Sylva Wins At Appeal Court
… Court Says Governor Can Seek To Block PDP In Court Over New Guber Primary
ABUJA, January 07, (THEWILL) – The Court of Appeal in Abuja Saturday ruled that Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Timipre Sylva was right constitutionally when he sought the intervention of the Federal High Court to block the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from conducting another Governorship primary in order to select a candidate for the Bayelsa State Governorship election slated for February 11, 2012.
The appellate court also ruled that Justice Gabriel Kolawole, the trial judge in the suit at the Federal High Court had the jurisdiction to entertain the suit, but held that the judge overreached himself when he threatened to sanction the PDP should it fail to appear before him within 72 hours to give cause why the court should not grant Sylva’s reliefs which included stopping the party’s governorship primary in Bayelsa State.
In a judgment written by Justice Zainab Bukachuwa, the appellate court held that the case be assigned to another judge for a fresh trial, as Justice Kolawole’s pronouncements amounted to granting the reliefs in the substantive suit at an interlocutory stage, which Bukachuwa said was inimical to fair hearing in the matter.
The appellate court further dismissed PDP’s argument that the Electoral Act 2010 had barred the Federal High Court from hearing the matter; ruling that most of the reliefs sought by the governor were against the Independent National Electoral Commission and that INEC being an agent of the Federal Government, the proper court to sue it will be the Federal High Court.
Recall that the PDP had appealed the order made by the Federal High Court, which directed it to appear before it within 72 hours, to show cause why it should not grant Sylva’s reliefs, which also included declaring him as the governorship candidate of the party, following the governor’s ex-parte application seeking to stop the party from going ahead with its primary after he was disqualified from seeking re-election on the PDP platform.
“When I looked at the totality of the facts in the substantive Originating Summons and when these are considered vis-à-vis the extant provisions of the Electoral Act as Amended, my view is that the Court will not in any way be handicapped, even if the ex-parte orders, in particular, prayers 1 – 3 are not granted because the court retains the power to direct the 1st Defendant (INEC).’
“The new Electoral Act as Amended is a clear departure from the 1983 Act by which on the authority of the Supreme Court’s decision in Onuoha V. Okafor, the political parties were “god unto themselves” in terms of the choice of candidates. This court had intervened in quite a number of political parties’ cases when candidates were being manipulated by the leadership of the political parties.
“It is in this regard that I really do not see the Plaintiff (Sylva) being exposed in the long run to such injury, loss or damage that may, applying the Supreme Court’s decision in Kotoye V. CBN, supra be described as ‘irreparable or irretrievable’. Whatever be the case, I have no doubt that this court has the judicial powers to make appropriate orders as the justice of the case will require.
“Let me state, for the avoidance of doubt, that in relation to prayers 1 – 3 of the Motion Ex-parte, the Plaintiff has made out a strong case which ordinarily should enable this court to grant the said prayers. But in the light of the analysis I have done as regards the statutory powers which the court has pursuant to Electoral Act, 2010 as amended, the 2nd Defendant [PDP] does not, in the long run, have the final say because the court can always make appropriate orders as the justice of the case will require to redress any wrong that may be occasioned by my judicial hesitation in granting the said prayers 1-3 on the motion ex-parte,” Justice Kolawole said in his ruling.