Bayelsa: Aggrieved APC aspirant prays court to stop Sylva’s governorship bid

Timipre Sylva
Former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr Timipre Sylva
Mrs Ogbomade Johnson, an All Progressives Congress (APC) aspirant for the Nov. 11 Bayelsa governorship election, has challenged the emergence of Mr Timipre Sylva as candidate of the party for the poll.
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Johnson made the prayer in a fresh suit filed by her team of lawyers led by Hyginus Ibega before Justice Inyang Ekwo,.
She prayed the court for an order of mandatory injunction compelling the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to delist the names of APC and Sylva from among the list of political parties and candidates for the Nov. 11 poll.
The aggrieved aspirant also prayed for an order of perpetual injunction restraining Sylva, the immediate-past Minister of State for Petroleum, from parading himself as the APC’s governorship candidate in Bayelsa.
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 10 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.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports 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.
But in the originating summons marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/575/2023 dated April 24 but filed April 27, Johnson sued APC, INEC and Sylva as 1st to 3rd respondents respectively.
She sought seven questions for determination.
Johnson said whether having regard to the meaning and intendment of the provision of Section 1(2), 180(2)(a), 182(1)(b) of 1999 Constitution (as amended),” Sylva having being elected two times as governor of Bayelsa was qualified to participate in the APC’s primary election held on April 14, making three times to be elected into the office of governor of the state.
She argued that on a dispassionate consideration of Article 12.8(1), Article 12.9 of the APC Constitution (as amended read together with the judgment of the High Court of Bayelsa delivered on Jan. 20, which nullified the wards, local government areas and state congresses elections held by the 1st defendant in Bayelsa, the nomination of the 3rd defendant as the candidate of the 1st defendant is not illegal and unconstitutional,” among others.
In the affidavit Johnson deposed to, she said contrary to the party’s regulations and guidelines and in breach of the Electoral Act, 2022, the APC’s direct primary did not hold in all the wards in the state.
“Shockingly on the 14th of April, 2223, the said election committee was not seen anywhere in the voting centres and ward headquarters where accreditation and voting were supposed to commence by 8am to 2pm in Bayelsa State.
“No accreditation of voters took place, no voting and collation of votes occured in all the wards.
“Major General A T. Jibrin (rtd.) who claimed to be the Election Committee Chairman only deceived me and all the teeming supporters to our respective ward headquarter without any primary election,” she alleged.
She said after waiting till 5:30pm on the election day, she and her supporters staged a protest to the party’s state headquarters.
She said she was surprised on April 15 while listening to a television news to hear that Sylva was declared the winner of the poll by the Jibrin-led committee.
Johnson urged the court to grant her reliefs.
But 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 pre-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.
“I contested as governor in the 2007 General Elections and I was declared the winner by the 2nd defendant and was subsequently sworn in as the executive governor of Bayelsa State on the 29th May, 2007.
“After I was sworn in on 29th May, 2007, my election as governor was nullified by the Court of Appeal and the 2nd defendant (INEC) was ordered to conduct a re-run election. The said re-run was duly conducted and I won it and was sworn in as governor on the 27th May, 2008.
“The matter went up to the Supreme Court and same was consolidated alongside that of the then Governors of Kogi, Sokoto, Cross River and Adamawa States as reported in Marwa v. Nyako (2012) 6 NWLR (Pt.1296).
“The Supreme Court held that my tenure in office is to be counted from 29th May, 2007, when I was first sworn in and not 27th May, 2008.
“Thus, upon the judgment of the Supreme Court, I vacated office having done a single term,” he said.
Besides, Sylva averred that he vied for the APC primary alongside five others, including Johnson on April 14, and 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.
He, however, said there was no election in Ward 6 in Kolokuma/Opokuma LGA because the register of members was not submitted on time within INEC’s guidelines, and that election did not hold also in Wards 4 and 5 in Nembe LGA because there were disturbances.
He said though the poll was initially scheduled for April 10, due to logistics challenge, it was shifted to April 14.
He said after the poll was conducted, he said a special congress which ratified him as person who scored the highest number of votes was held on April 15 in Yenagoa and his name forwarded to INEC.
On the judgment that nullified the party’s congress, Sylva said he was aware that the APC had filed an appeal against the Bayelsa court judgment in suit number: YHC/16/2022 between Alex Izibenikiebo Blankson v. APC and three others together with a motion for stay of execution containing in the notice of appeal.
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 1st 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 G,” the party told the court.
Justice Ekwo fixed July 6 for hearing of the suit.
Earlier, NAN reported that an APC member, Chief Demesuoyefa Kolomo, also filed a suit against Sylva before a sister court, praying the court to order INEC to delete Sylva’s name from list of candidates contesting the Nov. 11 governorship poll.(NAN)

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