The Supreme Court has ordered a stand-down, as it prepares to deliver a judgment on an application filed by the All Progressive Congress (APC), asking it to reverse a judgement that sacked David Lyon as governor-elect of Bayelsa State.
A seven-member panel of the apex court, led by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, announced the stand down after taking arguments from lawyers on the matter.
Justice Ngwuta added that the panel would reconvene soon, for its decision on the matter.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how a five-member panel of the apex court led by Mary Odili, on February 13, nullified the election of Mr Lyon on the grounds that his deputy, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, presented false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in aid of his qualification for the November 16 governorship election in the state.
The apex court, in the judgement delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, consequently ordered INEC to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Messrs Lyon and Degi-Eremienyo.
The court also ordered that INEC should immediately declare the party with the highest number of lawful votes and geographical spread the winner of the election.
The PDP and its governorship candidate, Mr Diri, had filed a suit against Messrs Lyon and Degi-Eremienyo, and INEC, seeking the disqualification of the APC deputy governorship candidate.
They had claimed that Mr Degi-Eremienyo gave false information in his CF 0001 form submitted to INEC.
Not satisfied with the apex court’s judgement, the APC, through its lawyers, Wole Olanipekun and Lateef Fagbemi, on February 20, filed their application.
In the application, the lawyers claimed that the judgment of the Federal High Court was misinterpreted by the apex court and thus disqualified Mr Lyon wrongly.
They further argued that the trial court, in its judgement delivered on November 12, 2019, found out that Mr Degi-Eremienyo was guilty of submitting forged certificates but that the judge, Inyang Ekwo, refused to grant the PDP’s request, which asked for Mr Lyon’s disqualification.
In his argument, the lawyer to Mr Lyon, Afe Babalola, said that the apex court has the power to set aside its earlier decision.
This, the senior lawyer said, is because the judgment which voided the election of his client was a nullity on account of denial of fair hearing.
According to Mr Babalola, the procedure adopted by the apex court on February 13, was wrong because there was no cause of action at the time the Supreme Court gave judgment against the APC governorship candidate.
On his part, APC’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, argued that the apex court erred in law when it invoked section 36 of the Electoral Act to disqualify the APC’s participation in the election when the Federal High Court judgment upheld by the apex court did not disqualify the party’s eligibility.
Mr Olanipekun further argued that the apex court cannot give consequential order on a relief not granted by a trial court except as a result of human error.
However, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s lawyer, Tayo Oyetibo, told the apex court that the APC and Mr Lyon’s application were a dangerous invitation to the supreme court to violating section 285 of the 1999 constitution, for the court to sit on an appeal over its earlier decision.
Mr Oyetibo argued that having delivered final judgment in the matter on merit on February 13, the court has no jurisdiction to sit on appeal in the judgment, adding that it is scandalous to ask the apex court to review the judgment.
In buttressing his argument, the senior lawyer further stated that the apex court was right in disqualifying Mr Lyon as the governor-elect.
This, Mr Oyetibo said, is because section 187 of the 1999 constitution is clear and unambiguous to the effect that a governorship candidate who has no deputy candidate is not qualified to contest any governorship election in Nigeria.
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“When Supreme Court gives judgment, it is deemed correct. It has never happened in the history of (the) Supreme Court (for it) to reverse itself. Its judgment is final and finality, and whatever Supreme Court says in the interpretation of the law, is the law,” he said.
Mr Oyetibo’s submissions were embraced by other respondents in the matter.
Following this, Justice Ngwuta, announced that the court would rise and reconvene later.
Present to witness the proceedings of the court on Wednesday is the APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.
Also in the court is incumbent governor, Mr Diri and the sacked deputy governor-elect, Mr Degi-Eremienyo.