The Bayelsa state governorship election petition tribunal sitting in Abuja today begins its prehearing session in the petition filed by Vijah Eldred Opuama of Liberation Movement amid tight security at the magistrate court, wuse zone 6.
The petitioner, in petition number EPT/BY/GOV/02/2020, listed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Gov. Douye Diri and his Deputy, Lawrence Erwhudjakpo as 1st to 4th respondents.
The petitioner is challenging the declaration of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th respondent by the 1st respondent as the winners of the 2019 governorship elections on the grounds that the 3rd and 4th respondents were not qualified to contest the election having submitted forged certificate and false information to the 1st Respondent.
The tribunal is to agree with the parties with a view to drawing up modalities for the hearing of the substantive issues.
Security operatives, including the police and the Department of State Services (DSS), were strategically positioned within the court premises.
The petitioner had applied for a subpoena for INEC to produce the forged documents submitted to them by the 4th Respondent. However, the 4th respondent lawyer, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume, SAN, brought a motion asking the tribunal to refuse the petitioner’s application for issuance of subpoena dated 31/3/2020 for being irrelevant.
He asked the tribunal to give him time to argue on wednesday 29/4/2020 why INEC should not bring the documents sought for by the petitioner to court notifying the court that he has filed a motion to that effect on 24/4/2020 with motion number EPT/BY/GOV/02/M29/2020 in that regard.
Besides, the respondents have also filed their defence and preliminary objection before the tribunal, praying the court to dismiss the petition put in by the petitioner for being statued barred and lacking in merit.
The lead counsel to the petitioner, Pius Danba relying on the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Muhammed Sani Takori & Anor V Bello Muhammed Motawalle & Ors SC.1540/2019 urged the court to discountenanced with the application by the respondents arguing that the petition was brought within time.
The tribunal has however reserved ruling on the application questioning the jurisdiction of the court to hear the petition to the day of final judgment and promised to deliver the prehearing report on 29/4/2020.