Sylva, APC Head to Supreme Court, Reject Decisions on Bayelsa Election
The All Progressives Congress and its governorship candidate in Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva, have asked the Supreme Court to set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal which dismissed their appeal to over turn the decision of the state election tribunal upholding the election of Seriake Dickson as winner of the election.
In the appeal, filed by their lawyer, Sebastine Hon, SAN, they raised 27 grounds upon which they asked the apex court to set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
They also asked the court to annul the election and the return of Dickson.
Sylva and his party argued that elections had taken place in Southern Ijaw before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cancelled it on the ground of alleged but unproven irregularities.
They accused the Court of Appeal justices who heard the appeal of misdirecting themselves and that they relied on hearsay evidence to come to the conclusion that election did not take place in Southern Ijaw.
They also said that the justices shut their eyes to documentary evidence tendered by them which showed that election actually took place in the area in question and that INEC went beyond its powers when it decided to cancel the election.
The appellants said: "There was a body of oral and documentary evidence, particularly the unchallenged evidence of PW23, the Southern Ijaw Local Government Area Collation Officer, that election had taken place in the local government area and that collation had taken place in eight out of the seventeen wards before it was truncated by the cancellation."
They also accused the justices of the Court of Appeal of erroneously placing the burden of proving that election was duly conducted in the disputed area on them when the burden should have been placed on INEC.
They said: "From the state of the pleadings, the first burden of proof was on INCE and not on the appellants."
The court had upheld the decision of the tribunal which had earlier dismissed Sylva and APC's petition for lacking in merit.
The court in a unanimous decision of a five-man panel headed by Justice Jimmi Bada, also dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit as it resolved all the five issues raised in the appeal by Sylva and APC in favour of Dickson and the Peoples Democratic Party.
The appellate court held that Sylva and his party failed woefully to prove and sustain the allegations of corruption, non compliance, gross violation of the Electoral Act and other malpractices in the conduct of the election.
The court rejected the argument of counsel to the appellants, Hon that section 26 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2010 was breached by INEC when it cancelled the December 6, 2015 polls in Sourthen Ijaw.
The appellants had argued that the Bayelsa State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) had no powers under section 26 (1) of the Electoral Act to unilaterally cancel the polls.
According to the court, there was no cancellation of election as argued by the appellants but a postponement of election.
Justice Bada who delivered the lead judgment held: "From the evidence of the petitioners witnesses, There was no election known to law in Southern Ijaw Local government and the decision to hold future election can only mean a postponement and not a cancellation.
"Section 26 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 will accommodate a situation where there was no result returned to INEC and that collation of results did not take place.
"The results sheets tendered by the appellants were duplicate copies of forms EC8 which were not certified by INEC but a Magistrate Court. They were not demonstrated and tested in court by witnesses but were dumped on the court.
"Where a party seeks declaratory reliefs the burden is on him to strengthen his case and not rely on the weakness of the defence as declaratory reliefs are not granted on the plater of gold.
"From the foregoing, the foundation upon which the appellants rested their case is eroded by the contradictory evidence of their witnesses.
"It is my view that the tribunal cannot pick and choose from the contradictory evidence of the witnesses since the court has no mechanical tools to repair any evidence."
The court held that the evidence of some of the appellants' witnesses contradicted the position of the appellants that election took place in December 6, 2015 in Southern Ijaw Local government area of the state.