In a significant turn of events, the Court of Appeal in Abuja has reversed the disqualification of Chief Timipre Sylva as the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for the Bayelsa state governorship election scheduled for November 11.
The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of Justices, set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja that had initially disqualified Sylva from participating in the gubernatorial race.
The court’s ruling was grounded on the premise that the litigant, Mr. Demesuoyefa Kolomo, who had initiated the suit leading to Sylva’s disqualification, lacked the legal right (locus standi) to do so. Consequently, the appellate court not only overturned the high court’s verdict but also imposed a fine of N1 million on Kolomo.
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The Federal High Court had, on October 9, delivered a judgment declaring Sylva, who formerly served as the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, ineligible to run in the upcoming governorship contest. The court argued that since the 1999 Constitution allowed a maximum tenure of eight years for a governor, Sylva, who had previously held the position on two occasions, would exceed the constitutional limit by serving for nine years if he won the election.
Justice Donatus Okorowo emphasized that it was an indisputable fact that Sylva had previously taken the oath of office as the governor of Bayelsa on two separate occasions. Therefore, the court ruled that Sylva was not a valid candidate for the forthcoming election and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to remove his name from the list of candidates.
This legal battle stemmed from a suit filed by Kolomo against Sylva, questioning his eligibility to contest the election, citing the constitutional provision that limits a governor to two terms in office.
However, Chief Timipre Sylva, dissatisfied with the judgment, filed a notice of appeal. In the appeal, he argued that the high court’s decision went against established legal principles and precedents. He sought an order from the appellate court to stay the execution of the high court’s judgment, pending the outcome of the appeal. Sylva also requested an injunction preventing the implementation of the declaratory and executory orders contained in the judgment.
Sylva further contended that the high court, led by Justice Okorowo, erred by delving into a matter that fell within the purview of a political party’s internal affairs. He maintained that the nomination of a candidate by a political party is a non-justiciable issue.
In his appeal, Sylva stressed that the judgment disqualifying him caused a miscarriage of justice. He argued that the trial court had a duty to properly evaluate the case presented by the parties and apply the law correctly.
Additionally, Sylva asserted that Kolomo had no locus standi to initiate the action since he had not participated in the primary election that selected Sylva as the APC’s gubernatorial candidate. This issue, he argued, rendered Kolomo legally incapable of challenging his candidacy.
APC hails court verdict restoring Sylva on ballot
The Court of Appeal’s decision to reinstate Sylva as the APC candidate for the Bayelsa state governorship election has significantly altered the political landscape in the state. The APC has welcomed the verdict, with its State Publicity Secretary, Doifie Buokoribo, describing it as a victory for democracy and a win for Bayelsa. Buokoribo emphasized that the ruling provides Bayelsa with a clear choice between progress and stagnation, light and darkness, and offers a level playing field for the upcoming election.
The restoration of Timipre Sylva to the ballot presents a fresh dynamic in the race for the governorship of Bayelsa state, raising expectations for a fiercely contested and closely watched election on November 11.