, in a ruling by Justice Dongban-Mensem, relied on Order 11 Rule 5 of the Court of Appeal Rules to dismiss the appeal.

Justice Dongban-Mensem rejected the respondents' prayer for cost against the appellant.

She noted that INEC, listed as the sole respondent on record, did not file it's response to the appeal.

Justice Dongban-Mensem noted, in the unanimous ruling, that the preliminary objection filed by INEC against the appeal could not stand on its own without a respondents brief.

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