June 25, 2024

Central News

at the center of it

Appeal Court reserves judgment in Sylva’s appeal against INEC deletion of his name

THREE Court of Appeal justices sitting in Abuja, on Friday, reserved judgment in the appeals filed by Mr. Timipre Sylva, All Progressives’ Congress candidate in the November 11, 2023 governorship election in Bayelsa State.
The party is also an appellant in the matter.
A three-member panel of the court, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani, made announced reservation of date after counsel to the parties made their final submissions and adopted their written briefs.
A News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) report recalls that the appeals were against the October 9, 2023 judgment delivered by Federal High Court judge Justice Donatus Okorowo, sitting in Abuja, which disqualified Sylva as candidate in the election.
A member of the APC, Demesuoyefa Kolomo, who described himself as a registered voter, had, in the suit filed on June 3, prayed the court to delete Sylva’s name from the list of candidates vying for the governorship, having previously taken an oath of office twice as governor.
Lawyer to Sylva, Akinlolu Kehinde, SAN, and counsel to the APC, K. O. Balogun, urged the court to allow the appeals, set aside the Oct. 9 judgment and affirm Sylva’s candidacy.
Kehinde observed that Kolomo claimed the matter was a public interest action.
The senior lawyer, however, 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 trial court would have given judgment in Kolomo’s favour, having not participated in the primary election that produced Sylva as an aspirant in accordance with S.285 of the Electoral Act 2022.
He submitted that Koloma lacks 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 a hatchet job just to tie this man (Sylva) not to campaign and participate in the election,” he said.
He said presently Sylva’s name had been removed from INEC’s list of candidates for the poll, urging the court to allow their appeals.
Balogun also argued that it was wrong for the trial court to have entertained the suit by Kolomo because he lacked the locus to approach the court.
He faulted the decision of Justice Okorowo, to the effect that Sylva took oath of office twice as governor of Bayelsa State.
Balogun said: “In 2007 he (Sylva) was elected the governor of Bayelsa State, but within a few months, the Court of Appeal (which was then the final court for governorship election petitions) sacked him.
“He contested again in 2008 and won. The eight months that he earlier spent in office was nullified,” he said, arguing that the FHC should not have agreed with Kolomo because those months were voided by the court.
“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 first respondent (Kolomo) is asking the courts to do is to deem the nullified months as four years,” Balogun said.
Members of the court’s panel also wondered why Kolomo, who claims to be a member of the APC, but not an aspirant who participated in the party’s primary, would want to destroy his party’s chances in an election.
They said instead, he would have voted for another party in the poll if he assumed Sylva did not deserve his vote.
The panel also condemned the attitude of counsel who failed to advise their clients appropriately on such issues, saying “it is a moral issue.”
Balogun later informed the court that his client filed a motion to compel INEC to reverse its decision to remove Sylva’s name from the list of candidates for the election.
Justice Tsammani said since the court had chosen to hear the main appeals, it was unnecessary to hear any interlocutory motions.
Lawyer to Kolomo, Prof. Abiodun Amuda-Kanike, SAN, urged the court to dismiss the appeal and affirm the judgment of the trial court.
INEC’s lawyer, Ahmed Mohammed, also prayed the court to dismiss both appeals.
After taking all the arguments, the panel reserved judgment in the appeals to a later date to be communicated to parties.