Bayelsa Gov’ship: I’ll respond to suit challenging my emergence as APC candidate, Sylva tells court

Mr Timipre Sylva, the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Nov. 11 governorship election in Bayelsa, on Monday, said he would respond to a suit seeking his disqualification at appropriate time.

Sylva, the immediate-past Minister of State for Petroleum, told Justice Donatus Okorowo of a Federal High Court, Abuja though his lawyer, Adelani Ajibade, upon resumed hearing in the matter.

Ajibade, who said that they received the originating summons on June 20, said they had 10 days within which to respond being a pre-election suit.

“And we intend to do same within this time. Therefore, we will be asking for an adjournment,” he said.

Also APC’s counsel, Dr Denis Otiotio, said he would respond to the application.

Otiotio informed the court that though his client was served on June 16, he said he was only briefed about the matter on Friday.

“We still have up to today (Monday) to file our processes. We are working to ensure that we file our processes. So we shall be asking for an adjournment,” he said.
But the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was not represented in court on Monday.

Justice Okorowo adjourned the matter until July 3 for hearing.

Chief Demesuoyefa Kolomo, a member of the APC, had prayed the court to order INEC to delete the name of Sylva from list of candidates contesting the Nov. 11 governorship poll.

Kolomo told Justice Okorowo in a suit filed by his lawyer, Prof. Abiodun Amuda-Kannike, SAN.

In the originating summons marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/821/2023 dated and filed June 13, Kolomo had sued Mr Sylva, APC and INEC as 1st to 3rd defendants respectively.

He sought two questions for determination.

These include whether having regard to the indisputable facts that Sylva was elected to the office of governor of Bayeisa on two previous occasions; April 14, 2007, and May 24, 2008, he was qualified to contest the Nov. 11 election in view of Section 82 (1)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

“Whether having regard to the indisputable fact that Sylva occupied the office of governor of Bayelsa May 29, 2007 to April 15, 2008 and May 27, 2008 to Jan. 27, 2012, he is qualified to contest and be elected to the office of governor of Bayelsa for another four years term in view of Section 180(2)(a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Kolomo, therefore, sought a declaration that by virtue of Section 182(1)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Sylva was not qualified to contest the election to the office of the governor of Bayelsa on APC’s platform or on any other political party’s platform in the election scheduled for sometime in November or any other time for that matter.

He also sought an order directing INEC to remove Sylva’s name from the list of the contestants into the office of the governor of Bayelsa on APC’s platform or any other political party’s platform in the Nov. 11 poll or any other time for that matter as he was not qualified to contest the said poll.

In the affidavit attached, Kolomo deposed that besides being an APC member, he was also a registered voter in the state.

He averred that the ex-minister was first elected to the office of governor, Bayelsa on April 14, 2007 and assumed the said office on May 29, 2007, and was in the said office until April 15, 2008 when his election on April 14, 2007, was set aside by the Court of Appeal and he was consequently removed from office.

He said Sylva was reelected on May 24, 2008, and assumed office as governor on May 27, 2008 until January 27, 2012.

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.

Sylva served as Bayelsa governor on Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s platform.

The former minister had, in 2006, joined the PDP governorship primaries challenging ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, who at that time, was vying for same position

However, after Sylva emerged the PDP candidate, he went on to win the election in 2007 and succeeded Jonathan, who had also become the Vice President to late President Umaru Yar’Adua.

But Sylva’s opponent in the 2007 election, Ebitimi Amgbare of the defunct Action Congress (AC), challenged his victory.

While the Bayelsa State Election Petitions Tribunal upheld Sylva’s election, Amgbare took the matter to the Appeal Court, Port Harcourt in Rivers which upturned the tribunal’s decision and nullified Sylva’s election on April 15, 2008.

The five justices of the Court of Appeal were unanimous in their decision and ordered that Speaker Werinipre Seibarugo be sworn in to replace Sylva as acting governor, with a new election to be held within 90 days as stated in the Electoral Act.

When a new election was held on May 24, 2008, Sylva was again overwhelmingly elected with 588,204 out of about 598,000 votes and was sworn in.

But on Jan. 27, 2012, his tenure was terminated by the Supreme Court, with an acting governor appointed to oversee the state until the election of February 2012, won by Seriake Dickson.