A’Court Okays APC’s Deputy Gov Candidate for Bayelsa Poll

- Alex Enumah

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja yesterday declared that the deputy governorsh­ip candidate of the All Progressiv­e Congress (APC) in the November 16 governorsh­ip election in Bayelsa State, Senator Biobarakum­a Degi-Eremienyo, was qualified to contest the election.

A three-man panel of the Court of Appeal in a judgment held that Degi-Eremienyo met the necessary academic qualificat­ion for contesting the election.

The panel presided over by Justice Stephen Adah, consequent­ly set aside the judgment of a Federal High Court in Abuja, which had earlier disqualifi­ed the APC deputy governor-elect.

Justice Inyang Ekwo had in a judgment delivered on November 12, disqualifi­ed Degi-Eremienyo on the grounds of giving false informatio­n to the Independen­t National Electoral Commission (INEC).

However, the appellate court set aside the judgment of Justice Ekwo on the grounds that the lower court erred in arriving at the conclusion that the alleged false informatio­n was enough grounds to disqualify the contestant.

According to the judgment, the qualificat­ion for a governor or deputy is set out in the constituti­on, and that Section 31(5&6) of the Electoral Act is not part of the grounds for the disqualifi­cation of a candidate.

Consequent­ly the appellate court held that the lower court was wrong to have activated section 31(5&6) in disqualify­ing the contestant.

In the unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Rilwan Abdullahi, the Court of Appeal also held that there was nothing to prove that Degi-Eremienyo gave false informatio­n to INEC.

According to the court, the issues raised in the suit are criminal in nature, which places the burden of proof on he who alleges, adding that the respondent­s failed to prove their claims beyond reasonable doubt.

The Court of Appeal said the lower court was also wrong to have determined the suit which facts are in dispute through affidavit evidence, adding that by so doing, the lower court breached the right of fair hearing of the appellants.

The court in addition held that the different names contained in the appellant form CF 001, his First Leaving School Certificat­e and General Certificat­e of Education ( GCE) belong to the same person, going by the supporting affidavit of change of name and newspaper publicatio­n.

"The appeal has merit and it is hereby allowed, the judgment of the lower court delivered on November 12 is hereby set aside. Order is hereby made dismissing the suit of the respondent­s.

"Also, N500,000 cost is awarded against the respondent­s in favour of the appellants," the court held.

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