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Bayelsa poll: A’court reserves judgment on Sylva’s suit against disqualification

Timipre Sylva Timipre Sylva

The court of appeal in Abuja has reserved judgment in the suit filed by Timipre Sylva, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Bayelsa governorship election, seeking to reverse his disqualification.

Demesuoyefa Kolomo, an APC member, had sued Sylva and asked the court to order the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to delete his name from the list of candidates contesting the Bayelsa poll.

The plaintiff averred that by the provisions of section 182(1)\(b) of the 1999 constitution, Sylva is not qualified to contest the election on the platform of APC or any other political party because he was elected in April 2007 and May 2008.

On October 10, a federal high court in Abuja disqualified Sylva from participating in the Bayelsa election.

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The court held that Sylva, having been sworn in twice and ruled for five years as governor of the state, would breach the 1999 constitution if allowed to contest again.

Subsequently, the APC filed an appeal challenging the court’s decision and applied for a stay of execution of the judgement pending the outcome of the appeal.

However, on Tuesday, INEC removed Sylva’s name from the list of candidates contesting the Bayelsa poll.

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THE HEARING

During the court session on Friday, Akinlolu Kehinde, Sylva’s lawyer, and K.O Balogun, counsel to APC, urged the court to set aside the October 10 judgment and affirm Sylva’s candidacy.

Kehinde argued that in his first oath taking, Sylva only spent six months, three weeks and two days in office before the election was annuled.

He wondered why the court could have given judgment in Kolomo’s favour when he did not participate in the primary election that produced Sylva as an aspirant in accordance with section 285.

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He submitted that Koloma lacked locus (legal right) to institute the suit, hence, it ought to have been dismissed.

“Section 285 strictly defines that you must be an aspirant to challenge an election and there is a timeframe within which to challenge the poll,” he said.

“We urge this honourable court to look at our processes and agree with us that the judgment was an hatchet job just to tie this man (Sylva), not to campaign and participate in the election.”

Balogun also argued that it was wrong for the court to have entertained Kolomo’s suit because he lacked the locus to approach the court.

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“In 2007, he (Sylva) was elected the governor of Bayelsa state, but within few months, the court of appeal sacked him,” Balogun said.

“He contested again in 2008 and won. The eight months that he earlier spent in office was nullified.

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“What he (Kolomo) is doing is fighting a proxy war. He cannot be a member of the APC and be fighting to destroy its candidate and chances at the election.

“What the 1st respondent is asking this court to do is to deem the nullified months as 4 years.”

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On his part, Abiodun Amuda-Kanike, Kolomo’s lawyer, urged the court to dismiss the appeal and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Ahmed Mohamed, INEC’s lawyer, also prayed the court to dismiss both appeals.

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Responding, the three-member panel led by Haruna Tsammani, questioned why Kolomo, who was not an aspirant, would want to destroy his party’s chance in the election.

The panel said Kolomo could have voted for another party in the poll if he assumed Sylva did not deserve his vote.

The panel also condemned the attitude of the counsel who failed to advice their clients appropriately on such issues, saying “it is a moral issue.”

Tsammani said since the court had chosen to hear the main appeals, it was unnecessary to hear any interlocutory motions.

After taking all the arguments, the panel reserved judgment in the appeals at a later date to be communicated to parties.

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