Law News
More Hurdles as Jonathan is Dragged to Court of Appeal over Eligibility
President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan

Apart from the endorsement of President Goodluck Jonathan as the sole presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2015 presidential election, the president  has more hurdles to scale  as he has been dragged to the Court of Appeal over his eligibility to stand for the election.

The Court of Appeal was also urged to quash the resolutions of the National Executive Committee (NEC), the Board of Trustees (BoT) and the PDP Governors’ Forum that endorsed President Jonathan as the sole presidential candidate of the party in the 2015 presidential election.

In an appeal number CA/A/574A/M2013 between  Cyriacus Njoku as appellant and President Jonathan, PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as respondents,  Dr. Umar Ardo as an interested party applicant, is asking court to grant an appeal in suit number: FCT/HC/CV/2449/2012 between Cyriacus Njoku vs Goodluck Jonathan delivered on March 1, 2013.

Ardo, a former governorship aspirant  from Adamawa State who claimed to be a presidential aspirant of the PDP from Adamawa State, urged the Court of Appeal to grant him leave to use the particulars of the Cyracus Njoku eligibility suit against Jonathan to challenge the president’s eligibility to contest the 2015 presidential election as a candidate of the PDP.

He further claimed that his fundamental human rights as a Nigerian and as a financial member of the PDP had been breached as a result of the endorsement of Jonathan by the PDP, NEC and other organs of the party.
In the appeal filed on September 23 and signed Dr. Amuda Kannike (SAN) and Doueyi Fiderikumo on behalf of Ardo, they claimed that the decision of the lower court in the FCT raises “grave points of constitutional law and jurisprudence that is the first of its kind in Nigeria.”

In the affidavit deposed by Ardo, he said: “That I am desirous of contesting the election to the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which is slated to hold on or before February 2015 and my desire is mainly built on my conviction that the president would not be eligible to contest the said election which would have cleared the way for a free and fair level playing ground contest for the party primaries.”

But lamented that his presidential aspiration has been jeopardised because of the aspiration of President Jonathan who has been nominated as the sole candidate of the party, which he is a financial member.

Ardo and his lawyers also faulted the FCT High Court  that dismissed Njoku’s suit against the eligibility of President Jonathan, stating that Justice M.N. Oniyangi erred in law when he struck out the suit on the grounds that “there was no cause of action and disclosing the cause of action.”

He further said the trial judge erred in law when he ruled that there was no locus standi to sue the respondents in the case as there was no election in sight as at 2013, explaining that with the endorsement of Jonathan by PDP that  there are  harms or damages done to his ambition as a presidential aspirant.

He further said the trial judge erred in law when he ruled that the president was on his first tenure of four years and therefore qualified to contest the presidential election in 2015.

According to Ardo in the affidavit, “President  was sworn in as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and he took the oath of office as president to complete the unexpired tenure between May 29, 2007 and May 28, 2011.
“The votes used by President Jonathan to be sworn in as president of Nigeria came from the votes in favour of Jonathan as vice-president and the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua during the 2007 presidential election.”

He further averred that “section 135(2) of the Constitution does not state that the provision will not apply to a situation where a person assumes the position of President in the circumstance where a President dies while in office.
“Section 137 (1) of the constitution applies to President Jonathan when he assumed the office of President upon the demise of Yar’Adua,” he said.

Consequently, Ardo urged the Court of Appeal to enter judgment in his favour  by allowing his appeal against the judgment of the trial FCT Court in 2013 with “a declaration that President Jonathan is not entitled to contest the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the 2015 presidential election.’”

Meanwhile, another suit seeking to stop Jonathan from running for the Office of the President in 2015 has been filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
This time, a member of the president’s political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a member of  the All Progressives Congress (APC) filed the suit.
A similar suit is also pending before the Federal High Court in Abuja.

They among others sought to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission  (INEC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) from allowing President Jonathan to participate in the 2015 presidential election.

The suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/662/2014, with Adejumo Mansouru Ajagbe (a member of the PDP from Lagos State) and Olatoye Wahab (a member of the APC from Osun State) as plaintiffs, listed the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and defendants.

The plaintiffs argued that by  the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the president, having contested the presidential election twice, won and taken the oath of office and allegiance twice in respect that office, he could no longer present himself for election to that office the third time.

The case was filed  last Friday by James Ocholi, A. J. Owonikoko, Okon Efut and Mahmu Magaji (all SANs) and has been assigned to Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed for hearing.

They relied on the provisions of sections 132(1), 135(2)(a) and (b), 137(1)(b), 142(1) and (2) and the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Marwa and Nyako (2012) 6 NWLR (Part 1296) 199 at 306.

The plaintiffs argued that by the provision of the constitution, the president and vice-president, who were elected in the same election and sworn into office on the same date and at the same ceremony are, in law, taken to have been elected for one single term of four years notwithstanding the death or even impeachment of the president.

“That being so, the reference to “two previous elections” in Section 137(1)(b) of the Constitution includes two previous oath of allegiance and oath of office as President. It is therefore safe to conclude that a vice-president, who had taken the oath of allegiance and oath of office for two previous terms as president is, in law, deemed to have been elected into the office of president at two previous elections, thereby standing disqualified to contest another election into that office.”

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