BAYELSA, Nigeria – There appears to be confusion in the fold of the Bayelsa State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), over the Tuesday’s disqualification of the candidate of the party from contesting in the Bayelsa West Senatorial bye-election by the Federal High Court in Yenagoa.
OgeneAfrican gathered that the presiding judge, Justice Jane Inyang, in a judgment on Tuesday on a case of forgery filed by Richman Samuel, a former director on domestic matters, Government House, Yenagoa, upheld the plaintiff’s prayers and declared the APC candidate ineligible to contest in the bye-election.
The plaintiff contended that the academic credentials and voter’s card which the defendant submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission for the bye-election were forged documents.
Ebebi, who is a former deputy governor, emerged the APC senatorial candidate for Bayelsa West in a direct mode of primary election conducted in September by the party’s primary electoral committee headed by General Abdulsalam Dahiru (retd.)
The INEC had earlier fixed October 31 for the Bayelsa Central and West senatorial bye-elections but the commission, on October 22, announced the indefinite postponement of bye-elections in six senatorial districts and nine state constituencies, including Bayelsa, due to the End SARS nationwide protests.
Justice Inyang further held in her ruling that the voter’s card which the Ekeremor-born politician submitted to INEC “as declared by his (Ebebi’s) father, bears a different age and, therefore, contradicts other of his documents and his filed INEC forms.”
She also noted that details presented showed that Ebebi’s West African Senior School Certificate which the defendant used to gain admission to study law at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology had only two credits, which fell short of the required credits in five relevant subjects, including English Language and Literature in English.
Counsel to the plaintiff, Mr. Reuben Iguaba, explained that in a similar suit filed by some members of the APC challenging the legitimacy of the party’s primary election, the court also gave judgment against the former deputy governor.
Iguaba told journalists in an interview that the court also declared that the APC candidate was not validly nominated, and disqualified him from contesting in the Bayelsa West senatorial polls.
He said, “The first case was on presenting false information by the APC candidate. Some of the registered APC members from Bayelsa West Senatorial District applied to the INEC to verify the authenticity of the certificates submitted by Chief Ebebi”
“And they discovered that his voter’s card was a forged document, not genuine document. Not only that, he got admission to the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, with two credits to study law.”
Ebebi could not be reached for comments as he neither answered calls to his phone nor responded to a text message sent to him by our correspondent as of the time of filing this report.
But a member of his campaign team, who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the issue, said the APC candidate will appeal the judgment.
Reacting, a chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Bayelsa State, Hon. Sunday Frank-Oputu, absolved the Judiciary of any blame over the Monday ruling disqualifying the candidate of the Party, Rt. Hon.Peremobowei Ebebi from the forthcoming West Senatorial bye-election over faulty primaries in the state.
According to Frank-Oputu, instead of the party faithful to cast aspersions on the credibility of the judiciary over its decision, the party should speak up against acts of impunity and imposition of candidates by the party leaders led by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva.
Hon. Sunday Frank-Oputu, who is a chieftain of the APC from Southern Ijaw Local Government area of the state, said the ruling of the Federal High Court presided over by Justice Jane Nyang has vindicated the dissenting voices of the party who kicked against the adoption of direct primaries and the eventual imposition of the parties candidate for the senatorial bye-election.
According to him, the ruling of the judiciary is commendable and it shows that some judges are standing firm to uphold the sanctity of the nation’s democratic values,” I want to thank God that the dissenting voices of the APC have been heard and the rule of law has taken its full course.”
“I want to also congratulate the judge for doing the needful. It is not about clapping hands and praising a leader. It is about telling a leader the truth about how things are supposed to be done. I earlier raised alarm about how Sylva had handled the affairs of the party and that the party will always fall victim to the law.
“And if anybody could remember the last governorship primary, that is why we are where we are today as a party. Today, we are also having the same experience as that of the last Governorship primaries. When the Senatorial bye-election primaries were to be conducted, I raised the alarm that the party should go the way of indirect mode of primary. And that if we want to do the right thing and for the people to see us as a party, we must conduct indirect primaries. But alas, they shot us in the leg again with shoddy primaries.
“It is not always that we do direct primaries. Every Nigerians knows what it will take for INEC to supervise such elections in our terrain. And for a political party with a leader claiming to mobilise everyone to every ward to do indicted primaries, it is massive and will fail. So, there are still people of good conscience? I think the reasoning of the judge was outstanding. And I commend the judge of the Federal High Court. The ruling will save the APC from further imposition of candidates.”
Frank-Oputu also noted that with his years of political experience as Chairman of a Political Parties in the State, the absence of officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at the 105 wards of party primaries due to the poor terrain of the state invalidate any conduct done with parochial tendencies.
He pointed out that instead of jumping the gun, the leadership of the APC should have notified the INEC on the conduct of the Party primaries 48 hours ahead,” As a party, a notification letter should have been sent to the INEC and an acknowledgement letter received on the invitation. If INEC fails to come, it is no longer your issue. You have a defence that they were properly notified as provided in the electoral Act. If the party fails to inform INEC, it is not the fault of the INEC, the Judiciary nor the opposition party that capitalized on the flaws. The electoral Act makes it compulsory.”