The Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has ruled that the immediate past Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, has a case to answer in the suit seeking to disqualify him from contesting the recently concluded Bayelsa West senatorial bye-election.
Also, the three-man panel of the court disagreed with the Federal High Court’s decision to dismiss the matter, saying the judgment of the lower court was wrong.
The panel presided over by Justice U. Onyemenam on Thursday ordered the suit to be reassigned to another Federal High Court judge.
The appellant, Owoupele Eneoriekumoh, had through his lawyers, Pius Pius and Ebikebuna Aluzu, approached the Court of Appeal seeking to set aside the ruling of the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa.
The court in Yenagoa presided over by Justice J. Inyang had dismissed the case on the grounds that it was statute-barred.
But the Appeal Court agreed with the appellants as Justice Onyemenam held that the lower court erred by dismissing the matter.
He explained that the appeal was based on whether by the provisions of section 31 (2), (3) and (4) of the Electoral Act and section 285 (9) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, the originating process of the applicant was statute-barred.
The judge, however, agreed with the counsels of the appellant that the suit was filed within 14 days beginning from the publication of the particulars of the candidate by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
He said, “We had looked at it and have come to the agreement that for the public to be aware and to be able to challenge any particulars of a candidate published by INEC (1st respondent), the 1st respondent would have published it first.
“We did not agree with the submission of the 2nd respondent (the PDP) and the 3rd respondent (Seriake Dickson) on this issue. We agree with the appellant that the cause of action arose on the 17th September. Based on this, this appeal has merit and is hereby allowed.”
The court held that, “The ruling of the Federal High Court is hereby set aside. The appellant’s motion ex parte for substituted service is granted. All processes shall be served on the 3rd respondent by pasting on the office of the 2nd respondent.
“The suit is hereby transferred back to the Federal High Court for trial on the merit. We order accelerated hearing and make no order as to cost.”
Dickson, who has been sworn in at the National Assembly to represent the Bayelsa West Senatorial District, was compelled by the judgment to go and open his defence at the Federal High Court.