Law News
Jonathan Asks Court to Dismiss Suit Challenging His Eligibility
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Vice-President Namadi Sambo

President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice-President Namadi Sambo have asked a Federal High Court in Abuja to dismiss the suit filed to challenge their eligibility to contest the 2015 presidential election.

In their notice of preliminary objection filed through their counsel, Mr. Ade Okeaya-Inneh (SAN) and Dr. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN), they argued that the court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the suit.

The plaintiffs, Mase Daphine Acho, and two others, had sued Jonathan and Sambo, contending that they are not qualified to contest next year’s presidential election.

According to the notice of preliminary objection they stated that the plaintiffs lacked the requisite standing in law to institute the action.

They added that the plaintiffs failed to disclose any sufficient interest to warrant a claim in public or private law against them.

In the particulars of objection, the president cited the Supreme Court judgment in 1981 in the matter between

Senator Abraham Adesanya and the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and others, where the court ruled “that to entitle a person to invoke judicial power to determine the constitutionality of legislative or executive action, he must show that either his personal interest will immediately be or has been adversely affected by the action or that he has sustained or is in immediate danger of sustaining an injury to himself, and which interest of injury is over and above that of the public.”

On their position that the facts constituting the plaintiffs’ cause of action were “speculative, academic and conjectural as a matter of law,” both Jonathan and Sambo relied on the Supreme Court ruling in the case between Agip Nigeria Limited and Agip Petroli International and others, the court said: “It is trite principle also that a court should not decide a case on mere conjecture or speculation. Courts of laws are courts of facts and laws. They decide issues on facts established before them and on laws. They must avoid speculation.”
They also sought to prove that the plaintiffs did not disclose any sufficient interest to warrant a claim in public or private law.

Jonathan and Sambo stressed that the first and second defendants enjoy immunity from civil and criminal proceedings in their personal capacities.
They relied on Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which rules out civil or criminal proceedings against the president, the vice-president, state governors and their deputies while they remain in office.
In their written address, the president and his deputy contended that the plaintiffs had in their processes not shown any private law nexus with the defendants with regard to the cause of action.

They averred: “The question therefore is whether the plaintiffs satisfied the test of locus standi in public law as laid by the courts in order to maintain this action. The test is whether they have sufficient interest to maintain this action for the interpretation of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution. My Lord, the irresistible answer based on the specific facts of the case is in the negative.”
According to the defendants, locus standi was a threshold issue and the root of the entire action vis-à-vis the jurisdiction of the court itself.

They argued: “In other words, where the plaintiffs lack locus standi to institute an action, the court invariably lacks jurisdiction to entertain the said action. Locus standi is a condition precedent and fundamental to the institution of any matter before a court. A party prosecuting an action would have locus standi where the reliefs claimed confer some benefit on such party.
“To entitle a person to invoke judicial power or a right to action to commence and have an action determined, he must have sufficient or special interest in the right sought to be enforced, or that his interest is adversely affected, or is about to be adversely affected. He must be able to show that his civil rights and obligations have been or are in danger of being infringed.”

Recall that in a suit filed by Shuaibu Lili and Richard Mnenga on March 17 this year, Justice Evelyn Anyadike of the Federal High Court in Kaduna had declared that President Jonathan had been wrongly sued in his personal name and therefore struck out his name.
She also ruled that the plaintiffs lacked the requisite locus standi to initiate the suit.

Also, on March 1, 2013, Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja had ruled in the matter brought by Cyriacius Njoku against President Jonathan and others that the latter was eligible to contest the 2015 presidential election.
That suit had sought the interpretation of Sections 135 and 137 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended)

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