Vanguard (Lagos)

1 March 2013

Nigeria: Court Clears President Jonathan for 2015 Election

Abuja — An Abuja High Court on Friday dismissed a suit that sought to bar President Goodluck Jonathan from contesting the 2015 presidential election.

It will be recalled that Chief Cyriachus Njoko, a member of the PDP, filed the suit in March 2012.

Delivering the judgment, Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi held that Jonathan had not yet served two terms as substantive president.

"The first defendant (Jonathan) neither contested the office of the president before 2011 nor got nomination of his party to contest same election before 2011.

"Jonathan, to my knowledge, in 2007 contested the general election as a vice president and nothing more.

"Section 135 (2) of the 1999 constitution spells out the tenure of the President to be four years single term, while Section137 (1b) prescribes that the President can only be administered with Oath of office and Oath of allegiance twice.

"In the case of Jonathan, his mere assumption of the office of the President was necessitated by what the National Assembly described as doctrine of necessity because of the demise of late President Umar Yar'Adua.

"It is therefore the interpretation of this court that Section 135 (2) can only be applicable with the person elected as president.

"Jonathan's emergence as President on May 6, 2010 did not amount to his being elected; and so, the action did not give credence to the allegation of first oath taking.

"In the circumstance of the forgoing, Jonathan is just serving his first tenure, and therefore free to seek nomination of his party or any other political party if he so wishes to fulfill his presidential ambition," he said.

Giving a number of consequential orders, the judge, however, held that Jonathan could be barred from seeking the position of president beyond 2015 if he failed to obtain nomination of a political party.

Oniyangi further ordered that the second defendant (PDP) be barred from fielding Jonathan as its Presidential Candidate after 2015.

The judge ordered that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must reject the nomination of Jonathan as presidential candidate of any political party after 2015.

On the preliminary objections, the judge held that the plaintiff neither established a cause of action nor had 'locus standi' to institute the suit.

Oniyangi said that the non establishment of cause of action and locus effectively denied the court the jurisdiction to entertain the suit.

"Being a card-carrying member of the second defendant (PDP) and a tax payer does not yet bestow locus on the plaintiff.

"The court views the action as being hasty and premature as the second defendant has not gotten the PDP nomination to contest the 2015 election yet.

"The Electoral Act mandates political parties to carry out primaries to nominate candidates for elective offices.

"The plaintiff will, however, be bestowed with 'locus' if only he had expressed interest to contest the presidential election and dully participated in the primaries.

"The plaintiff's interest is at the embryo stage and can be best described as a mere ambition.

"The suit is hereby dismissed for lacking in merit as it is premature. The plaintiff is ordered to pay the sum of N20, 000 as cost for damages to the defendants.

"Let me, however, say here that this decision is not by any means a declaration of President Goodluck Jonathan as a sole candidate of the PDP in the forthcoming 2015 general elections," he said.

Speaking to newsmen after the proceeding, Chief Ade Okeaya-Inneh (SAN), counsel to Jonathan, expressed delight in the decision of the court.

"This will lay to rest the issue of whether the President can seek re-election or not."

Mr Kwon Victor, counsel to the plaintiff, however, said that the decision gave room for appeal, adding: "We are approaching the Appellate Court for better interpretation of Sections 135 and 137 of the 1999 Constitution." INEC did not enter appearance in the suit. (NAN)

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