President Goodluck Jonathan has told a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja that, contrary to the provision of the 1999 Constitution, an incumbent president's tenure of office could be extended beyond four or eight years.
Jonathan stated this in his response to a suit filed by a Port Harcourt-based lawyer and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) card-carrying member, Henry Amadi, claiming that Jonathan is no longer viable to contest in 2015 on the grounds that he would be spending more than the maximum two terms of four years each envisaged by the 1999 Constitution.
Laying conditions under which the president's tenure can be extended, he said "an incumbent president's tenure of office can, by default, extend beyond four or eight years because a natural disaster makes it impossible for elections to be conducted or as required by section 135(1a) for his successor to take the oath of that office".
The suit is similar to another one filed by a chieftain of the PDP, Mr Cyriacus Njoku, on March 20, 2012, before an Abuja High Court asking it to stop President Jonathan from contesting the election in 2015 on the grounds that he was already in his second term in office.
Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi had November 13, 2012 to deliver judgement in Njoku's suit but he subsequently adjourned indefinitely following his trip abroad.
However, in the present suit, Amadi had named Jonathan and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as co-defendants.
The plaintiff asked the court to stop Jonathan from putting himself forward or participating as candidate for election to the office of the president at the end of his current term of office in 2015.
Amadi also asked the court to direct INEC not to accept Jonathan's nomination as candidate of the PDP by 2015 because, by so doing, Jonathan would hoist illegality in the polity since the oath of allegiance and office he would take if he won would violate the two oaths of allegiance and office stipulated by the 1999 Constitution.
But in the counter-affidavit filed on his behalf by Mr Ade Okeaya-Inneh (SAN), Jonathan said the court should declare itself as lacking jurisdiction to entertain Amadi's suit, saying the plaintiff is an ordinary individual who is not qualified to request the court to stop him from contesting the 2015 presidential election.
"Under public law, an ordinary or a citizen or a taxpayer without more will generally not have locus standi as a plaintiff. This is because such litigations concern public rights and duties which belong to and are owed all members of the public including the plaintiff".
Jonathan said Amadi failed to disclose reasonable cause of action and that the plaintiff's claim is hypothetical and academic.
Jonathan averred that he took the first oath of office on May 6, 2010, following the death of former president Umaru Musa Yar'Adua. "The question that arises for determination is whether, having regard to the facts of this case, he is in his first or second term. In other words, given that the constitution prescribes a maximum of two terms of four years each totalling a maximum of eight years as president, is he eligible to run for re-election in 2015?
"If yes, that would mean that, if he wins, he would be in office for a period of more than eight years. On the other hand, if the answer is no, that would mean that he, for no fault of his, would be constrained to serve for a period of less than eight years.
"Given that between May 6, 2010, and May 28, 2011, he held office for the unexpired term of office of Yar'Adua following the death of the latter, does the constitution contemplate that the period of about one year and three weeks would constitute his first term, a period of less than half of the constitutionally prescribed period of four years?"
Okeaya-Inneh went further to say that "in resolving this issue, the court is invited to make a determination whether the period of May 6, 2010, to May 28, 2011, wherein Jonathan occupied the office of president can in law be regarded as one term of office and relevance of the oath of office Jonathan took on May 6, 2010, in computing the tenure of office of Jonathan in line with sections 135 (1) and (2), 137 (1)(b), 140 (1) and (2) and 146(1) of the 1999 Constitution".
He argued that it is better with the political situation of Nigeria for Jonathan to spend nine years in office than to spend less than eight years.
"This approach is also consistent with the time-honoured canon of interpretation to the effect that if confronted with two interpretations, one of which would abridge a person's right and another which would maintain or enhance a person's rights, the former constitution yields to the latter".
Meanwhile, Justice Adamu Bello adjourned to January 23, 2013, for parties in the matter to adopt their processes and argument.
The trial judge also granted the applications made by lawyers to Jonathan and INEC to extend time within which to file their counter-affidavit and preliminary objections to the suit filed by lawyer to the plaintiff, C. N. Eke.
President promises 24-hour electricity supply in 2013
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday in faraway Pakistan assured that by 2013 most of the urban areas in Nigeria will start getting 24-hour daily uninterruptible power supply.
According to him, while power generation was no longer the problem in the sector, the major challenge was the transmission of the generated power.
The president, who said this in Islamabad at an interactive session with members of the Nigerian community living in Pakistan, noted that stability of power supply would be achieved when power projects initiated by his government which are in progress would have been completed and commissioned next year.
Noting that power generation was no longer responsible for the problems being faced in the country in the area of electricity supply, he said the nation's power plants currently have about 1,000MW of electricity that could not be evacuated because of problems related to transmission.
Jonathan said: "We have (power) projects that are going on; so before the end of the second quarter, that is almost middle of next year, most of these projects would have been commissioned and we will be evacuating and, that time, quite a number of cities will begin to have 24-hour of electricity. When we get to that point, you will see that small-scale enterprises will begin to make returns and that is the way we can create jobs.
"We have intervened robustly in the power sector and if you call back home they will tell you that power is improving, and we have promised that we will stabilise power. Presently, we are generating more than what our transmission capability can evacuate.
We have over 1,000MW of power that we cannot evacuate because of the transmission infrastructure that have been weak over the years and very recently that government started the intervention."
He told Nigerians in Pakistan that a lot has been achieved by his government in improving all the sectors of the country, just as he promised them that, when next they visit the country, they will appreciate the level of achievements recorded by his government, though the devastating flood recently recorded in many parts of the country set the federal government backward.
He said the flood stagnated developmental works especially in the areas of face-lifting of the nation's airports and provision of motorable roads, among others.
The president charged Nigerians wherever they may be residing to work with his government to make the situation at home better.
He promised to discuss the issue of 50 Nigerians who were said to have completed their jail terms but were still being kept in prison with his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Zardari.
Jonathan, however, warned Nigerians in Diaspora to always obey the laws of their host countries and refrain from portraying Nigeria in bad light.
Nigerian High Commissioner to Pakistan Ambassador Dauda Danladi who condoled with Jonathan on the death of his younger brother, Meni Jonathan, called a minute's silence held in the deceased's honour.
He said Jonathan's visit to the country after 30 years of a similar visit by a sitting president was unique and historic.
The leader of the Nigerian community in Pakistan, Mr. Isaac Omomolesho, asked the president to intervene in the areas of harassment by Pakistani security agencies including detention without trial as well as kidnapping for ransom.
He also sought intervention on behalf of 50 Nigerians who, he claimed, were still languishing in prisons despite completing their jail terms.
He also made a case for about 400 Nigerians out of the 835 residing in Pakistan who, he said, did not have the Nigerian passport.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Olugbenga Ashiru, who assured that an official would soon be posted to Pakistani for the purpose of issuance of passports to Nigerians, said the federal government had commenced a move to establish Nigerian malls in foreign countries.
"We are starting with South Africa and Accra. Nigerians will have small shops in the malls where they can be carrying out their economic activities," he said, adding that the malls would be fashioned after the popular Chinese Towns and Indian Malls in many countries across the world.