Edem Edem reports on the ongoing battle for the soul of Bayelsa state between incumbent governor Dickson of PDP and his main rival, ex Governor Sylva since the inconclusive poll
Even before inaugurating today, his proposed judicial commission of inquiry into the violence, mayhem and grave breach of the peace that occurred in parts of the state before and during the state inconclusive governorship election, Governor Seriake Dickson has come under a hail of attacks. His major challenger in the poll and ex-Governor Timipreye Sylva has taken the governor to task over the commission, calling it diversionary and self-serving.
In a statement issued in Yenagoa at the weekend by his Media Adviser, Mr. Doifie Buokoribo, Sylva said, described the setting up of “a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the violence, mayhem and grave breach of the peace that occurred in parts of the state on or about the 3rd to 6th of December, 2015” by the state governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson, as unacceptable, unfortunate, and diversionary.
“What manner of justice does anyone in his right senses expect from such a commission of inquiry? The inquiry is bizarre and already biased from the onset.”
But the state government insisted on going ahead anyway. In a statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the Bayelsa Governor, Mr. Markson Iworiso-Markson at the weekend, the governor said the Judicial Commission of Inquiry will be guided by the following terms of reference: “ to determine the number and identities of the persons that were injured or killed, if any, during the violence, mayhem and breach of the peace that occurred in parts of Bayelsa State on or about the 3rd to 6th December, 2015.”
Others include, “to determine the extent of damage to property, if any, during the said incidents, identify the perpetrators of the said violence, mayhem and breach of the peace and recommend appropriate action as well as determine the role played by the security agencies in the said incidents, if any.”
The commission is also expected to “recommend measures aimed at averting future occurrences of such incidents, make any recommendations as it may deem fit to make in the circumstances and do such other lawful act(s) for the purpose of giving effect to or that may be incidental to the foregoing terms of reference.
Justice Margaret Akpomiemie is to head the commission with the following as members; Brigadier-General Bob Ake (rtd), Dr. (Mrs.) Victoria Abah Tekena and Mrs. Martha Akpana. Mr. Abraham Lord Ekiamene is to serve as its Secretary and Barrister Tamadu Abasi as Counsel for the Commission.
Picking holes with the composition of the commission, Sylva alleged that “Justice Margaret Akpomiemie, who was made the chairman of the commission, is still nursing a grudge against Sylva for his refusal to make her Chief Judge of Bayelsa State during his tenure as governor. Justice Akpomiemie’s decision to accept this job offered by outgoing governor Dickson is clearly a revenge mission against Sylva. She is on a clear mission of vendetta. “Besides, the inquiry is diversionary because Dickson and his party, Peoples Democratic Party, are principal actors in the violence orchestrated against APC leaders and supporters in an attempt to intimidate the people in areas where APC was obviously poised to win, and hand him an illusory victory.”
“In his state of extreme anxiety, Dickson had also personally engaged in direct incitement of mayhem against APC supporters and leaders in radio announcements and statements, which stoked crisis in many parts of the state during the election and resulted in the killing and maiming of innocent Bayelsans.
“The attempt to cover up Dickson’s acts and divert attention from his violent machinations with this charade of an inquiry will not work. We will not allow ourselves to be drawn into or subjected to the hoax, which Dickson, Akpomiemie, and others are trying to play on the people of Bayelsa State. Bayelsa State belongs to us.
Instead of going ahead with the Commison, Sylva, has asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to add up and announce the results from the Southern Ijaw Local Government Area and declare a winner in the elections.
In a petition to INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, which was copied to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami (SAN), Sylva stated that the commission “lacked the powers to cancel already concluded or on-going election.
“It is important to note that under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), there is no power either, express or implied that is vested on the Resident Electoral Commissioner, your commission or any staff whatsoever to cancel election that has commenced or concluded, in any manner as was done in Bayelsa state. The Commission’s power, in the above is limited only to the postponement of election that has not commenced,” Sylva wrote in the letter dated 8th December 2015.
The APC candidate, however, further requested that should the commission feel “strongly that it has the powers to cancel already concluded or on-going elections,” it should also cancel the elections in Ekeremor, Sagbama Local Government Areas, Wards 4 and 5 of Yenagoa and Ward 8,9 and 10 of Nembe Local Government Areas.”
On Southern Ijaw Local Government, Sylva admitted that there was no election in the area on December 5, 2015, due to some violence. He, however, insisted that on December 6: “ election materials were distributed from Local Government Headquarters at Oporoma to the different ward headquarters, and elections conducted in a free and fair manner at the different polling units and results announced….
“That elections were concluded on Sunday 6th December without any reported violence from the polling units or wards either by INEC officials on the field at the units or ward level.
“That the different results from the LGAs were being collated at the state collation centre in Yenagoa from Sunday 6th to 7th December as the results were brought in by the different LGAs, and the Returning officer never reported any violence either during the election or while collation was ongoing as he had told everyone that the results of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area are still being awaited.
“That at about 4pm or 5pm, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Bayelsa State announced the cancellation of the results of the election of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area citing violence and ballot snatching, and that another date for elections in Southern Ijaw would be announced.”
Sylva further stressed that the current statues do not support the cancellation of an election while collation was on going:
“We consider the action of cancelling results of an election while collation is on-going as a dangerous precedent, usurping of the functions of the Tribunals established by the Constitution illegal and reminiscent of the annulment of June 12, 1993 Presidential Election and if allowed stand will not only expose your Commission to endless and avoidable litigations and would become a ready tool in the hands of officials of your Commission the power to truncate the will of the people,” he maintained.
In addition, Sylva submitted that the elections in Ekeremor, Sagbama Local Government Areas, Wards 4 and 5 of Yenagoa and Ward 8,9 and 10 of Nembe Local Government Areas were marred by massive violence, abduction of both electoral officials and materials, massive thumb printing and rigging but that “despite our oral and written protests, your commission accepted the results at units, wards, local government area and state collation centres at the areas highlighted above.”
“Consequent upon the above facts, we are calling on you to direct the Returning Officer to add up the results from Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, and declare a winner for the Bayelsa State Governorship elections held between the 5th and 6th of December 2015.
“However, without prejudice to our assertion in paragraphs 16 and 17 above, where your Commission feels strongly that it has powers to cancel already concluded or on-going elections, it is demanded that, in the interest of equity, fair-play and justice, your commission cancels the elections in Ekeremor, Sagbama Local Government Areas, ward 4 and 5 of Yenagoa and wards 8,9 and 10 of Nembe Local Government Areas,” Sylva concluded.
Investigation by The UNION however shows that the INEC would still stick to its earlier position of conducting a rerun for the Southern Ijaw Local Government poll in a date yet to be fixed. This would probably allow the state government to conclude its investigation through the Commission to be inaugurated today. But how the outcome will factor into the emerging picture of uncertainty is yet to be determined.