A Federal High Court sitting in Kaduna will on March 17 give judgement in a suit instituted against President Goodluck Jonathan by Shuaibu Lilli and others challenging the president's right to contest the 2015 presidential election.
The plaintiffs had in October 2013 sued Mr. Jonathan, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, asking the court to ban the president from running in the election.
In the suit, the plaintiff argued that the president had served two terms, having commenced his first term after the death of President Umaru Yar'Adua.
Mr. Jonathan, who was vice president until Mr. Yar'Adua's death, was sworn in as president on May 6, 2010. He won the 2011 presidential election and was sworn in on May 29 that year. The president is yet to declare his interest in the 2015 presidential election though some senior members of the PDP are claiming that he signed a pact that he would run for only one term.
Mr. Jonathan's counsel, Fabian Ajogwu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, filed a 21-paragraph counter-affidavit and a preliminary objection with written arguments. Mr. Ajogwu said the suit was an abuse of court process since the issue for which the plaintiffs instituted the suit, had been settled by a court in Abuja.
The president's lawyer also stated that the plaintiffs had no locus standi to file against Mr. Jonathan because the president was covered by the immunity clause in the Constitution and therefore no civil and criminal proceedings could be brought against him. Mr. Ajogwu cited Section 308 of the Constitution and argued that the court did not have jurisdiction to entertain the suit. He also said the originating summons did not have on it the mandatory endorsement to serve out of the state as required by law.
"The plaintiffs' suit is premised on issues surrounding the election and term of office of the first defendant's predecessor-in-office, now of blessed memory. In the circumstance of this case, there is no cause of action against the first defendant," Mr. Ajogwu said.
An Abuja High Court presided over by Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi, in 2013, declared Mr. Jonathan eligible to contest the 2015 presidential election if he so wished.
Cyriacus Njoku had filed a suit seeking an order to restrain the president from running for office in 2015 because it would amount to a breach of the constitutional provision that stipulates a period of not more than eight years for occupants of the office of the President.
He contended that Mr. Jonathan first took oath of office and oath of allegiance on the May 6, 2010, following the death of his predecessor, Mr. Yar'Adua, with whom Mr. Jonathan was first elected in 2007. He noted that the president took another oath of office and allegiance on the May 29, 2011 for the purpose of executing the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Delivering judgement in the suit, Mr. Oniyangi held that the president's tenure of office counted from May 29, 2011 when he was sworn into office as elected president and not May 6, 2010 when he assumed office following Mr. Yar'Adua's death.
"After the death of Umar Yar'Adua, there was no election or by-election; President Jonathan was merely asked to assume the office of the President in line with the doctrine of necessity," Mr. Oniyangi had said. "He was not elected as President but was made to assume office by virtue of Yar'Adua's death. Having exhausted the late President's tenure, he sought for his party's ticket and ran for the office of the President successfully in 2011 general election. He is, therefore, currently serving his first tenure of office and if he so wishes, he is eligible to further seek his party's ticket through the party's primary election and to run for office in 2015."