President Goodluck Jonathan
By Tobi Soniyi
President Goodluck Jonathan has told a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja that contrary to the provision of the 1999 Constitution, an incumbent president’s tenure of office could extend beyond four or eight years.
Jonathan stated this in his response to a suit filed by a Port Harcourt-based legal practitioner and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) card carrying member, Henry Amadi.
Amadi had claimed in his suit that Jonathan was no longer eligible to contest in 2015 on the grounds that by so doing he would be spending more than the maximum period of two terms of four years envisaged by the constitution.
The suit is similar to an earlier one filed by a chieftain of the PDP, Mr Cyriacus Njoku, on March 20, 2012 before an Abuja High Court asking the court to stop Jonathan from contesting presidential elections in 2015 on the grounds that he was already in his second term in office.
Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi was scheduled to deliver judgment in Njoku’s suit on November 13, 2012 but subsequently adjourned indefinitely following his trip abroad.
However, in the present suit, Amadi had named Jonathan and the Independent national Electoral Commission (INEC) as co-defendants.
The plaintiff asked the court to stop Jonathan from putting himself forward or participate as candidate for the election into the office of the President at the end of his current term of office in 2015.
Amadi also asked the court to direct INEC not to accept Jonathan’s nomination as candidate of the PDP by 2015 because by so doing, Jonathan would foist illegality in the polity since the oath of allegiance and office he will take if he wins will violate the two oaths of allegiance and office stipulated by the 1999 constitution.
But in a counter-affidavit filed on his behalf by Mr Ade Okeaya-Inneh (SAN), Jonathan asked the court to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction to entertain the suit, saying the plaintiff was an ordinary individual who was not qualified to request court to stop him from contesting 2015 presidential election.
Jonathan said Amadi failed to disclose reasonable cause of action and that his claim was hypothetical and academic.
Jonathan averred that he took the first oath of office on May 6, 2010 following the death of erstwhile president, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
His lawyer said: “The question that arises for determination is whether, having regard to the facts of this case, he is in his first or second term. In other words, given that the constitution prescribes a maximum of two terms of four years each totalling a maximum of eight years as president, is he eligible to run for re-election in 2015?
“If yes, that would mean that, if he wins, he would be in office for a period of more than eight years. On the other hand, if the answer is no, that would mean that he, for no fault of his, would be constrained to serve for a period of less than eight years.”