A Federal High Court has ruled that the former governor of Bayelsa, Chief Timipre Sylva, is not eligible to run for the same office in the upcoming Nov. 11 election. The All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate was disqualified by Justice Donatus Okorowo of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Monday night.
The judge said that Sylva had already served two terms as governor of Bayelsa, from May 29, 2007 to April 15, 2008 and from May 27, 2008 to Jan. 27, 2012. Allowing him to run again would violate the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which limits a person to two terms of four years each as governor of a state.
Justice Okorowo cited the Supreme Court case of Marwa vs Nyako, which affirmed that the constitutional provision on term limits cannot be expanded or altered by any person or authority. He said that Sylva would have exceeded the maximum of eight years in office as governor of Bayelsa if he won the election.
The suit against Sylva was filed by Chief Deme Kolomo, a member of the APC and a registered voter in Bayelsa. He had asked the court to order the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to remove Sylva’s name from the list of candidates for the Nov. 11 poll.
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.
According to his lawyer, Babayemi Olaniyan, the ex-minister denied being elected twice as the governor of Bayelsa state. He cited the Appeal Court judgement that nullified his 2007 election and ordered a fresh one within 90 days. He insisted that he only served one term as the governor after winning the subsequent election. He urged the court to throw out the suit.
Dr Dennis Otiotio, who represented APC, also asked the court to dismiss the suit with a heavy cost. He argued that Kolomo had no standing to file the suit since he was not a participant in the primary election that produced Sylva.
However, Prof. Abiodun Amuda-Kannike, who spoke for Kolomo, maintained that his client had the right to sue under the law, regardless of the nature of the suit. He contended that the defence’s arguments and authorities were irrelevant to the case at hand. He also argued that the suit was not time-barred, as the date of publication of the final list of candidates was part of their case.
He appealed to the court to uphold their case and reject the defence’s preliminary objection.
NAN reports that Justice Inyang Ekwo had earlier dismissed another suit filed by an APC aspirant, Mrs Ogbomade Johnson, against Sylva on Sept 26 for lack of evidence as required by law.