The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has condemned the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva’s verbal attack on a judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Inyang Ekwo for disqualifying the All Progressive Congress (APC) deputy governorship candidate, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, from participating in today’s governorship election in the state on the grounds that he presented false information about his educational qualifications in his Form CF001 submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Meanwhile, following Ekwo’s judgement, another Federal High Court in Yenagoa on Friday, nullified the September 4, APC primary that produced David Lyon as its candidate in the election.
Justice Jane Inyang who delivered the judgment following a suit filed by Senator Heineken Lokpobiri who was also governorship aspirant of the APC, noted that the primary was conducted outside the rules of the party.
The initial judgment of Justice Ekwo had infuriated Sylva who appeared on Channels TV on Thursday and unleashed verbal attacks on her.
In the meantime, however, an Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State had on Friday, directed INEC to retain the APC and Lyon on the ballot ahead of the election.
This followed an ex parte motion filed by Lyon’s counsel, Sylva disclosed on Friday after the court decision.
Nonetheless, the NBA made its position on the minister’s comments known in a statement, Friday, by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kunle Edun, noting that the minister made the “indicative and defamatory remarks” while featuring as a guest on a programme on Channels Television on Thursday.
“The attention of the NBA has been drawn to a statement made by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Timipre Sylva while featuring as a guest on a programme on Channels Television yesterday, November 14, 2019,” the statement read.
“While commenting on the judgment of the Federal High Court at Yenegoa wherein the court delivered a judgment in the case filed by Senator Heineken Lokpobri and cancelled the Bayelsa State APC primaries, Mr. Timipre Sylva made some indictive and defamatory remarks about the person of the honourable judge of the Federal High Court who presided over the case. Mr. Sylva was unsparing in his insult on the learned trial judge.”
The NBA asked Sylva to withdraw the statement, while also calling on the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), not to be seen as encouraging disrespect to courts, by always doing the needful in protecting the decisions of courts and judicial officers.
“The Nigerian Bar Association considers the statement made by Mr. Timipre Sylva as most unfortunate, uncalled for and unbecoming of a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“As a one-time state governor, Sylva is expected to appreciate the importance of the judiciary as an independent arm of government and the need to accord respect and dignity to the courts.
“The general norm is for parties to appeal or challenge an order of court in the proper forum if a party is dissatisfied with same.
“Resorting to media campaign of calumny against a court of law is contemptuous and not a hallmark of civility.
“The NBA demands that Mr Timipre Sylva withdraws the offensive statement and apologise to the learned trial judge and the nation’s judiciary, who he has collectively and unjustifiably attacked.
“The NBA urges the judiciary to do the needful to protect its sanctify, integrity and honour by dealing decisively with cases of open contempt, without delay.
“The NBA also urges the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN , who is the chief law officer of the federation not to be seen to encourage disrespect to courts, by always doing the needful in protecting the sanctity and respect for the decisions of courts and judicial officers.
“Nigerians (particularly political actors) must recognise that courts are necessary and vital instruments for entrenching social equilibrium and justice in a society.