Can High Court Judges Stop Ridiculing the Judiciary?

Can High Court Judges Stop Ridiculing the Judiciary?

The judgment of the Court of Appeal in Abuja last week, giving the nod to the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, to participate in the November 11 poll, should serve as a reminder to High Court judges across the country to strictly follow the precedents set by the Supreme Court on locus standi when challenging candidates who emerged from primary elections in order not to further ridicule the judiciary.

Recall that the Abuja Federal High Court had on October 9 disqualified Sylva from the election, following a suit by a member of the APC in the state, Demesuoyefa Kolomo.

In the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/821/2023, Kolomo, who was not an aspirant in the primary, had asked the court to determine whether Sylva was qualified to contest in the election, having occupied the office of governor of Bayelsa from May 29, 2007, to April 15, 2008, and May 27, 2008 to January 27, 2012.

Ruling, Justice Donatus Okorowo held that allowing Sylva to contest again would breach the provisions of the 1999 constitution, having been sworn in twice and ruled for five years as a governor of the state. The judge also said Sylva would spend more than eight years in office if allowed to participate in the election and eventually win.

Citing the case of Marwa vs Nyako at the Supreme Court, Okorowo noted that the drafters of the country’s constitution stated that nobody should be voted for as governor more than twice.

However, dissatisfied with the judgment, Sylva asked the Court of Appeal to set aside the judgment.

In a unanimous decision by a three-man panel last Tuesday, the court held that the litigant who initiated the suit that led to Sylva’s disqualification lacked the locus standi to do so.  

Though the appellate court did not deal with the substantive issue which was whether Sylva is qualified to contest the election but relied on technicality which borders on locus standi, it was obvious that the lower court did not follow the precedence of the Supreme Court on such cases.

The Federal High Court was supposed to know that Kolomo was clearly not a candidate in the primary election that produced Sylva as candidate in the first place, and as such, lacked the locus to institute the suit.

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