The court also awarded the sum of ₦1 million in favour of Sylva.
The Appeal Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, vacated the judgment of a Federal High Court, Abuja which nullified Timipre Sylva’s candidacy for All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Nov. 11 Bayelsa governorship election.
The three-member panel, in a unanimous judgment read by Justice Binta Zubairu, held that Demesuoyefa Kolomo, who filed the suit at the trial court lacked locus standi (legal right) to institute the case, having not been an aspirant in the primaries that produced Sylva as party’s candidate.
The panel agreed with counsel for Sylva, Ahmed Raji (SAN), that where a party lacked locus, the court had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
“The issue of jurisdiction is fundamental and the bedrock of any trial, and a trial without jurisdiction is a nullity,” Justice Zubairu said.
The judge held that the argument by Kolomo, that the suit was a constitutional one and of grave importance to him as a voter and other voters in the state 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, was of no relevance.
“I do not think the position of Kolomo makes him an aspirant in the election. All these are alien and not recognised in our electoral laws and electoral matters,” she said.
She also said that Kolomo’s argument that the matter was a public interest suit had no basis. She further held that where a party lacked the legal right to file a suit, it would be an exercise in futility to consider other grounds of Sylva’s appeal.
“The appeal of the appellant (Sylva) succeeds,” the judge ruled.
Consequently, the appellate court, aside from setting aside the verdict of the trial court, awarded the sum of ₦1 million in favour of the appellant (Sylva) in the first appeal marked: CA/ABJ/CV/1060/2023 between APC and Kolomo.
The panel equally awarded the sum of ₦1 million in favour of Sylva in the appeal marked: CA/ABJ/CV/1061/2023 between Sylva vs Kolomo and two others.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Sylva’s appeals were against the October 9 judgment delivered by Justice Donatus Okorowo of a Federal High Court (FHC), Abuja, which disqualified him as candidate in the November 11 election.
Kolomo had, in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/821/2023 filed on June 13, prayed the court to order the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to delete Sylva’s name from the list of candidates contesting the November 11 governorship poll.
Kolomo had sued Sylva, the immediate-past Minister of State for Petroleum, APC and INEC as 1st to 3rd defendants respectively.
Kolomo asked the court to determine whether Sylva is qualified to contest in the election, having occupied the office of governor of Bayelsa May 29, 2007 to April 15, 2008 and May 27, 2008 to January 27, 2012.
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 the 1999 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 state 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.
But Sylva, who was the immediate-past Minister of Petroleum, in a counter affidavit, prayed the court to dismiss the suit for lacking in merit.