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‘You Can’t Expand The Constitution, Sylva, You’re Hereby Disqualified From Running As Gov In Bayelsa’, Court Declares

The Oasis Reporters

October 11, 2023







L-R: Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Commission (NNPC), Mele Kyari; Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki and the then Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva during the commissioning of the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company’s (NPDC) Oredo Integrated Gas Handling Facility (IGHF) at Ologbo, Edo State on Tuesday, December 22, 2020. File photo 




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.

The former Petroleum minister of state had previously governed Bayelsa State for four years, ran again for reelection which he won but within a year into his second tenure, he was impeached.

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 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 the 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 was the immediate-past Minister of Petroleum, in a counter affidavit, asked the court to dismiss the suit for lacking in merit.

The ex-minister, through his lawyer, Babayemi Olaniyan, said that 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 Sylva as Bayelsa governor in 2007 was null and void, while directing INEC to conduct a fresh election within 90 days.

The lawyer admitted however that Sylva was a former governor of Bayelsa, he stressed that he had only been elected once as the state’s governor.

He asked the court to dismiss the suit.

Corroborating Olaniyan’s argument, Dr Dennis Otiotio, who appeared for APC, urged the court to dismiss the suit with substantial cost.

In the preliminary objection argued, 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 the 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, Mrs Ogbomade Johnson, against Sylva, dismissed the case for failure to prove the case with evidence as required by law.

Oil rich Bayelsa State has been a People’s Democratic Party governed state since inception but four years ago, in a surprise twist owing to the internal wranglings within the party, the PDP lost the election in the state which was won by the APC. Just before the election winner, David Lyon could be sworn-in, the Supreme Court disqualified him because his deputy governor to be had presented falsified documents to the electoral body, INEC.

PDP as the runner-up party was then sworn-in to govern the state.

It is suspected that the APC might appeal to the Court of Appeal, and ultimately to the Supreme Court. And if the two topmost Courts agree with the Federal High Court, it would be a major setback to the APC.

If on the other hand Timipre Sylva wins the case, he would be too weakened to mount a vigorous campaign against the PDP that has the power of incumbency and the logistics to run.

The election scheduled for November 11, just one month away is too close for any vigorous campaign by a demoralized APC.

The Guardian
In-house analysis.

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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