This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: 2015 Election - I'm Covered By Immunity, Jonathan Tells Court

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President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan has asked a Kaduna State High Court to dismiss the suit filed by one Alhaji Shuaibu Lilli and others, challenging his right to contest the 2015 presidential election. The president said based on section 308 of the 1999 Constitution, no civil or criminal suit could be instituted against him in his personal capacity during his tenure as the president.

In the suit, which has Jonathan, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as defendants, the plaintiffs are asking the court to stop Jonathan from contesting the 2015 presidential election because doing so would mean that he is running for a third term in office.

But Jonathan, through his lawyer, Dr. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN), urged the court to dismiss the suit because it was incompetent and that the court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain and grant the reliefs sought by the plaintiffs. However, amid the legal battle over the eligibility or otherwise of the president for another term in office, the PDP yesterday said there were indications that Jonathan would seek the party's ticket again. He also argued that by section 308 of the 1999 Constitution, he enjoys immunity from civil and criminal proceedings in suits brought against him in his personal capacity.

Jonathan further argued that since there was no law that bars him from running for president so as to give rise to any right which entitles them to institute the action against him, the plaintiffs have no cause of action against him as to entitle them to institute the suit against him. He stated that the plaintiffs had no locus standi to institute or commence the suit against him before the court and that the suit amounted to an abuse of court process.

The president noted that the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja in suit number: FCT/HC/CV/2449/2012 between Mr. Cyriacus Njoku vs Goodluck Jonathan and two others had already determined his eligibility to contest the 2015 general election. He argued that the originating summons of the plaintiffs does not have on it the mandatory endorsement to serve out of the state as required by law. He also noted that the plaintiffs' suit was premised on issues surrounding the election and term of office of the tenure of the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, his predecessor.

The president concluded his argument by saying that in the circumstance of the case, there was no cause of action against him in the suit. After listening to the arguments by the parties, the presiding judge adjourned the matter until March 17 for judgment. As the legal battle over the president's eligibility to continue in office beyond 2015 rages on, the PDP has said there are positive signals that he will run again.

It also said it was not aware of any agreement between Jonathan and anybody or group that he would do only one term in office. PDP Deputy Chairman, Mr. Uche Secondus, told reporters in Port Harcourt at the weekend that there were positive feelers that Jonathan might seek a second tenure.

He spoke at the residence of the supervising Minister of Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, when former Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Joseph Mbu, led his successor, Mr. Tunde Ogunsakin, on a courtesy visit to the minister. When asked if Jonathan, who has been consulting traditional rulers in the South-west and the North over the 2015 general election, will run for a second term, Secondus said: "The indications on whether the president would run for second term are very, very positive indeed. President Jonathan is free to run for a second term."

On the claims by some people, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo that the president had promised to do one term in office, he said the party was not aware of such an agreement between Jonathan and anybody. "I am not aware of any agreement that President Jonathan entered with anyone or group in 2011 that he will only serve as president for one term. I have also not seen any agreement. And no one or group has been able to produce such a document. The PDP has no knowledge of such a document," he added.

On the contentious Soku oil wells which the state Governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, said Jonathan had ceded to Bayelsa State, Secondus explained that matters of oil wells and boundary disputes were not settled on the pages of newspapers or through media debates, but through the court.

He recalled that Akwa Ibom and Cross River States had a similar problem and it was settled at the Supreme Court. "The matter is in court so I cannot offer any further comment on that, but Governor Amaechi should stop playing politics with the issue of Soku oil wells. Amaechi has been politicising the issue of the Soku oil wells. The issue of Soku oil wells cannot be settled on the pages of newspapers," he said.

He also said the party's National Chairman, Alhaji Adamu Mu'azu, and other top officers of the party had reached out to the five governors, including Amaechi, who defected from the party to the All Progressives Congress (APC), to appeal to them to return to the ruling party.

He said the party was still awaiting a response from the governors. He however said the PDP would still win the 2015 elections whether or not the governors returned to the party. "The governors like every other Nigerian have one vote. The governors do not keep the votes of those who will vote in the villages and towns in their states in their respective government houses. They vote on election day like any other voter, so we should not give a man the powers that he does not deserve," he said.

Also, the Rivers State Chairman of the PDP, Felix Obuah, who was with Secondus at the home of Wike, said Jonathan had done well and should run for a second term.

Obuah told journalists that the coast was clear for Jonathan to run for a second term if his achievements during his first term were objectively itemised and appraised. "We in Rivers State are waiting for President Jonathan to declare his interest for a second term and we will give him our unalloyed support," he said.

On the N30 billion that the Rivers State House of Assembly approved for Amaechi to spend from the N53 billion state's reserve funds, Obuah said the process was illegal.

He said: "First, some lawmakers converged on the Government House and approved Governor Amaechi's request to borrow N100 billion from the Nigeria Stock Exchange. Second, the same lawmakers have again met at the Government House and approved that Governor Amaechi should spend N30 billion of the state's funds. A proper sitting of the Rivers State House of Assembly has not taken place. So, at the appropriate time, Governor Amaechi will be made to account for all the monies that he is spending now."

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