Non-service of court papers to INEC stalls suit seeking Sylva’s disqualification


ABUJA- The inability of a plaintiff’s counsel, Prof. Abiodun Amuda-Kannike, SAN, to serve the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with processes stalled hearing in a suit seeking disqualification of Mr Timipre Sylva of the APC from contesting in the Nov. 11 Bayelsa governorship poll.

The matter, which was scheduled for hearing, could not proceed after lawyer to the APC, Denis Otiotio, called the attention of Justice Donatus Okorowo of a Federal High Court, Abuja, to the absence of INEC’s counsel in court.

When the matter was called, Amuda-Kannike, who appeared for the plaintiff, Chief Demesuoyefa Kolomo, told the court that the matter was for hearing and that he was ready to proceed.

But Otiotio told the court that INEC was not represented in court, even in the last adjourned date.

Although Sylva was represented in court by Babayemi Olaniyan, the APC lawyer argued that it was important INEC was served with every application filed in court.

Justice Okorowo then asked Amuda-Kannike if INEC had been served and if there was any proof of service in the court record.

The senior lawyer admitted that the electoral umpire had not been served with fresh processes though efforts were made to do so.

The judge then asked if he was ready to take the risk to continue with the proceeding without INEC’s representation or sought an adjournment.

“We are ready to take the risk to go on my lord because the Supreme Court says INEC should be an unbiased umpire in matters like this,” he responded.

But Otiotio insisted that the commission should be served first, even if it would not be represented for the sake of fair hearing.

He added that all the processes in the matter had not been served on INEC except the originating summons.

The judge consequently adjourned the matter until July 10 for hearing.

Okorowo, who ordered that hearing notice be served on INEC, directed parties to ensure that all processes were duly exchanged and served on one another.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Kolomo, a member of the APC, is praying the court to order INEC to delete Sylva’s name from list of candidates contesting the Nov. 11 governorship poll.

In the originating summons marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/821/2023 dated and filed June 13, Kolomo had sued Sylva, the immediate-past Minister of State for Petroleum; APC and INEC as 1st to 3rd defendants respectively.

Kolomo had 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 Jan. 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 the1999 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 sate 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, in a counter affidavit, asked the court to dismiss the suit for lacking in merit.

He averred that he was never elected as the state’s governor on two occasions.

He refuted the allegations that he was previously elected as Bayelsa governor on April 14, 2007, and May 24, 2008.

Reacting in the counter affidavit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/821/23 dated and filed June 27, Sylva though admitted he was a former governor of Bayelsa, he stressed that he had only been elected once as the state’s governor. (NAN)

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