Saturday, 2 March 2013

Jonathan can contest 2015 election – Court

A Federal Capital Territory High Court has declared that President Goodluck Jonathan can contest the 2015 presidential election.
The court, presided by Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi, made the declaration in its judgment in a suit which sought to stop Jonathan from the 2015 race.
Justice Oniyangi struck out the suit, filed by a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Cyriacus Njoku.
The court was also asked to stop the other respondents – Peoples Democratic Party and the Independent National Electoral Commission – from sponsoring or accepting Jonathan as a candidate in the forthcoming poll.
Njoku had, through his counsel, Mr. Ugochukwu Osuagwu, asked the court to stop Jonathan from contesting the presidential election in 2015 on the grounds that he was already in his second term in office.
Citing Section 137 (1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution, Njoku maintained that Jonathan could not swear to the Oath of Office three times, having already sworn to same twice – first on May 6, 2010, while assuming the office of president after the death of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, and again on May 29, 2011–after his victory in the 2011 presidential election.
The plaintiff, a registered member of the PDP in Zuba Ward of the Gwagwalada Area Council in the FCT, with registration number 1622735, informed the court that he filed the suit after the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, reportedly declared that, “Every intelligent man in the country knows that President Goodluck Jonathan is in his first term in office.”
Jonathan had, through his counsel, Mr. Ade Okeya-Inneh, SAN, insisted that he was still in his first term of four years in office as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
Delivering judgment in the matter on Friday, Justice Oniyangi said Jonathan was free to stand for election in 2015.
He said the President is still serving his first term in office.
Oniyangi started by dismissing the suit on the grounds that the court had no jurisdiction to entertain it because the plaintiff lacked the locus standi to bring the action before the court.
The plaintiff had raised two questions for determination by the court.
The questions are: “Whether Section 135 (2) of the constitution, which specifies a period of four years in office for the President, is only available or applicable to a person elected on the basis of an actual election or includes one in which a person assumes the position of President by operation of law as in the case of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan; and
“Whether Section 137 (1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution, which provides that a person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if he has been elected to such office at any two previous elections apply to the first defendant (Jonathan), who first took an Oath of Office as substantive President on May 6, 2010 and took a second Oath of Office as President on May 29, last year.”
Answering the questions, Justice Oniyangi declared that Jonathan did not contest the 2007 presidential election, which produced Yar’Adua, adding that he (Jonathan) only assumed the position of President after Yar’Adua’s death in order to complete the tenure of the late President.
He said, “It is clear to me that the tenure of office of the President is a four-year term commencing from the date he took the Oath of Office and the Oath of Allegiance.
“The question is whether the first defendant (Jonathan) was sponsored by the second defendant (PDP) and contested in the 2007 presidential election, and whether he was sworn in after the 2007 presidential election?
“Jonathan never contested the 2007 election as the candidate of the PDP – the role of the vice-president is clearly spelt out in section 51(b) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“After the death of President Yar’Adua, there was no by-election. He (Jonathan) was merely asked to assume the position, and then sworn in.
“Jonathan did not occupy the position after any election; he was made to assume the office for the uncompleted tenure of four years of President Yar’Adua.
“The first defendant (Jonathan) is on his first term of four years – if he so wishes, he can seek the mandate of his political party to contest the presidential election come 2015.
“To avoid mischief, this court is not saying that he (Jonathan) is the anointed candidate of the PDP come 2015 or any other political party, but that he can seek the sponsorship of his political party or any other political party of his choice.
“The first defendant is not running his second term; he is on his first term.
“Section 137(1) (b) is only applicable to a person that was elected, and it is not applicable to a person who assumes office like the first defendant to complete the uncompleted tenure of President Yar’Adua.
“The tenure of office of President Goodluck Jonathan did not commence on 6th May, 2010, but on 29th May, 2011.”
Earlier, Justice Oniyangi had struck out the suit on the grounds that Njoku lacked both the locus standi and cause of action to file it.
Njoku had claimed that was moved to file the suit because Jonathan’s claim that he was in his first term was injurious to his (Njoku’s) ambition to contest the presidential election in 2015.
Also, he argued that he had the locus standi to file the suit as a member of the PDP.
However, Justice Oniyangi held that both reasons were not enough to confer Njoku with the right to file the action.
The judge also noted that Jonathan had not declared any intention to run for office in 2015.
“The plaintiff (Njoku) intends to justify his cause for action on his being a member of the PDP, and having an ambition to run for president in 2015.
“All of this has not shown a sufficient cause of action for the plaintiff to pursue his case. Neither is the time right nor has the first defendant (Jonathan) declared an interest to seek another term in office.
“Political parties have the duty of nominating candidates to run for elections – it is clear that a person cannot be a candidate until the political party has conducted a primary election. It is after that that a person can become the candidate of a political party in an election.
“A member of a political party has no legal right to be sponsored or nominated by his political party. Nomination and sponsorship of candidates is an internal affair of a political party.
“The mere fact that the plaintiff is nursing an ambition to become the candidate of his political party does not give him the legal right to challenge the eligibility of another person.
“The plaintiff’s suit does not disclose any cause of action; at best, it is only the expression of an ambition which is at an embryo stage. It is speculative and the court does not deal on speculations.
“The plaintiff has not shown any harm or injury the said publication (of Abati’s statement that Jonathan was on his first term) has caused him.
“He has failed to show the locus standi to file the action regardless of his ambition and membership of the PDP.
“All the grounds of objection by the defendants succeed and are sustained. The plaintiff has no cause of action or locus standi and where the plaintiff lacks locus standi, the court has no jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
“The suit is hereby struck out.”
Njoku’s counsel, Osuagwu, however, told journalists after the court session that they would appeal the judgment.
He said, “The judge has given a reason for an appeal. He said we have no cause of action in the originating motion but indirectly he gave us a cause of action in the substantive motion.”
The judgment was nearly scuttled because it had been prepared three months ago and its delivery was initially slated for October 18, 2012.
Justice Oniyangi travelled to Saudi Arabia on that date, forcing the court to postpone the judgment.
When the matter came up for judgment on Friday, the judge had to inform the parties of the three-month lapse, which would have made it impossible for the court to go ahead with the judgment.
 “You can now see that it has gone beyond the three months required. What do we do now?” the judge asked.
All the counsel in the matter agreed to implement the practice of re-adopting their submissions in the proceedings, which allowed the judge to go ahead to deliver the judgment.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the PDP has described the ruling as another victory for the nation’s democracy.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, in a statement on Friday, said the judgment had laid to rest debates on whether or not the President was constitutionally eligible to contest the 2015 election.
The party said the judiciary had also restated the freedom and right of every Nigerian to seek any office under the constitution.
He said, “The leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party applauds the ruling by the high court that President Goodluck Jonathan, as a Nigerian, has the constitutionally guaranteed right to seek re-election in 2015.
“The court held that President Jonathan is in his first term, which commenced on the 29th of May, 2011 and thus is free to seek a second term in office in the 2015 general elections under the platform of the PDP or any other political party.
“The import of this judgment is that it is now left for the PDP as a party and Nigerians to decide, through legitimate processes, whether or not to return President Jonathan to the Presidency in 2015 if he indicates interest.”
The PDP urged Nigerians to continue to be law-abiding and resist all attempts by desperate politicians to truncate the system through the distortion of the facts of law.
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