Sacked Bayelsa Speaker Kombowei Benson

Sacked Bayelsa Speaker Kombowei Benson

40days After, Bayelsa Speaker Illegally Remain In Office Despite Court Of Appeal Sack


The Court of Appeal, sitting in Port-Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, has sacked Bayelsa State House of Assembly Speaker Kombowei Benson.

Speaker Kombowei Benson

Sacked Bayelsa Speaker Kombowei Benson

A copy of the court’s judgment, which our correspondent obtained at the weekend, indicated that the April 2015 election, which returned Benson to the Assembly, was nullified on December 9, last year.

But our correspondent observed that despite the court’s order, Kombowei has remained in office and, last Friday, about 40 days after the judgment, he chaired the Assembly when it received this year’s state Appropriation Bill from Governor Seriake Dickson.

The Speaker was sacked in a case filed by Mr. Ebifaghe Orunimighe, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Southern Ijaw Constituency 4.

Orunimighe challenged Kombowei’s victory on the grounds that an election did not take place in four wards.

According to him, even where elections were held, there was over-voting.

Oruminighe averred that there was no election in Olodiama Ward 3, Apoi Ward 15, Forupa Ward 14 and Ukubie Ward 16.

On October 16, last year, the House of Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal, presided over by Justice Ononnaeze Madu, dismissed Orunimighe’s petition for lack of proof.

But justices Mohammed Garba, Ejembi Eko and Stephen Adah, who sat on the appeal panel which delivered the judgment, set aside the decision of the tribunal and upheld Oruminighe’s prayers.

In the judgment delivered by Justice Eko, the panel decided that the appellants had proved with their evidence that there was no election at Appoi Ward; yet, results were posted on the result sheets that were earlier snatched and collated into the overall results in the constituency.

The panel, which also held that there was an inexplicable over-voting added: “The line of attack by the appellants under issue 2 is that upon proper evaluation of Exhibit P viz-a-viz the total number of vote cast at the election put at 34,985 as announced by INEC. There was an inexplicable over voting.

“Out of these 34,985 votes, 6038 from Olodiama Ward 4 and polling units 20-30 of Forupa Ward are not in contention as submitted by the appellants. Thus, 28,849 votes are suspect or disputed votes.

“Had the trial tribunal properly evaluated exhibit P it would have come to a conclusion that there was over voting in the constituency. Clearly there is an electoral malpractice where the number of votes cast is in excess of the total number of voters accredited to vote.

“The trial tribunal failed, neglected and refused to evaluate the critical evidential materials contained in the documents tendered and admitted in evidence by the appellants.”

Resolving issues One, Two and Three raised in the appeal in favour of the APC candidate, the tribunal declared the election that returned the Bayelsa Speaker null and void.

Justice Eko said: “I allow the appeal in substantial part. My findings on issues One, Two and Three justify the declaration that the election/return of the first respondent, Benson Friday Kombowei, as the purported winner of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly seat for Southern Ijaw Constituency 4 elections on April 11, 2015, was null and void.

“It is hereby ordered that a fresh election shall be conducted in all the wards in the constituency within 90 days from today, except in Olodiama Ward 4 and the polling units 20-30 in Foropa Ward 4.

“The results from the Olodiama Ward 4 and polling units 29-30 in Foropa Ward 4 shall, upon the fresh elections in other wards, as ordered, thereafter, be duly collated and final declaration and return made.”

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