PDP fails to stop Sylva

• Sylva
 •Appeal court orders retrial of case •We’ll challenge ruling –PDP
From TAIWO AMODU & GODWIN TSA, Abuja

Attempts by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to stop the suit filed against it by the Bayelsa State governor, Timipre Sylva, over the conduct of a fresh governorship primary election in the state failed at the weekend as the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal remitted the case back to the Federal High Court to be heard by another Judge.

 Governor Sylva had few days to the primary held on November 19, 2011 approached the court presided over by Justice Gabriel Kolawole for an interim injunction stopping it pending the determination of his motion filed by Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN).
 After listening to arguments in support of the ex-parte application, Justice Kolawole technically stopped the party from going ahead with the primary pending the determination of the motion.

 Specifically, the court warned that any steps taken by the PDP in defiance of its order, which may be pre-judicial and subversive, it would not hesitate to nullify such steps or decision in order to uphold and protect the sanctity of the court process and to vindicate its integrity as the established constitutional arbiter between the state and the citizens and between the citizens inter se. Justice Kolawole also directed Sylva to put the defendants on notice within 72 hours of being served with same motion on notice to show cause why the governor is not entitled to the preservative orders in prayer 1-3 in the motion ex parte.

 But the party proceeded with the primary wherein Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson emerged as its governorship candidate and later went to the Appeal Court to challenge the order of Justice Kolawole on the grounds that his court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the case.
 Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, however, agreed with the governor’s counsel that the matter falls within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court in view of the reliefs and claims sought by the plaintiff.
 According to her, “jurisdiction, which is the backbone of every court, is determined by the claims before it. The case as presently constituted before the Federal High Court is that the first respondent (Sylva) was nominated as candidate of the appellant. His claim seeks to stop the appellant from nominating another candidate for the governorship position of state.

 “This claim is relevant as annunciated in the case of Tukur v Governor of Gongola State. There is no doubt that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is an agent of the Federal Government and action against it falls within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court.
 “However, the reliefs sought in the motion ex-parte have been overtaken by events as the primary has already been conducted. The trial judge overstepped his boundary by making pronouncements which tantamount to stopping the conduct of the primary election. When a court is dealing with an ex-parte application, it should be careful not to take actions that may be pre-judicial without hearing the other side.

 “Justice Gabriel Kolawole by his pronouncements and orders overstepped his boundary and has disqualified himself from the case. The case should therefore be heard by another Judge of the Federal High Court.”
 Reacting to the judgment, the PDP National Legal Adviser, Chief Olusola Oke, told Sunday Sun on the telephone that the party would comply with the judgment but it would contest it at a higher court.
 “We shall comply with the judgment of the Court of Appeal because we are law-abiding. But from the briefings I have received, it appears the court left our complaints unresolved. We didn’t say the federal high court lacks jurisdiction. We are saying, this is pre-primary election matter and the court didn’t address that. When we get a copy of the judgment, we may likely appeal to a higher court and insist that our case be looked into.’’
 Also in his reaction, Hon. Dickson said the judgement will deepen democracy and the rule of law.

 Dickson also eulogized the Bayelsa State chapter of the judiciary for refusing to be used as lapdog of Sylva and urged the governor to stop wasting public funds on propaganda, fabrication of lies on the state of affairs in the state. Instead, he said he should use such funds to better the lot of the people as, according to him, so much needs to be done before Sylva hands over in the first quarter of the year.

 While reaffirming his candidature for the February election, Dickson said by the ruling, Nigerians now know better that the PDP did not carry out the primary election on November 19 in defiance of any court order and asked Sylva to stop parading himself as the PDP governorship candidate for the February 11 election.
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