Bayelsa poll: Court dismisses APC aspirant’s suit seeking Sylva’s disqualification

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A Federal High Court in  Abuja on Tuesday, dismissed a suit seeking the disqualification of Mr Timipre Sylva from contesting the Nov. 11 Bayelsa governorship poll.

Delivering judgment, Justice Inyang Ekwo, held that the plaintiff, Mrs Ogbomade Johnson failed to prove the case upon preponderance of evidence as required by law.

Justice Ekwo said that Johnson failed to prove her case that that the All Progressives Congress (APC) did not conduct valid governorship primary election from which Sylva emerged as the party’s candidate.

The judge rejected the police report relied on by the plaintiff, and  held that it was not the duty of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) to monitor the conduct of political parties’ primary elections.

“Therefore, Exhibits A23, A24, A25/26, and A27 of the plaintiff are of no moment. They are products of illegality having not been authorised by the Electoral Act, 2022 and the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

“The conduct of party primaries is not a police case unless and until a criminal act is committed in the process of such party primaries,” he said.

Justice Ekwo agreed that by the evidence presented by Sylva and the APC, he was convinced that the party held a valid primary election.

“Upon considering the facts of this case and the documentary evidence tendered by the plaintiff, I find that the plaintiff’s case is weak and has not been proved upon preponderance of evidence as required by law.

“The plaintiff has failed to give this court such evidence that is capable of creating a doubt in the mind of the court that the governorship primary election of the 1st defendant in Bayelsa did not hold on April 14or even if it did hold, it was not conducted in accordance with the party’s guidelines as stated in Exhibit H of the 1st defendant.

“I find upon the evidence before me that the governorship primary of the 1st defendant was conducted on April 14 in accordance with the party’s guidelines

“I find in the end that the plaintiff has not proved this case upon preponderance of evidence as required by law. The case therefore fails for lacking in merit.

“Consequently, I make an order dismissing the case of the plaintiff for lacking in merit.

“This is the order of this court,” Justice Ekwo declared.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/575/2023, was filed by Mrs Johnson, an APC aspirant for Bayelsa governorship election against Sylva, the immediate-past Minister of State for Petroleum.

NAN reports that Johnson, in the suit dated April 24 but filed April 27 had sued APC, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Sylva as 1st to 3rd respondents respectively.

She prayed the court for an order of mandatory injunction compelling INEC to delist the names of APC and Sylva from among the list of political parties and candidates for the November election.

The aggrieved aspirant also prayed for an order of perpetual injunction restraining Sylva from parading himself as the APC’s governorship candidate in Bayelsa, among others.

She sought a declaration that the APC was duty-bound in contract to commence and conclude primary election in Bayelsa in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 and the regulations and guidelines of the political party, after having demanded and received the sum of N10 million from her, along with other five aspirants.

Johnson further sought a declaration that by virtue of the conduct of the APC’s primary poll on April 14 in contravention of the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022, and the regulations and guidelines of the political party, the APC had no candidate to field for the poll, among other reliefs.

In a counter affidavit deposed to by Sylva, the ex-minister prayed the court to dismissed the suit.

He said contrary to Johnson’s deposition, he was eminently qualified to contest for election into the Office of Governor of Bayelsa and did not suffer from any disqualifying factor which barred him from contesting.

He averred that he had only served as Bayelsa governor on one occasion.

Besides, Sylva averred that he vied for the APC primary alongside five others, including Johnson on April 14.

He said he emerged its candidate having polled the highest votes from the votes collated from 102 out of 105 wards in the eight local government areas where party members voted in a direct primary in accordance with the guidelines for poll, APC’s constitution and the Electoral Act, 2022.

He said contrary to Johnson’s argument, the primary was held and the results in which he garnered the majority of the votes was accepted and he received congratulatory messages from major APC stakeholders in the state, indicative of the fact that his victory reflected the aspirations of the party members.

Also the APC, in its counter affidavit deposed to by Dr Stanley Ugboaja, the chief of staff to deputy national organising secretary, asked the court to dismissed the suit.

The party argued that the judgment of the Supreme Court delivered on Jan. 27, 2012, in respect of the consolidated appeal was actually in support of Sylva’s bid for a second term in office and not against it as falsely stated by Johnson.

It said that the direct primary poll was conducted by its national body in accordance with the guidelines for the conduct of same as well as the provisions of the Electoral Act and its constitution.

The APC, which averred that INEC monitored the poll  also said that the electoral umpire issued a report in respect of the primaries.

 “An appeal against the result of the said primaries was lodged with the Appeals Committee of the ist defendant.

“The Appeal Committee rejected the said appeal as unmeritorious. A copy of the report of the Appeal Committee is attached herewith and marked Exhibit F.

“That by a letter dated 13th April, 2023, the plaintiff was requested to provide the list of her agents in all the 105 electoral wards in Bayelsa State but she failed to comply.

“She did not even bother to vote in her electoral ward. A copy of the said letter is attached herewith and marked Exhibit G,” the party told the court.

NAN recalls that the APC had cleared Mrs Johnson, Sylva, Joshua Maciver, Festus Daumiebi, Mrs Maureen Ongoebi and David Lyon as aspirants in the April 14 primaries.

In the primary election conducted in the 102 of the 105 wards of the eight local governments in the state, Sylva was said to have scored 52, 061 votes; Maciver scored 2, 078; Johnson scored 584; Daumiebi scored 557; Ongoebi scored 1, 277 and Lyon scored 1, 584 votes.

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