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Court disqualifies Timipre Sylva from contesting in Bayelsa guber poll



Court disqualifies Timipre Sylva from contesting in Bayelsa guber poll

A Federal High Court, Abuja has disqualified the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Timipre Sylva, from contesting the Nov. 11 election in Bayelsa.

Justice Donatus Okorowo, in a judgment delivered Monday night, held that Sylva, having been sworn in twice and ruled for five years as governor of the state, would breach the 1999 Constitution (as amended) if allowed to contest again.

Justice Okorowo, who agreed with the plaintiff’s argument, further held that if Sylva was allowed to contest and won the poll, he would have spent more than eight years in office as governor of the state in contravention with the constitution.

While citing the case of Marwa vs Nyako at the Supreme Court, Okorowo maintained that the drafters of the country’s constitution stated that nobody should be voted for as governor for more than two times.

According to the judge, the Supreme Court has also ruled in the case of Marwa vs Nyako that nobody can expand the constitution or its scope. He held that if Sylva was allowed to contest the next election, it meant a person could contest as many times as he wanted.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Chief Deme Kolomo, a member of the APC, had prayed the court to order the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to delete Sylva’s name from list of candidates contesting the Nov. 11 governorship poll.

In the originating summons marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/821/2023 dated and filed June 13, Kolomo had sued Sylva, the immediate-past Minister of State for Petroleum; APC and INEC as 1st to 3rd defendants respectively.

Kolomo had asked the court to determine whether Sylva is qualified to contest in the election, having occupied the office of governor of Bayelsa May 29, 2007 to April 15, 2008 and May 27, 2008 to Jan. 27, 2012.

In the affidavit attached, Kolomo deposed that besides being an APC member, he was also a registered voter in the state. He said INEC recently published the names of governorship candidates for the state, including Sylva’s name.

The plaintiff said he was motivated by the need to vindicate Sections 180 (2)(a) and 182(1)b) of the1999 Constitution, the rule of law and to know the applicability of same as it relates to Sylva based on the above facts.

Kolomo also averred that the question raised by the instant suit was a constitutional one and of grave importance to him as a voter and other voters in the sate so that they would not vote for someone who was not qualified to contest in the poll and had their votes wasted at the end of the day.

But Sylva, who is the immediate-past Minister of Petroleum, in a counter affidavit, asked the court to dismiss the suit for lacking in merit. Sylva, through his lawyer, Babayemi Olaniyan, said he was never elected as the state’s governor on two occasions.

He argued that the Appeal Court in its judgement held that the election that brought him in as Bayelsa governor in 2007 was null and void, while directing INEC to conduct a fresh election within 90 days. The lawyer argued that the ex-minister had only been elected once as Bayelsa governor.

He asked the court to dismiss the suit. Corroborating Olaniyan’s argument, Dr Dennis Otiotio, who appeared for the APC, urged the court to dismiss the suit with substantial cost. In the preliminary objection, Otiotio said that Kolomo lacked locus standi to institute the suit as he was never an aspirant in the primary election that produced Sylva.

While arguing his case, Prof. Abiodun Amuda-Kannike, who appeared for Kolomo, said contrary to the argument of the counsel, his client had locus in accordance with the law to file the suit whether as a pre-election matter or not. He argued that all the sections and cases cited by the defence were unrelated with the instant suit.

He said contrary to their argument, the suit was not statute barred, as the final day which the list of candidates was published was also part of their case. The senior lawyer prayed the court to uphold their argument and dismiss the preliminary objection of the defence.

NAN reports that Justice Inyang Ekwo had, on Sept 26 in another suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/575/2023 and filed by an APC aspirant, Ogbomade Johnson, against Sylva, dismissed the case for failure to prove the case with evidence as required by law.

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