The Bayelsa State Police Command on Friday imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the state following an outbreak of protests and violence in different parts of the state.
The state Commissioner of Police, Uche Anozia, announced the curfew at a press conference in Yenagoa, the state capital, shortly before the swearing-in of Senator Douye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party as the governor of the state and Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo as his deputy, by the state Chief Judge, Justice Kate Abiri, at the Government House.
There had been severe tension in the state since the Supreme Court on Thursday annulled the victory of the APC candidate in the November 16, 2019 governorship election, Mr David Lyon, and his running mate, Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo.
While Lyon was already rehearsing for the inauguration scheduled for Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that the APC ought not to have participated in the election because Degi-Eremienyo, his running mate in the election, forged his certificates.
A five-man panel of the apex court, headed by Justice Mary Peter-Odili, ordered that INEC should withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Lyon and his running mate and declare as winner of the election the candidate with the highest number of lawful votes cast with the requisite constitutional spread.
Sequel to the court order in the lead judgement delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, the commission on Friday declared Diri as the winner of the election.
INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, while addressing a news conference at its headquarters, said by virtue of the Supreme Court judgement, the total number of votes cast in the election was 146,999, out of which the candidate of the PDP scored 143,172 with geographical spread.
But as early as Thursday evening, shortly after the ruling of the apex court, there were protests against the judgment in some parts of the state, including Yenogoa, and it continued until Friday morning.
The protesters, who were believed to be supporters of the APC, took to the streets setting bonfires on major roads in the state.
The angry APC supporters, comprising women and youths, blocked different areas of the Mbiama-Yenagoa Road, burning tyres and traffic control stands in sight.
They said the verdict of the apex court was unacceptable, insisting that it was either Lyon or no other person. The National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, had also posited that no one would be sworn in on Friday, arguing that no other candidate had the constitutional spread to be governor.
One of our correspondents who monitored the incident observed some tyres in flames while some were waiting to be set on fire. These occurred amidst expectations that INEC would issue a certificate of return to Diri as a prelude to his inauguration.
It was also gathered that the demonstrations started on Thursday night in different parts of Yenagoa as youths with APC flags blocked major roads and made bonfires.
The Yenizue-Gene area of Yenagoa which houses the state secretariat of the APC was cordoned off by the police soon after the protests intensified towards the area, while policemen barricaded the area with patrol vans even as burnt tyres billowed with smokes.
The incident caused panic among residents and motorists, most of whom parked their vehicles and tricycles.
Commercial activities were also affected as businesses shut down for fear of being looted.
At the Ekeki Motor Park, some shops in the Seriake Dickson Shopping Mall were vandalised and looted. And as of Friday evening, APC supporters were still on the rampage, moving from one major road to another in the state capital.
In his response to the unrest, however, the police commissioner, who briefed journalists alongside the heads of other security agencies, said the curfew would start on Friday and end on Sunday, between 8pm and 6am each day.
He said the decision followed the violent protests that rocked the state capital on Friday morning, adding that eight persons were arrested in connection with the demonstrations.
Anozia said, “Following the outcome of the Supreme Court judgment with respect to the Bayelsa State governorship election, which was made public on February 13, 2020, angry protesters stormed the streets of Yenagoa.
“The police command is hereby imposing a dusk-to-dawn curfew for three days; from Friday, February 14, 2020 to Sunday, February 16, 2020, from the hours of 8pm to 6am.”
He advised members of the public to stay indoors as security operatives would be out to arrest and prosecute anyone who violated the curfew.
During the violent protests, the private residences of Diri and his predecessor, Seriake Dickson, in Yenagoa were attacked while some vehicles were vandalised at both locations.
Dickson had at the last State Executive Council meeting of his administration in the Government House on Friday called on the APC leaders to restrain their supporters from causing violence in the state.
He described the Supreme Court judgment which brought in Diri as his successor as “no victor, no vanquished.”
Buhari, party govs’ chair in emergency closed-door meeting
Meanwhile, barely 24 hours after the Supreme Court ruling, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress Governors’ Forum, Abubakar Atiku-Bagudu, met at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Friday. Atiku-Bagudu is also the Governor of Kebbi State.
The closed-door meeting also had the Chairman of the APC Campaign Committee for the Bayelsa State governorship poll and Governor of Jigawa State, Mohammed Badaru, in attendance.
It was unclear what the President and the two governors discussed, but sources at the Villa told Saturday PUNCH that the turn of events in Bayelsa was “definitely on the table.”
“The meeting coming today after the development in Bayelsa is for a special reason, to look into the issues that happened in Bayelsa,” a source in the villa said.
Investigations by Saturday PUNCH indicated that the National Chairman of the APC, Oshiomhole, might also visit the Villa soon for a similar meeting with the President.
It is worthy of note that after INEC announced Lyon as the winner last year, Oshiomhole, Atiku-Bagudu and Badaru had brought Lyon to the Villa for introduction to the President.
The two governors, however, declined to speak with State House Correspondents after meeting with the President. They simply waived reporters aside and hurried out of the Villa.
