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President Goodluck Jonathan (left) and presidential candidate of the APC, General Muhammadu Buhari

The presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), General Muhammadu Buhari and his party on Monday opposed the orders of a Federal High Court in Abuja, directing that they be served through substituted means‎ in a suit challenging Buhari’s eligibility to stand for the March 28 poll.

Highlights:

  • The presiding judge had, in two separate suits challenging Buhari’s eligibility to contest in the election, last week ordered that the defendants be served through newspaper publications
  • The plaintiffs in the separate suits are Chukwunweike Okafor and Max Ozoaka
  • There are at least three other suits ‎seeking an order directing INEC to disqualify Buhari from participating in the poll
  • A Federal High Court in Abuja also ordered that President Goodluck Jonathan be served with court documents in a new suit seeking to disqualify him from seeking re-election in the forthcoming poll
  • There are two pending suits at the Federal High Court seeking Jonathan’s disqualification while another one is pending before the Court of Appeal in Abuja
  • Hearing in Buhari’s case was adjourned to February 23 while Jonathan’s case was slated for fresh hearing on February 26

Details

Buhari and his party, through their lawyers, told the court that they would file applications challenging the competence of the suits and the entire steps taken in the suit so far, including the orders of service through substituted means.

Justice Adeniyi Ademola had, in two separate suits challenging Buhari’s eligibility to contest in the election, last week granted ex parte orders permitting the plaintiffs to serve the defendants in the suits through newspaper publications.

The court had also granted an order of abridgment of time within which the defendants must respond to the suits.

The plaintiffs in the separate suits are Chukwunweike Okafor and Max Ozoaka. They were represented in court by their lawyers on Monday.

Apart from Buhari and the APC, the Independent National Electoral Commission is a defendant in the two suits.

Though, both Buhari and the APC had yet to file any papers in the suit, their lawyers – Chief Wole Olanipekun and Lateef Fagbemi – urged the court to adjourn the matter to enable them to file all the necessary documents.

Fagbemi also urged the court to ‎set aside the order of abridgment of time within which the defendants must file their responses, arguing that the granting of the order hinged on urgency, had already been diminished with the postponement of the poll from February 14 to March 28.

The judge then adjourned till February 23.

Eligibility

There are at least three other suits ‎seeking an order directing INEC to disqualify Buhari from participating in the poll because he among other things, failed to attach evidence of his academic qualifications to the form he submitted to the electoral body.

‎The plaintiffs are in their separate suits contending that the INEC FORM CF 001 submitted to INEC by the APC candidate submitted to INEC was incomplete and therefore urged the court to declare the form as incompetent.

They further stated that the failure of Buhari to accompany the INEC Form with evidence of his educational qualifications and evidence of his birth certificate or affidavit of declaration of age had altogether rendered the form inchoate (incomplete).

Ozoaka, in a supporting affidavit to the originating summons, stated that the INEC Form submitted by Buhari did not meet the requirements under sections 31(1)(2) & (3), and 31(8) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

Jonathan faces new suit

Meanwhile, a Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered that President Goodluck Jonathan be served with court documents in a new suit seeking to disqualify him from seeking re-election in the forthcoming poll.

There are two pending suits seeking Jonathan’s disqualification from participating in the presidential election, now re-scheduled to hold on March 28, before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja.

There is another one pending before the Court of Appeal in Abuja.

Justice Mohammed, to whom the new suit was assigned last Friday, granted an ex-parte order directing the service of the court papers on Jonathan.

The judge ordered that the court papers be served on the President, either through the office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation or that of the Attorney General of the Federation.

The judge made order for substituted service on Jonathan following the complaint of the plaintiff, Nkemjika Nkemjika, in his ex parte application that it was impossible to effect personal service on the President, who resides in the well-fortified Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.

The President, the Independent National Electoral Commission and the Peoples Democratic Party are the defendants in the suit.

Premise

Nkemjika asks the court, in his suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1112/2015, to determine whether, having regard to the provisions of sections 135(1)(b) and 135(2)(b) of the Constitution, President Jonathan was qualified to contest this year’s presidential election.

The plaintiff argued that Jonathan’s second term in office would end on May 29, 2015, because Section 135(2)(b) of the Constitution that determines the tenure of office of the country’s President, did not make any provision for a Vice-President to complete the unexpired tenure of office or unexpired term of office of a deceased President.

He contended that Jonathan would have been eligible to further contest this year’s presidential election if he had won an election overseen by the Senate President in 2010 in accordance with the provision of Section 146(2) of the Constitution.

Section 146(2) provides that: “Where any vacancy occurs in the circumstances mentioned in sub-section 1 of this section during a period when the office of the Vice-President is also vacant, the President of the Senate shall hold the office of the President for a period of not more than three months, during which there shall be an election of a new President, who shall hold office for the unexpired term of office of the last holder of the office.”

The plaintiff urged the court to nullify the nomination of Jonathan as PDP’s candidate for the forthcoming presidential election in view of the provision of Section 135(1)(b) of the Constitution, to the effect that “a person shall hold the office of President until he dies whilst holding such office.”

Justice Mohammed has adjourned further hearing in the case to February 26.

NP/Punch

By Victor Osehobo, Benin City Petition served at the locked secretariat
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