TIMIPRE Sylva, candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, has started celebrating his victory at the forthcoming Appeal Court judgment in Abuja on the Bayelsa State governorship election. Sylva is challenging the re-election of Governor Henry Seriake Dickson which was upheld by the election tribunal at the appellate court.
A civil society organisation, Movement for the Independence of the Judiciary in the Niger Delta, in a statement issued on Sunday, September 18, by Patrice Egribido, its national president, said that Sylva and the APC were already celebrating, organising victory parties in Yenagoa and Abuja.
According to him, Sylva actually “influenced the nomination of Justice Jimi Bada, the chairman of the five-man Appeal Court to declare him governor.”
Egribido said: “Sylva and Justice Bada have been long standing friends and have remained inseparable. Justice Bada, was the judge who presided over the Appeal Court that capriciously extended the tenure of Sylva in office as Governor of Bayelsa State before the Supreme Court upturned it.
“The panel chairman, Justice Bada hails from Osun State. The other members of the panel are Justice H. Mukhtar, Justice T.S Yakubu, Justice T.O Awotoye and Justice N. Okoronkwo.
“Since the Appeal Court reserved judgement on the Chief Timipre Sylva’s petition, APC camps in Bayelsa have been inundated with jubilation. We also hear that Sylva reportedly boasted before his trusted allies that he nominated the learned Justice Bada to apparently do a hatchet job for him.”
Having earned a reputation for dishing out controversial judgements such as the elongation of Sylva’s tenure some years ago, the MIJN alleged that it was not a surprise to the civil society world that “the APC are now jubiliating that the controversial jurist was drafted to make Sylva governor through the backdoor.”
The group is also probing why all the five justices on the Appeal Court were drawn from only APC-controlled states.
Egribido averred that it couldn’t have been coincidental that the five justices were selected from only APC states, adding that the skewed selection smacks of suspicion and goes to confirm fears that the justices were on a pre-determined mission and not to deliver justice.
While stressing that it would continue to condemn any act capable of undermining the independence of the judiciary, Egribido advised the President of Court of Appeal to urgently redress this imbalance.
While reiterating its political neutrality, the MIJN believes the skewed selection of the panelists leaves so much unanswered question.
Egribido said: “Does it mean that the President of the Court of Appeal is not sensitive to the Nigeria political reality? Or is she saying that there are no competent justices in PDP-controlled states? Even as a non- political group, we are sensitive to the sensitivity of electoral contest and pluralism of Nigeria, is the Judiciary blind to these realities?’’ they asked.
Investigations have shown that Justice Mukhtar hails from Bauchi, Justice Yakubu, Kogi, Justice Awotoye, Osun and Justice Okoronkwo hails from Imo State, all governed by APC governors.
When contacted, Godspower Keku, Bayelsa State secretary of PDP, called for calm and prayers for Dickson and the PDP.
While stressing that Governor Dickson won the December 5, 2015 and January 9, 2016 governorship elections resoundingly, he said Sylva was rejected by Bayelsans at the polls.
He alleged that Sylva’s petition was built on a quick sand, and that it would be impossible for it stand.
Keku, however, said if the APC succeeded in manipulating the appellate court, the PDP and Governor Dickson would approach the Supreme Court for redress.
— Sep 19, 2016 @ 15:00 GMT