APC rejects INEC’s interpretation of S’Court judgment
Meanwhile, the APC on Friday rejected INEC’s interpretation of the Supreme Court judgment, saying the declaration of the PDP’s candidate by INEC was illegal, even as he affirmed the party’s confidence in the judiciary.
The party’s national chairman at a press conference in Abuja said, “The votes scored by the PDP and their candidate only met the requirements in five local governments and they need six local governments. The PDP candidate did not satisfy this requirement but INEC has now chosen to appropriate judicial powers to interpret laws that it was neither competent to do nor have the mandate to do.”
You’re a violent politician, Oshiomhole replies Wike
Oshiomhole, who pointed out that the party would explore the judicial window open to it, also used the occasion to reply the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, who accused him of trying to cause trouble in the Niger Delta region.
Oshiomhole said it was Wike who had a history of benefiting from violent elections. According to him, the Rivers State Governor was trying to use the current situation in Bayelsa State to ingratiate himself with the PDP and the outgoing governor, Seriake Dickson, whom he had earlier accused of causing the defeat of the PDP in the election in question.
However, when contacted, the Special Assistant to the State Governor on Electronic Media, Mr Simeon Nwakaudu, said the governor would respond at the appropriate time.
Let’s look inwards, Keyamo to APC
But, in contrast to the position of the party’s national chairman, another chieftain of the party and Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr Festus Keyamo (SAN), called on the APC and its leadership to look inwards over the loss of Bayelsa and some others states to the PDP.
Keyamo on his verified Twitter handle, @fkeyamo, wrote, “The S’Court has been firm and resolute so far regarding pre-election cases and election petitions. I commend their lordship. As a party, we have to look at our own internal mechanisms that make us give our victories needlessly away to the opposition and take appropriate actions.”
APC leadership plans emergency meeting over Bayelsa
Meanwhile, there are indications that the national leadership of the APC is planning an emergency meeting to discuss INEC’s decision on the Bayelsa election.
A member of the National Working Committee of the party said the party was hoping that INEC would order a rerun of the election so it (APC) could support another party against the PDP, adding that the party would soon meet on the development.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, however, told one of our correspondents that the ruling party was still studying the situation but that members of its NWC would soon meet to review the situation.
“I cannot say the exact date when the meeting will hold, but the party’s national leadership will definitely meet and review it and when a decision is taken, the whole nation would know,” he added.
Work for Bayelsa residents, Secondus urges Diri
The National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, has urged Diri and his deputy to work for the advancement of the state, while urging them to unite the party and people of the state.
Speaking at the party’s complex at Maitama, Abuja, popularly called, ‘The Legacy,’ when Diri presented his Certificate of Return to the party leadership, he said, “This victory is dedicated to God Almighty because as we know, power comes from God, not from man. There will be no victor, there will also be no vanquished.
“So we urge the new governor and his deputy to quickly get to work, embrace everyone regardless of their party affiliation because this is what the PDP represents.”
Also, former President Goodluck Jonathan has congratulated the new governor, saying he will live up to the people’s expectations.
In his tweet on Friday, Jonathan wrote, “You have worked with me before as a commissioner, so I am without doubt that you will live up to the expectations of our people.”
Arrest Degi-Eremienyo, charge him for forgery now, PDP tells FG
Meanwhile, the PDP has called on the Federal Government to “urgently arrest the running mate to Lyon, Degi-Eremienyo, and charge him for forgery.”
The party said if this was not done, then the war against corruption by the Federal Government would further be dented.
The National Chairman of the PDP, Secondus, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said the onus “now lies with the running mate of the APC governorship candidate to tell the world how he got the credentials he presented to INEC for the election.’’
He added, “The police and the Federal Government should urgently arraign the running mate (Kuma) and charge him for forgery. He should also leave the Senate and allow a new election to be conducted for the position.
“This is the only way we can bring honour to our system and the Senate will also be respected. Kuma should be asked to leave.”
Let us eschew bitterness and acrimony, Diri tells Bayelsans
Diri, who had said while collecting his certificate of return that his victory had taught a great lesson of reconciliation and lessons of love for everybody, advised members and supporters of the PDP to celebrate the victory in magnanimity.
Speaking after his inauguration, he said members of the PDP and the APC were all brothers and sisters from the same state.
The governor called on the people of the state to shun bitterness and love one another irrespective of party affiliation.
Diri said, “Let us eschew bitterness and acrimony and learn to love one another, whether of the same or different parties. Primarily, we are brothers and sisters from Bayelsa State.
“My advice to all of us in this great party is that we have to be magnanimous in victory. If there is bitterness, acrimony, if we kill ourselves, who are we going to lead?
“Our mandate today is to serve you. We have come to serve you. Let us work together to serve you.”
Among those present at the swearing-in were Secondus as well as the governors of Oyo and Bauchi states, Seyi Makinde and Bala Mohammed respectively.
In her remarks before administering the oaths of office and allegiance on the new governor and his deputy, Justice Abiri described the swearing-in of Diri and Ewhrudjakpo as “an extremely solemn function of the judiciary”, noting that the ceremony was exceptional and unique in Bayelsa State.”