Sylva, APC Close Petition Against Diri After 52 Witnesses

The All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Chief Timipre Sylva, on Tuesday officially concluded their petition contesting the outcome of the November 2023 governorship election in Bayelsa State, where Governor Douye Diri was declared the winner. The petitioners rested their case after presenting 52 witnesses to substantiate their allegations regarding the conduct and declaration of results during the November 11 gubernatorial poll.

Throughout Tuesday’s proceedings, Sylva was present, witnessing the entire hearing. The tribunal admitted 42 different voter registers, provided by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), from various polling units in Nembe, Ogbia, and Southern Ijaw Local Government Areas. These registers were submitted to support INEC’s assertion that elections did not take place in these areas due to violence.

A key witness for the petitioners, Denis Otiotio, faced cross-examination by INEC’s lawyer, Charles Edosomwan, SAN, regarding the 42 voter registers. Otiotio acknowledged that none of the names on the voter registers were marked for election purposes. However, he maintained that the voter registers presented by INEC were not the ones used during the gubernatorial election.

Despite Otiotio’s testimony, the APC witness did not submit any additional voter registers to counter INEC’s evidence. This development marks a pivotal moment in the legal proceedings surrounding the contested election outcome in Bayelsa State.

He said though the tribunal issued to the petitioners an order for INEC to supply them with voter registers, the Commission however did not comply with the directive.

When asked by counsel to the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP/, Chief Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, if he reported the failure of INEC to supply them with the voter registers, the witness admitted that they did not report INEC’s disobedience to the tribunal.

Earlier, a former Commissioner of Police in Bayelsa State, Akeem Tolani Alausa, testified in favour of the petitioners and tendered several exhibits to support his testimony.

During cross-examination by INEC’s lawyer, the witness admitted that his role during the election was seen as controversial and that several protests were held for and against his further stay as police chief in the state.

The CP, who is now at the Force Headquarters in Abuja, admitted that one John Aliu Babangida was eventually deployed to replace him.

According to him, he was brought back to Bayelsa as CP after the protest against him had died down.

When he was confronted by INEC’s lawyer that he acted as Sylva’s ally in the election, to the extent that he was branded as Sylva’s CP, the witness denied the claim.

Further cross-examined by Governor Diri’s lawyer, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, on whether he came to the tribunal on subpoena, the police chief said he would not know but that he came to testify based on a letter from the Inspector General of Police IGP.

He also admitted that his witness statement on oath was prepared for him by his Officer in Charge of legal, whose name he did not mention.

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

He also admitted that although 16 political parties participated in the governorship election, he did not make any witness statement on oath for 15 other parties except APC and that his evidence was based on Nembe, Ogbia and Southern Ijaw LGAs where election results were being challenged.

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 returned the Prado Jeep based on the directive of the IGP who acted on a letter that was written by governor Diri.

At the end of the proceedings, counsel to the petitioners, Chief Ogwu James Onoja, SAN, announced the closure of hearing in the petition.

Justice Adekunle Adeleye thereafter fixed next Monday for the INEC, governor Diri, the deputy governor, Lawrence Ewhrujakpo and the PDP to open their defence.