Thursday, 18 April, 2024

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Bayelsa poll: Appeal Court reverses Timipre Sylva’s disqualification as APC candidate


The Court of Appeal in Abuja has set aside the October 9 judgment given by Justice Donatus Okorowo of the Federal High Court, Abuja nullifying the nomination of Timipre Sylva as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Bayelsa State governorship election scheduled for November 11.

The court, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of Justices, vacated the judgement of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which disqualified Sylva from participating in the gubernatorial poll.

It held that the litigant, Mr Demesuoyefa Kolomo, who initiated the suit that led to Sylva’s disqualification, lacked the locus standi (legal right) to do so.

Consequently, the appellate court, aside from setting aside the verdict of the high court, awarded a cost of N1 million against the Respondent, Kolomo.

It will be recalled that the high court had in a judgement it delivered on October 9, declared that Sylva who is the immediate past Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, was not eligible to participate in the gubernatorial contest having already spent five years in office as governor of the state.

The court stressed that since the 1999 Constitution, as amended, okayed a maximum tenure of eight years for a governor, should Sylva contest and win the impending election, he would exceed the constitutional threshold by spending a total of nine years in office.

Justice Donatus Okorowo held that uncontroverted evidence that was adduced before the court established that Sylva had earlier taken the oath of office as Bayelsa state governor, on two occasions.

Relying on a Supreme Court decided case law in Marwa Vs Nyako, the judge held that the constitution could not be stretched to elongate the statutory period that someone could serve as a governor in the country.

He declared that Sylva was not a valid candidate for the forthcoming Bayelsa state governorship poll.

According to the court, the trial court was erred in having assumed jurisdiction in the matter on grounds that the plaintiff at the Federal High Court lacked the necessary locus standi to initiate the suit in the first place, having not participated in the primary election that produced Sylva as the flag bearer of the APC in the forthcoming election.

The appellate court said the issue of jurisdiction is fundamental in an election matter, and since the lower court had no jurisdiction in the first place, all actions taken in the matter are declared nullity.

The appellate court, in addition, stated that once a judgment is found to have been delivered without jurisdiction, “no matter how sound” it may be, “it is an exercise in futility”.

The appellate court subsequently voided the decision of Justice Donatus Okorowo, which nullified Sylva’s participation in the November 11 election.

By this judgment, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would have to relist Sylva as the candidate of the APC for the governorship election in Bayelsa State.

Credit: Vanguard News Nigeria

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