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Bayelsa Gov Poll Dispute: Sylva, APC close petition with 52 witnesses

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The All Progressives Congress, APC, and its candidate, Chief Timipre Sylva, on Tuesday, formally closed the petition they filed to challenge the outcome of the governorship election that held in Bayelsa State on November 11, 2023.

The petitioners rested their case after they called 52 out of the 224 witnesses they lined up to testify before the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which is conducting its sitting in Abuja.

Sylva, who served as governor of the state from 2008 to 2012, and the immediate past Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, is challenging the declaration of Douye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as the winner of the gubernatorial poll.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had declared that governor Diri garnered a total of 175, 196 votes to defeat his closest rival, Sylva, who polled 110, 108 votes.

However, dissatisfied with the outcome of the poll, Sylva approached the tribunal, alleging that results of the election in three Local Government Areas, LGAs, were wrongly excluded by INEC.

He told the tribunal that whereas election held in Southern Ijaw, Ogbia and Nembe LGAs, however, the electoral body, voided polling unit results that were forwarded for collation.

Sylva insisted that contrary to INEC’s position that election did not hold in the affected LGAs, its officials supervised the election and sent results from the various polling units to the collation center.

According to him, had it been that results from the three LGAs, which he described as his strongholds, were included, he would have won the gubernatorial contest.

Besides, the APC and its candidate alleged that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, machines, were bypassed in some polling unit

At the resumed proceeding in the matter on Tuesday, Justice Adekunel Adeleye-led three-member panel tribunal admitted in evidence, 42 different Voters’ Registers that INEC brought from various polling units in the three disputed LGAs.

A star witness of the petitioners, Mr. Denis Otiotio, who was cross-examined by INEC’s lawyer, Mr. Charles Edosanwan, SAN, admitted that names on the Registers were not ticked to signify that they were used for the election.

However, Otiotio maintained that contrary to INEC’s claim that election did not hold in polling units within the three LGAs owing to violence, he told the tribunal that Registers the Commission tendered before it, were different from the ones that were deployed for the governorship poll.

The witness decried that though the tribunal had ordered INEC to furnish the petitioners with the Voters Registers, it, however, failed to comply with the directive.

When he was asked by counsel to the PDP, Chief Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, if he reported the failure of INEC to supply the petitioners with the Registers, the witness answered in the negative.

Earlier in the proceeding, a former Commissioner of Police, CP, in Bayelsa State, Mr. Akeem Tolani Alausa, mounted the witness box and testified in favour of the petitioners.

The police chief tendered several exhibits to support his testimony before the tribunal.

He told the tribunal that his role during the election was perceived as controversial, a situation he said led to protestations, for and against his stay as the CP of the state.

The witness, who disclosed that he is currently serving at the Police Headquarters in Abuja, said it got to a point that one John Aliyu Babangida was brought to replace him.

He told the tribunal that he was eventually returned back to Bayelsa State.

When the witness was while being cross-examined by INEC’s lawyer, accused of working as Sylva’s ally during the election, he denied the allegation.

Asked by governor Diri’s lawyer, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, if he voluntarily appeared before the tribunal to testify, the witness, said he was summoned through a letter from the Inspector General of Police, adding that his statement on oath was prepared for him by an Officer in Charge (OC) Legal, whose name he did not mention.

The witness further told the tribunal that documents he tendered were from policemen that were stationed at polling units on the election day.

Answering questions from PDP’s lawyer, Oyetibo, SAN, the witness admitted that a Prado Jeep was donated to the Bayelsa State Police Command during his stay and that upon his removal from the state, he went away with the vehicle.

He, however, said that he eventually returned the Prado Jeep based on the directive of the IGP who acted on a letter that was written to him by governor Diri.

After the two witnesses concluded their evidence, counsel to the petitioners, Chief Ogwu James Onoja, SAN, announced the decision of the petitioners to close their case at that point.

Thereafter, the panel fixed next Monday for the INEC, governor Diri, his deputy, Lawrence Ewhrujakpo and the PDP to open their defence to the petition

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