Just one month before the Bayelsa State gubernatorial election, the Federal High Court in Abuja has ruled to disqualify former governor Timipre Sylva from the race. Mr. Timipre Sylva, who previously served as the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, had secured the Bayelsa State All Progressives Congress governorship nomination back in April.
He garnered a total of 52,061 votes, emerging victorious over five other contenders, namely Joshua Machiver, Festus Danumiebi, Maureen Etebu, David Lyon, and Isikima Johnson.
Nigeria’s electoral commission, INEC, had scheduled the state governorship election for November 11. Nevertheless, on Monday, a Federal High Court judge in Abuja, Donaltus Okorowo, declared that Mr. Sylva was ineligible to run for the Bayelsa State governorship position.
In a ruling pertaining to a lawsuit brought by an APC member, Demesuoyefa Kolomo, the judge determined that Mr. Sylva, having been sworn in as governor twice and governed Bayelsa for five years, would contravene the 1999 constitution if permitted to participate in the upcoming election.
What you should know about Timipre Sylva
Mr. Sylva previously served as the governor of Bayelsa State from 2007 to 2011 under the banner of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Subsequently, he switched his allegiance to the APC and assumed a ministerial role in former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. In March, he relinquished his ministerial position to vie for the APC’s primary election.
Citing a Supreme Court ruling in the Marwa vs. Nyako case, Judge Okorowo clarified that the framers of Nigeria’s constitution stipulated that no one should be eligible to run for the position of governor more than twice. The judge pointed out that all parties involved in the lawsuit acknowledged that Mr. Sylva had held the governorship office on two occasions.
Mr. Sylva and his party retain the option to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court. Nonetheless, if the Supreme Court ultimately rules against Mr. Sylva after the deadline for candidate substitutions has passed, the party faces a significant risk of being left without a candidate for the election.
This scenario could potentially echo the misfortune the party encountered in the previous gubernatorial election cycle in the state when the Supreme Court nullified the victory of its candidate, David Lyon, on the eve of his inauguration.
Timipre Sylva’s background story
In a case brought by an APC member, Mr. Kolomo, the Federal High Court examined Mr. Sylva’s eligibility to contest the Bayelsa State governorship election. Mr. Kolomo sought the court’s interpretation regarding Mr. Sylva’s previous terms as governor and whether he could run for another term in accordance with the constitution.
Mr. Sylva had previously served as governor from April 14, 2007, to January 27, 2012, with his first term interrupted by a court nullification. The case questioned whether he could legally run for the upcoming election.
The plaintiff requested a declaration that Mr. Sylva was not qualified to run for governor based on the 1999 Constitution and asked the court to direct INEC to remove his name from the list of candidates.
This legal challenge has significant implications for the upcoming election, potentially impacting the chances of other candidates, particularly Governor Douye Diri of the PDP, if Mr. Sylva’s disqualification is upheld.
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