The Court of Appeal in Abuja has overturned the earlier order that nullified the candidacy of Timipre Sylva, the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Bayelsa State. This decision comes as a relief for Sylva, who had faced disqualification from the November 11 gubernatorial election.
The Federal High Court in Abuja had initially ruled that Sylva was ineligible to run in the November poll because his potential term in office would exceed eight years as the state’s governor if he were to win. This decision was based on the interpretation of constitutional term limits, particularly the rule that no one can be elected as governor more than twice.
In its ruling, the Court of Appeal cited the Supreme Court’s precedent in the case of Marwa vs. Nyako, staing that the drafters of the constitution intended to restrict individuals from serving as governor more than twice. The court also noted that allowing Sylva to contest the upcoming election would set a precedent for unlimited terms, which contradicts the constitution.
The lawsuit, with the reference number FHC/ABJ/CS/821/2023, was originally filed by Deme Kolomo, a member of the APC, on June 13, 2023.
The decision by the Court of Appeal has significant implications. It means that Chief Timipre Sylva is eligible to contest the upcoming gubernatorial election in Bayelsa State, and his name will be included on the list of candidates. The earlier exclusion of his name by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has now been overturned.
This legal saga had caused uncertainty and anxiety among supporters of the APC, who had drawn comparisons to the party’s previous experience in the 2019 governorship election, when they won but were prevented from governing the state.
In its ruling, Justice Binta Zubairu highlighted that the lower court had erred by assuming jurisdiction in the case. The plaintiff, Deme Kolomo, who brought the case to the Federal High Court, was found to lack the necessary standing to initiate the suit as he had not participated in the primary election that led to Sylva’s candidacy.
The Court of Appeal stressed the importance of jurisdiction in election-related matters, and since the lower court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case, all its actions were declared null and void.
This decision by the Court of Appeal effectively nullifies the lower court’s ruling, emphasizing that a judgment without jurisdiction is fundamentally flawed, regardless of its merits. It provides clarity and clears the way for Timipre Sylva to participate in the upcoming Bayelsa gubernatorial election.