30th June, 2023
By Taiye Agbaje
Mr Timipre Sylva, the immediate-past Minister of State for Petroleum, has refuted the allegations that he was previously elected as Bayelsa governor on April 14, 2007, and May 24, 2008.
Slyva who is the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Nov. 11 governorship election in Bayelsa, said this in a counter affidavit he personally deposed to and filed by his lawyer, Adelani Ajibade before Justice Donatus Okorowo of a Federal High Court, Abuja.
The application was in reaction to the originating summons filed by Chief Demesuoyefa Kolomo, a member of the APC, praying the court to order INEC to delete Sylva’s name from list of candidates contesting the Nov. 11 governorship poll.
Kolomo had asked the court to determine “whether having regard to the indisputable fact that Sylva occupied the office of governor of Bayelsa from May 29, 2007 to April 15, 2008 and May 27, 2008 to Jan. 27, 2012, he is qualified to contest and be elected for another four years term in view of Section 180(2)(a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”
Reacting in the counter affidavit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/821/23 dated and filed June 27, the ex-minister averred that except otherwise expressly stated, all the facts deposed to in the application were within his personal knowledge, information and belief.
Although Sylva admitted he was a former governor of Bayelsa, he stressed that he had only been elected once as the state’s governor, insisting that there was no election in 2007.
“I have only occupied the Office of the Governor of Bayelsa State on one occasion.
“I was elected as the governor of Bayelsa State on 27rh May, 2008.
“Contrary to Paragraph 5 of the affidavit (attached to the originating summons), I know that by virtue of the Court of Appeal judgment referred to, that is now reported as Amgbare Vs. Sylva (2009) 1 NWLR (Pt. 1121), there was no election in Bayelsa State in 2007,” he said.
The former minister, therefore, said that he was within his constitutional and legal right to contest the governorship poll in November.
According to him, the provision of Sections 180 (2)(a) and 182 (1) (b) is not applicable to me in this circumstance and cannot validly and legally disqualify me from contesting election into the office of governor of Bayelsa State.
He said he was validly elected on April 15, defeating other five aspirants in a primary poll that was keenly contested and monitored by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Sylva said on May 12, his name was published by INEC as APC candidate in the Nov. 12 election.
He said the question raised in the suit were raised in bad faith and malice.
“I make this affidavit in good faith, believing the contents to be true and in accordance with the provisions of the Oaths Act,” he said.
Sylva had, on Monday through Ajibade, told Justice Okorowo that he would respond to Kolomo’s suit and the judge fixed July 3 for hearing.
In the originating summons marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/821/2023 dated and filed June 13, Kolomo had sued Mr Sylva, APC and INEC as 1st to 3rd defendants respectively.
Kolomo, who sought two questions for determination, prayed for a declaration that by virtue of Section 182(1)\(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Sylva was not qualified to contest the election to the office of the governor of Bayelsa on APC’s platform or on any other political party’s platform in the election scheduled for sometime in November or any other time for that matter.
In the affidavit attached, Kolomo deposed that besides being an APC member, he was also a registered voter in the state.
He said INEC recently published the names of governorship candidates for the state, including Sylva’s name.
The plaintiff said he was motivated by the need to vindicate Sections 180 (2)(a) and 182(1)b) of the1999 Constitution, the rule of law and to know the applicability of same as it relates to Sylva based on the above facts.
Kolomo also averred that the question raised by the instant suit was a constitutional one and of grave importance to him as a voter and other voters in the sate so that they would not vote for someone who was not qualified to contest in the poll and had their votes wasted at the end of the day.
Sylva served as Bayelsa governor on Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s platform.
The former minister had, in 2006, joined the PDP governorship primaries challenging ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, who at that time, was vying for same position
However, after Sylva emerged the PDP candidate, he went on to win the election in 2007 and succeeded Jonathan, who had also become the Vice President to late President Umaru Yar’Adua.
But Sylva’s opponent in the 2007 election, Ebitimi Amgbare of the defunct Action Congress (AC), challenged his victory.
While the Bayelsa State Election Petitions Tribunal upheld Sylva’s election, Amgbare took the matter to the Appeal Court, Port Harcourt in Rivers which upturned the tribunal’s decision and nullified Sylva’s election on April 15, 2008.
The five justices of the Court of Appeal were unanimous in their decision and ordered that Speaker Werinipre Seibarugo be sworn in to replace Sylva as acting governor, with a new election to be held within 90 days as stated in the Electoral Act.
When a new election was held on May 24, 2008, Sylva was again overwhelmingly elected with 588,204 out of about 598,000 votes and was sworn in.
But on Jan. 27, 2012, his tenure was terminated by the Supreme Court, with an acting governor appointed to oversee the state until the election of February 2012, won by Seriake Dickson.