A group, Bayelsa Democratic Front (BDF), has expressed full support for the relocation of the Bayelsa State National and State Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal from Yenagoa to Abuja.
In a statement issued on Wednesday in Yenagoa, the President-General of BDF, Chief Promise Okpoebi, said the decision by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, to order a relocation of the tribunal from its original office at the Bayelsa State High Court premises, Onopa Road, Yenagoa was “in the best interest of justice and democracy”. The group recalled that in early 2015, Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson led a group of thugs to attack and sack a Federal High Court in Yenagoa. The court was about to deliver judgment in matter in which he had interest. BDF said the tribunal relocation would prevent a repeat of such ugly incident.
In a public statement, the Secretary of the tribunal, D. B. Akawu, urged counsels, litigants and the general public who had business with the tribunal to visit the Court of Appeal at the Three Arms Zone, Abuja.
The statement added, “This is to notify all counsels, litigants and general public that Bayelsa National and State House of Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, has been relocated to Abuja.
“The registry of the tribunal will now be at the Court of Appeal headquarters, Three Arms Zone, Abuja”.
Although no reason was given for the relocation, it is widely believed that security was a key factor. The security situation in Yenagoa is currently alarming, and this bespeaks grave dangers for the smooth sitting and safety of tribunal members.
It was learnt that prior to the relocation order, the President of the Court of Appeal received several petitions about the state of insecurity in the state. The petitions even made reference to the attack and sack of a Federal High Court in Yenagoa in early 2015 by Bayelsa State Governor, Hon Seriake Dickson, and a gang of thugs.
The Bayelsa Democratic Front (BDF) recalls that an online newspaper, Premium Times obtained a video and did a report on the court invasion of Monday, March 30, 2015.
According to the Premium Times report:
“The Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, on Monday led a gang of thugs to attack a Federal High court in Bayelsa, a video obtained by PREMIUM TIMES has shown.
The video shows the governor, dressed in traditional Ijaw blazers, walking into the court premises, accompanied by his police guards and hangers on, before hooligans, including rifle wielding police officers, invaded and attacked the court.
The thugs were chanting “we no go gree, for this state, e no possible” as they walked into a court hearing. Loud gunshots could be heard shortly before the hooligans began breaking glasses and destroying properties inside the court.
At least 15 lawyers, including a pregnant woman and two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, were in the court during the attack.
The governor walked out of the court premises at the peak of the attack.”
The online newspaper report had it that the court was in session to deliver a judgment on Senator Heineken Lokpobiri’s case against Dickson’s anointed senatorial candidate, Foster Ogola, over the validity of the latter’s candidacy for Bayelsa West senatorial district in the 2015 National Assembly Election. Mr. Lopkobiri claimed his then party, the Peoples Democratic Party, illegally substituted his name with Mr. Ogola’s, and had filed a suit accusing Foster Ogola of submitting false information to INEC.
BDF insisted Governor Dickson has not changed. BDF’s President-General, Okpoebi, painted a picture of the Bayelsa Governor as a violent man. “He is a man of war and terror. He has no problems resorting to violence to get what he wants”, he said.
“We thank the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Bulkachuwa, for listening to the cries of Bayelsa people. Dickson is a desperate man. Now that he is in his last days as governor, he is living in a state of political anxiety. Bayelsans are determined to stop him from anointing a successor”