The Supreme Court has set April 20, 2012 to decide whether or not to declare former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva the authentic candidate of People’s Democratic Party in the Saturday, February 11 gubernatorial election in the state.
The apex court would also on the same date determine whether the court of appeal, Abuja was right to have held that the Federal High Court, Abuja has jurisdiction to hear Sylva’s suit. Sylva had, through a cross-appeal filed on his behalf by his lawyer, Lateef, asked the court to evoke its constitutional powers to hear the matter as if it were a trial court.
The apex court panel chaired by Justice Mohammed Mahmud after hearing the arguments of the counsel in the matter adjourned the matter for judgment. Before the adjournment, counsel to Sylva, Lateef Fagbemi, the court should declare as valid the primary poll of January 2011, adding that there was no basis to jettison it.
He said it could be nullified if the winner resigns from the contest or dies before the main election. He said the argument of the appellant that there was no selection or nomination by the time we went to court was neither here nor there as long as they admit there was submission of Dickson’s name as candidate of PDP.
Besides, he said when jurisdiction is challenged, the defendant is bound by averment in statement of claims and in this case the originating summons. In addition, he said the court should look at Sections 33 and 35 of electoral Act to establish whether there could be a second primary or substitution of names when the original winner of a primary poll is still alive and interested in contesting the forthcoming poll.
On the other hand, the appellants said the only reason why appeal court said that the Federal High Court had jurisdiction was because INEC is a party. He further said that PDP was not an agency of Federal Government but a private organisation and as such the matter is the domestic affair of the party.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had granted Sylva approval to file a cross appeal against the ruling of the Court of Appeal, which held that the trial Judge Gabriel Kolawole, went beyond himself in warning PDP not to tamper with the subject matter of the action brought before him.