22 November 2012

Nigeria: I Can Seek Re-Election, Jonathan Insists

Abuja — President Goodluck Jonathan has insisted that he is not barred by any constitutional provision from standing for re-election in 2015, just days after he said he was yet to decide whether to run or not.

Jonathan's insistence was contained in a response filed by his counsel in a suit asking the court to stop him from seeking re-election because that would extend his tenure beyond the maximum eight years envisaged by the constitution.

The case was filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja by Port Harcourt-based lawyer Henry Amadi.

This is the second court case over Jonathan's candidacy this year, after a different suit filed in March by Peoples Democratic Party presidential aspirant Mr Cyriacus Njoku.

In the latest case, Amadi is asking the court to stop Jonathan from participating as a presidential candidate in 2015 because this would make him stay in office for more than the constitutionally stipulated maximum of eight years.

Apart from the President, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is also mentioned as defendant in the suit.

Amadi also asked the court to direct INEC not to accept Jonathan's nomination as candidate of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) for 2015 elections.

But in a counter-affidavit filed by his counsel Ade Okeaya-Inneh, Jonathan said an incumbent president's tenure of office can lawfully extend beyond four or eight years.

Jonathan also asked the court to dismiss itself of jurisdiction to entertain the suit, saying the plaintiff is an ordinary individual who is not qualified to request the court to stop him from contesting for election.

He said the plaintiff failed to disclose reasonable cause of action and that his claims are hypothetical and academic.

Jonathan, who said he took the first oath of office on May 6, 2010 following the death of President Umaru Yar'Adua, asked the court to determine whether having regard to the facts of this case, he is in his first or second term and if he is eligible for re-election in 2015.

Okeaya-Inneh argued that it is better with the political situation in Nigeria for Jonathan to spend nine years in office than to spend less than eight years.

When the case came up yesterday, defense counsel asked for extension of time to enable them file their preliminary objection.

Granting their request, Justice Adamu Bello adjourned till January 23 for adoption of addresses.

The earlier case against Jonathan's candidacy, filed by Njoku at an Abuja High Court, was due for judgement last month but this was put off because the judge had travelled. No new date has been set yet for delivery of the judgement.

Njoku had asked the court to determine whether President Jonathan can seek re-election and take a third oath of office having already taken oaths for the constitutional maximum of two times, first on May 6, 2010 after Yar'Adua's death and then on May 29, 2011 after the general elections.

In his response during the hearing of the suit in July, Jonathan said his stay in office could extend beyond eight years under certain circumstances including the death of a president.

Yesterday's court sitting on the second case came just three days after the President said in a televised interview that he will not disclose whether he will stand for re-election at this time. He said his decision will be announced in 2014.

But there is widespread belief that the Jonathan is angling for another presidential term.

Weeks ago, a newspaper reported that a campaign office has already been opened in Abuja to begin the ground work for the president's re-election bid in 2015.

The report in Thisday said PDP chieftain Aliyu Habu Fari opened the office under the name Victory Democratic Konsult, but Fari said it was just a political and management consultancy outfit.

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