By Taiye Agbaje and Edith Nwapi
The Court of Appeal, Abuja, on Friday, reserved judgment in the appeals filed by Mr Timipre Sylva, the All Progressives Congress (APC)’s candidate in the Nov. 11 governorship election in Bayelsa and the party.
A three-member panel of the court, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani, made this known after counsel to the parties made their final submissions and adopted their written briefs.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the appeals were against the Oct. 9 judgment delivered by Justice Donatus Okorowo of a Federal High Court (FH’), 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 marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/821/2023 filed on June 3, prayed the court to delete Sylva’s name from the list of candidates vying for the election, having taken an oath of office twice as governor.
When the case was called, 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 and that it was based on Sections 180 and 182 that the suit was filed.
The senior lawyer, however, argued that in his first oath taking, Sylva only spend 6 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.participate in the primary election that produced Sylva as an aspirant in accordance with Section 285.
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,” 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 few months, the Court of Appeal (which was then the final court for governorship election petition) 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 1st respondent (Kolomo) is asking this court to do is to deem the nullified months as 4 years,” Balogun said.
Members of the court’s panel also wondered why Kolomo, who claimed 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 chance 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 attitude of counsel who failed to advice 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 Sylvia’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 Mohamed, also prayed the court to dismiss both appeals.
After taking all the arguments, the panel reserved judgment in the appeals at a later date to be communicated to parties.(NAN)