* Orders INEC to withdraw Certificate of Return issued Lyon

Barely 24 hours to the inauguration of the Bayelsa state governor-elect, Mr David Lyon, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Supreme Court on Thursday sacked him as the state governor-elect.

The five-member panel of the apex court, in the unanimous judgement delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, nullified the nomination and participation of Lyon and his running mate, Biobarakuma Degi-Eriemienyo in the November 16, 2019 governorship election.

The apex court held that the running mate to the governor-elect forged certificates to secure clearance for APC deputy governorship ticket from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Justice Eko held in the judgment that it was established from the documents submitted to INEC that the deputy governor-elect forged certificates, fraudulently used different names when it suits him.

The apex court said that the deputy governor-elect and his political party, APC did not dispute the facts deposed to by the appellant that the multiple names were clearly and fraudulently used in the form CF001 submitted to the electoral body.

Justice Eko, who revealed different names on the Primary School leaving Certificate, General Certificate of Education (GCE), first degree, NYSC discharge certificate and the Master’s degree certificate, which bore different names did not approach lawful authorities to correct the multiple names on the certificates.

The apex court held that an affidavit of regularization of names purportedly done by the deputy governor-elect and published in the Chronicle newspaper was a futile attempt to justify the multiplicity of names submitted to INEC and contained on the certificates.

The Supreme Court further held that the primary school certificate obtained in 1976, GCE, 1984, first degree, 1990 and other certificates were a product of forgery and that the deputy governor-elect violated Section 182 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Justice Eko upheld the judgment of Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja that the case of forgery was established going by the document presented by Degi-Eremienyo with various names.

The judgment of the Court of Appeal which held that a case of forgery was not established against Degi-Eremienyo was set aside for being pervasive.

The court then voided the joint ticket of David Lyon and his running mate and set aside their participation in the November Bayelsa governorship election.

Justice Eko ordered that the certificate of return already issued to the governor-elect by INEC be withdrawn immediately and that a fresh one be issued to the candidate who scored the second-highest number of lawful votes with geographical spread and with requisite qualification.

With this judgment just delivered, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Diri Duoye with the highest lawful votes and with wide geographical spread will eventually become the next governor of Bayelsa state.

It would be recalled that the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division had on December last year annulled the judgment of Justice Ekwo of the Federal Hight Court disqualifying Degi-Eremienyo from participating in the Bayelsa governorship election.

Degi-Eremienyo had challenged the High Court verdict that barred him from taking part in the poll, on the ground that he supplied false information to INEC.

In a judgment, Justice Ekwo said Senator Degi-Eremienyo gave false information in relation to his educational qualifications and went ahead to depose to an affidavit to correct the discrepancies.

The judge held that all his documents bore different names.

But, a three-man panel of the Court of Appeal in Abuja presided over by Justice Stephen Adah held that the High Court erred in law and in breach of the appellant’s right to a fair hearing.

According to him, the case which was brought under Section 36 of the Electoral Act is criminal in nature and the respondents in the case ought to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Senator Degi-Eremienyo gave false information in his form C001 submitted to INEC as part of his qualifications to contest the election.

The Appellant Court held that more so the lawmaker submitted an affidavit sworn to court to prove that the names Adeyi-Eremienyo on his school-leaving certificate is one and the same as Degi-Eremienyo on his GCE certificate and newspaper cuttings announcing to the whole world a change in name and same was not challenged by the respondents in the lower court as such the findings of the lower court are erroneous.

The appellate court concluded that that, “I agree with the appellant that the owner of the school leaving certificate and the GCE certificate are one and the same and I, therefore, set aside the judgment of the court below”.

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