President Goodluck Jonathan won a key legal battle in the build-up to the 2015 presidential race with the Federal High Court in Abuja ruling that he was free to seek re-election in 2015.
Ruling on a suit brought before the court by one Cyriacus Njoku, a PDP member, Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi declared that President Jonathan’s tenure commenced on May 29, 2011 when he was sworn in after winning the presidential election and notfrom May 6, 2010 when he was first sworn in on the strength of the doctrine of necessity activated by the National Assembly as the plaintiff had asked the court to rule.
Njoku had approached the court following a statement credited to the President that he is serving his first term in office.
The President, he claimed, could not be a candidate in 2015 because he was running a second term in office.
The Plaintiff filed the suit following a statement credited to the President that he is serving his first term in office.
According to Njoku, Jonathan could not be a candidate in 2015 because he is running a second term in office.
Citing Section 137 (1) (b) of the Constitution, the Plaintiff maintained that the President could not swear to an oath of office thrice.
He had joined the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) as co-respondents in the suit where he sought that the court bar the PDP from nominating Jonathan in the next election and INEC from accepting his name in the same election.
In his preliminary objection to the suit, Jonathan, through his lawyer, Mr. Ade Okeanya- Inneh, SAN, had insisted that he is currently in his first term of four years and can therefore seek re-election.
He said he had not even indicated or announced anywhere, whether in words or writing, that he would contest the Presidential election to be conducted in 2015 and therefore urged the court to dismiss the suit in the interest of justice.
However, Justice Oniyangi ruled the President’s assumption of office on May 6, 2010 to complete the tenure of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua should not be misconstrued as his first term in office.
He also dismissed the suit as speculative because the plaintiff had been unable to prove that Jonathan had declared interest in the 2015 presidential elections.
The court also said the suit was premature since Jonathan has not obtained any form from his party for the 2015 election, neither has the PDP commenced its primaries for the purpose of selecting its flag bearer for the election.
He said the proper thing for Njoku to have done was to have waited for the party to commence the primaries and only complain if the process breached the 1999 Constitution and party guidelines since selection of candidates is the exclusive preserve of political parties.
He said: “After the death of Umar Yar’Adua, there was no election or bye election. President Jonathan was merely asked to assume the office of the President in line with Doctrine of Necessity. He was not elected as the 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.”
Justice Oniyangi, however, cautioned that this judgment does not in any way impose Jonathan as PDP’s automatic candidate.
The court declined to restrain the PDP and INEC from submitting and accepting Jonathan’s name as a candidate for the 2015 Presidential election, as he pointed out that the suit did not disclose any reasonable cause of action and that the plaintiff lacked the locus standi to file the action.
The judge said in the absence of established facts that Jonathan had been elected twice in the previous elections, the combined effects of Section 315 (2) and Section 137 (1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution which deal with qualification and tenure of office of the President cannot be used to disqualify Jonathan from 2015 Presidential election.
He said: “if Jonathan so wishes, he can seek for sponsorship of the PDP or any other political party of his choice to actualise his presidential ambition in 2015.
“Let me put on record in order to guide against any mischief, that the court is not saying that the 1st Defendant (Jonathan) is an automatic candidate of the PDP or any political party of his choice for the 2015 presidential election.
“From the foregoing, I hold that the Plaintiff lacks the locus standi to file the suit. And where a Plaintiff has no locus standi to institute a legal action, the court shall have no jurisdiction. And in the circumstance, I hold that this court has no jurisdiction and the case is hereby struck out.”
A cost of N20,000 to be paid by the plaintiff was each awarded to Jonathan, the PDP and INEC.