Former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva’s defeat at the Supreme Court may have stripped him of the last line of defence against trial for alleged corruption.
Sylva lost his lost his legal challenge to his non-declaration as the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last governorship election of the state when the Supreme Court last upheld the party’s appeal challenging the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court in Abuja to hear the suit.
Many observers say that last Thursday’s ruling and the subsequent acceptance of the ruling by Sylva has opened him up for arrest and trial for the misappropriation of billions in his time as governor of Bayelsa.
Sylva, like all governors enjoy immunity from arrest and trial for corruption while in office and his struggle to remain the governor of Bayelsa was seen by many as a smart move to delay any corruption for another four years. Sylva has been in hiding since a Supreme Court judgment forced him and four other governors to vacate office.
Following his removal, Sylva sought to contest again but was rejected by the PDP, which in his place nominated a former member of the House of Representatives, Seriake Dickson.
It would be recalled that Sylva then approached the court asking to be declared the rightful candidate of the party in the election. He filed a cross-application to the Apex Court in January asking the court to constitute itself as a court of first instance and act as a trial court following the Court of Appeal’s decision to return the case to the Federal High Court.
However, in his ruling, Justice Mohammed Mahmud, chairman of the Supreme Court panel, dismissed the case pending before Justice Gabriel Kolawole at the Federal High Court, Abuja, ruling that the fielding of candidates for elections is an intra-party affair that courts cannot interfere with.
Sylva appears to have accepted his fate as a statement from his media adviser, Doifie Ola, said the former governor considers the decision of the apex court as dark for democracy and justice in Nigeria.
Describing the ruling as “only the judgment of man and, certainly, not justice, Sylva said that everyone involved in the Bayelsa State governorship matter would still go on to face the judgment of history and the judgment of God, as neither history nor God will condone impunity
Justice Gabriel Kolawole, before the primary held November 19, 2011, ordered PDP to prove why Sylva’s pleas should not be granted, and barred the primary from holding.
The party then approached the Court of Appeal to stop Sylva’s suit on the grounds that the lower court had no jurisdiction to entertain it.
The Appeal court, presided over by Justice Zainab Bukachuwa, declared that the lower court overreached itself by making an order to stop the primary. It returned the substantive case to the lower court after declaring that it had jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
However, Sylva refused to return afresh to the lower court but instead headed to the Supreme Court where he filed a cross-application asking the court to rule that he was the authentic candidate of the party on the basis of the January 20, 2011 primary election, which he had won before the Court of Appeal elongated his tenure and that of four other governors.