By Edith Nwapi
Abuja – Gov. Douye Diri of Bayelsa and his deputy, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, on Wednesday prayed the Court of Appeal to be joined as respondents in the appeal filed by the Action Peoples Party (APP).
The APP is challenging the exclusion of its candidates in the 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa and Kogi.
Also seeking to be joined as a party in the appeal is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The APP, in the appeal marked CA/ABJ/CV/218/2020, is asking the appellate court to set aside the judgment of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of a Federal High Court in Abuja, delivered on Feb. 21, which held that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was right to have excluded candidates of the APP in the governorship election in Kogi and Bayelsa in 2019.
NAN reports that in that judgment, Justice Ojukwu, had held that INEC was right to have excluded candidates of the APP in the two elections because the party replaced its withdrawn candidates outside the statutory period of 45 days to the date of the 2019 Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections.
At Wednesday’s sitting, Diri, Ewhrudjakpo, and their political platform, the PDP, filed separate motions seeking to be joined in the appeal as respondents.
The Bayelsa governor, in his motion brought pursuant to section 6(a) and 36 (1) of the 1999 constitution, section 15 of the Court of Appeal Act, urged the court to join him as second respondent in the appeal.
His lawyer, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, argued that as the winner of the governorship election for Bayelsa State held on Nov.16, 2019 sought to be nullified by the appellant, he is a person directly affected by the appeal.
Uche informed the court that the appellant deliberately suppressed the fact from the court that it is simultaneously prosecuting an election petition before the Bayelsa Governorship Election Tribunal in respect of the same complaint of unlawful exclusion from the governorship election in Bayelsa.
He argued that the APP is seeking for the nullification of the same election as he is seeking by the appeal.
“The appellant admits participating in the said election and pleading the votes scored by it as 148 votes before the Governorship election tribunal in Bayelsa state.
“In addition, the APP participated in the said election, and that it’s name and logo were both on the ballot papers and on the Result Sheet, Form EC8E, as well as the Summary of Results, Form EC8D.
“ Having proceeded to the election tribunal to file an election petition to question the concluded election pursuant to section 138(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) on the same ground of exclusion of its candidate, the Appellant is precluded and ought not be allowed to proceed with this Appeal,” he argued.
In his submission, counsel to the deputy governor, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume SAN , in his motion on notice equally prayed the court for an order to join his client in the appeal as an interested party and a cross-appellant.
Ume also filed a notice of preliminary objection challenging the substantive appeal on the ground that the APP had fully participated in the Bayelsa state governorship election conducted on Nov.16, 2019 and scored votes material to it’s full electoral strength and so was not excluded from the election.
He predicated his objections also on the ground that the appellant’s appeal disclosed no material and substantial reasons while seeking to set aside an election that was dull held as stipulated by the 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act, 2010.
“ We therefore urge the court to join us in the appeal because we are interested in the outcome in view of the fact that his interest will be affected by such outcome”he argued.
The PDP equally filed a similar application through it’s counsel, Mr Adedamola Fanokun.
Responding, Counsel to the appellant, Mr Ezenwa Ibegbunam informed the court that he has filed a counter affidavit in urging the court to refused the applications for joinder.
Also, Counsel to INEC, Alhassan Umar, SAN, said the commission as a neutral umpire is not opposing the applications for joinder.
A three-member panel led by the acting President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, ordered parties to file written submissions in response to the applications be filed within 24 hours, in view of the contentious nature of the appeal.
She then adjourned until April 16, 2020.