The All Progressives Congress (APC) has announced its intentions to challenge the recent disqualification of its Bayelsa governorship candidate, Chief Timipre Sylva, from the upcoming November 11 poll.
The disqualification, handed down by Justice Donatus Okorowo of the Federal High Court in Abuja, has thrown a curveball into the state’s political landscape.
In his judgment, Justice Okorowo ruled on Monday that Chief Timipre Sylva was ineligible to contest in the forthcoming governorship election. The judge’s decision was based on the argument that Sylva, having served two terms and ruled for five years as Governor of Bayelsa, would breach the 1999 Constitution as amended if allowed to run for another term.
The Director of Media and Publicity of the APC Bayelsa Gubernatorial Campaign Council, Mr. Perry Tukuwei, expressed the party’s discontent with the ruling in a statement issued on Tuesday in Yenagoa.
Tukuwei stated, “The party has instructed its legal team to appeal the judgment, and we are confident that the Court of Appeal will overturn the Federal High Court’s decision.”
He further added, “This reassurance is in response to a judgment that appears to favor the Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate, orchestrated by the Federal High Court in Abuja in a seemingly failed attempt to thwart the hopes of Bayelsa residents in having their preferred candidate, Chief Timipre Sylva, as the next leader at Creek Haven by February 14, 2024.”
Tukuwei emphasized specific legal points, saying, “Sections 29 and 84 of the 2022 Electoral Act stipulate that only individuals who participated in the primaries of a political party with the legal standing to challenge the qualification of the party’s candidate in an election can file a pre-election matter. Therefore, the lawsuit brought forth by one Chief Demesuoyefa Kolomo, who is neither an APC member nor contested our party’s governorship primaries, lacks the necessary legal standing.”
He also pointed out a timing issue, saying, “Section 285 of the 1999 Nigerian constitution requires any aggrieved party to file an election-related matter within 14 days of the event. However, this case was filed on June 13, 2023, whereas INEC had published the names of the governorship candidates for Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi on May 12, 2023. Consequently, the case was filed outside the constitutionally prescribed 14-day limit, rendering it statute-barred.”
Tukuwei expressed the party’s astonishment, stating, “It is surprising that the court disregarded the plaintiff’s lack of legal standing to sue and proceeded to deliver a verdict in their favor.”
Moreover, he pointed out that the lawsuit violated a directive from the Supreme Court that all pre-election matters should be heard in the state where party primaries took place. Tukuwei questioned the choice of Abuja as the venue for the case, stating, “To facilitate their dubious actions, the case was filed in Abuja. But is Abuja Bayelsa?”
In conclusion, Tukuwei addressed concerns regarding Governor Douye Diri’s alleged involvement in the case, asserting, “The Bayelsa APC has detected a covert plan by Gov. Douye Diri to circumvent the election process, a tactic that appears consistent with his previous actions. However, we urge the people of Bayelsa not to be disheartened. This clandestine strategy by the PDP should not deter our determination to elect Chief Timipre Sylva as the next Governor of Bayelsa. We are confident in our victory.”
The legal battle over Timipre Sylva’s candidacy is expected to intensify as the APC takes its case to the Court of Appeal, seeking to overturn the Federal High Court’s decision and secure a place for their candidate in the upcoming Bayelsa governorship election.