The Court of Appeal in Abuja has reversed the November 12, 2019 judgment by Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, disqualifying Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremieoyo as the Deputy Governorship candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the governorship election held in Bayelsa State on November 16.
Justice Ekwo had, in the November 12, 2019 judgment held among others, that Degi-Eremieoyo gave false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) about his academic qualification in view of the discrepancies in the names contained in the academic credentials he submitted.
But, in its judgment on Monday, the three-man panel of the Court of Appeal, led by Justice Stephen Adah, faulted justice Ekwo’s findings on the grounds that the lower court erred in arriving at the conclusion that the purported false information was a sufficient ground to disqualify Degi-Eremieoyo.
In the court’s lead judgment read by Justice Rilwan Abdullahi, te court held that the allegation that Degi-Eremienyo gave false information to INEC was not proved as required.
The court noted that, while the qualification for the position of a Governor or Deputy Governor is set out in the Constitution, and Section 31(5&6) of the Electoral Act, to which the trial court judgment related, is not part of the grounds for the disqualification of a candidate.
It held that the lower court was wrong to have activated Section 31(5&6) of the Electoral Act in disqualifying the contestant.
The Court of Appeal held that the issues raised in the suit at the trial court, “are criminal in nature, which places the burden of proof on he who alleges.”
The court was of the view that the respondents – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), its governorship candidate in Bayelsa State, Douye Diri and Lawrence Ewhruojakpo – failed to prove their claims beyond reasonable doubt.
It said that the lower court was also wrong to have determined the suit which facts are in dispute through an affidavit evidence, adding that by so doing the lower court breach the right of fair hearing of the appellants.
In addition, the appellate court held that the different names contained in the appellant form CF 001, his first leaving school certificate and General Certificate of Education (GCE) belongs to the same person, going by the supporting affidavit of change of name and newspaper publication.
“The appeal has merit and it is hereby allowed, the judgment of the lower court delivered on November 12 is hereby set aside. Order is hereby made dismissing the suit of the respondents.
“N500,000 cost is awarded against the respondents in favour of the appellants,” the Court of Appeal said.