By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja.
Less that 24 hours after a Federal High Court, Abuja, disqualified him from participating in the November 11 governorship election in Bayelsa state, the All Progressives Congress, (APC) candidate in the election, Timipre Sylva has asked the Court of Appeal to set aside the judgment.
Apart from the notice of appeal, Sylva, through his lawyer, Dr Ahmed Raji, SAN, also filed a stay of execution of the judgment.
Shortly after the appeal was filed, Raji told newsmen that the high court judgment is against settled principles of law and notable precedents and that the chances of success at the appeallate court are very high.
He said the appeal raises three fundamental issues touching on jurisdiction, locus standi and wrongful evaluation of affidavit evidence.
In a judgment delivered late Monday night, Justice Donatus Okorowo of the high court disqualified the APC candidate on the ground that Sylva has been sworn-in twice and ruled for five years as governor of Bayelsa state.
According to the court, standing for another election as governor would breach the 1999 Constitution as amended.
In the motion on notice, dated October 10, 2023, praying the court to stay execution of the judgment, Sylva, through his Counsel, Raji, SAN, prayed the court for an order of the court staying execution and/or further execution of the entire judgment and the orders contained in the judgment of the Court, delivered on the 9th October, 2023, pending the hearing and final determination of the appeal lodged against the judgment and orders of this Court before the Court of Appeal, Abuja.
He also prayed the court for an injunction, restraining the respondents from implementing and/or giving effect to the Declaratory and Executory Orders contained in the Judgment.
In the appeal, also dated October 10, 2023, Sylva, a former governor of the state and the immediate past minister of state for petroleum resources, raised three grounds of appeal.
According to him, Justice Okorowo in his judgment wrongly assumed jurisdiction by delving into the internal affairs of his party, APC, which is a non-justiciable cause of action and thereby occasiones a grave miscarraige of justice.
He said the trial court has a duty to understand the case presented by the parties and apply the law correctly.
On ground two, the former governor said Justice Okorowo erred in law when he wrongly conferred, allowed and adjudicated on the matter when the respondent has no locus standi to initiate or institute the action having confessed not to have participated in the primary election that produced him as the governorahip candidate of the APC, thereby occasiones a grave miscarriage of justice against him.
He said the court failed to properly evaluate, determine and pronounce on his notice of preliminary objection challenging the competence of the suit amd thereby breached his right to fair hearing and guaranteed by the 1999 ‘institution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the appeal.
Recall that a Federal High Court, Abuja disqualified Sylva, from contesting the Nov. 11 election.
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.
Deme Kolomo, a member of the APC, had prayed the court to order the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to delete Mr 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.
Mr 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.
Mr 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 Mr 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 Mr Sylva as Bayelsa governor in 2007 was null and void while directing INEC to conduct a fresh election within 90 days.
The lawyer though admitted he 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 produce 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, Mrs Ogbomade Johnson, against Sylva, dimissed the case for failure to prove the case with evidence as required by law.
● Additional report by NAN