2015: Battle to stop me frivolous, says Jonathan-The Nation



President Jonathan

By Kamarudeen Ogundele, Abuja

The President has spoken on his political future –less than two years into his four years tenure.

Dr Goodluck Jonathan’s stand is that he is entitled to another term under the 1999 Constitution because he is doing his first term of four years in office.

But, the President insists that he has not indicated or announced that he will run in 2015 as being insinuated.

Jonathan’s position is stated in a counter-affidavit to a suit filed by a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Cyriacus Njoku, seeking to stop him from contesting the 2015 presidential election.

The suit followed a statement credited to the President that he is serving his first term in office.

According to Njoku, Jonathan cannot 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 cannot swear to an oath of office thrice.

Joined in the suit are the President (first respondent), the PDP (second respondent) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the third respondent.

In the 15-paragraph counter affidavit deposed to by Osahon Okeaya-Inneh, a lawyer in the law firm of Mr Ade Okeaya-Inneh (SAN), President Jonathan described the suit as frivolous and vexatious, adding that it failed to disclose a reasonable cause of action.

The deponent said: “The 1st defendant is currently doing his first term of four years in office as the president of Nigeria as provided by the 1999 Constitution as amended.

“The 1st defendant’s status and position are formidably backed by the 1999 Constitution.

“The constitution of Nigeria only makes provisions for a president to contest for not more than two terms of four years each.

“The Constitution recognises Executive President’s tenure of office to be four years.

“I was informed by Dr Reuben Abati (the presidential spokesman) on the April 4, 2012 at about 5.30 pm in his office and I verily believe that ‘The 1st defendant has not indicated or announced anywhere, whether in words or in writing, that he will contest for the presidential elections to be conducted in 2015’.

“The late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua contested and won the presidential elections conducted in 2007 for a one term of four years. He was the president from May 29, 2007, until sometime in May 2010 when he passed on. ‘Yar’Adua’s four years was to end in 2011.”

Jonathan averred that on May 6, 2010, he was sworn in as the president after the demise of the late President Yar’Adua, thereby completing Yara’Adua’s 12 months of the four years tenure.

He insisted that this is the first time he is coming to power as the president through a conducted election wherein he was voted as the presidential candidate of his party, PDP.

Besides, the President stated that the plaintiff did not attach copies of his recent tax clearance certificate from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and his PDP membership card as proof of who he claims to be.

Consequently, he asked the court to discountenance the suit as it was, in his view, meant to make the court labour in futility because the suit is purely an academic exercise.

Njoku, through his counsel, Mr. Osuagwu Ugochukwu, raised two questions for determination by the court. These 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 applies to the 1st defendant 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’.

Justice Mudashiru Onyangi has fixed Wednesday to hear Jonathan’s application for an extension of time within which his lawyer can file his memorandum of appearance and counter affidavit to the plaintiff’s suit dated March 20.

Njoku went to court to stop Jonathan from contesting in the January 2011 PDP presidential primaries, asking the party to respect its zoning principle.

He said the declaration of Jonathan (third defendant) to contest the presidency on the PDP platform was contrary to Article 7.2(c) of the Party’s Constitution (as amended).

But the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court, Justice Lawan Gummi, dismissed the suit.

On March 20 at an Abuja High Court Njoku filed a suit over the actual status of which term the President is serving in office.

The suit followed a declaration by the President that he is serving his first term.

The applicant claimed in the suit that Jonathan is running a second term in office and cannot be a candidate in 2015.

He also said the President cannot swear to an Oath of Office thrice in the light of Section 137(1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution.

Those joined in the matter are the President (1st Respondent), the Peoples Democratic Party (2nd Respondent), and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the 3rd Respondent.

The applicant through his counsel, Mr. Osuagwu Ugochukwu, raised two questions for determination by the court.

These 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

•Whether Section 137(1) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, 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 applies to the 1st Defendant 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, 2011.

The applicant is seeking the five reliefs as follows:

•A declaration that the tenure of office as President by Dr. Jonathan (i.e 1st Defendant) began on May 6, 2010 when his first term began and his two terms shall end on May 29, 2015 after taking his second Oath of Office on May 29, 2011.

•A declaration that by virtue of Section 136 (1) (b) of the Constitution, no person (including the 1st Defendant) shall take the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath of Office prescribed to in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution more than twice.

•An order of injunction restraining the 1st Defendant from further contesting or attempting to vie for the Office of the President of the Federal Republic if Nigeria after May 29, 2015 when his tenure shall by the Nigerian Constitution afforested ends

•An order of injunction restraining the 2nd Defendant from further sponsoring or attempting to sponsor the 1st Defendant as candidate for election to the office of the President in the 2015 Presidential Election after the expiration of his two terms on May 29, 2015.

•An order directing the 3rd Defendant from accepting the name of the 1st Defendant where sponsored by his party again to run for the Office of the President in the 2015 Presidential Election to be supervised and conducted by the 3rd Defendant (INEC).

Njoku also in August 2010 attempted to stop the PDP from allowing Dr. Jonathan to participate in the PDP presidential primaries of January 2011.

Njoku, from Zuba Ward in Gwagwalada Area Council in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), with PDP registration number 1622735 urged the court to ask the PDP to respect its principle on zoning in line with Article 7.2(c) of the party’s constitution.

He said the declaration of Jonathan (3rd Defendant) to contest the presidency under the PDP was contrary to Article7.2(c) of the PDP 2009 Constitution (as amended).

But the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court, Justice Lawan Gummi, dismissed the zoning suit.

No tags for this post.