President Goodluck Jonathan
By Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
President Goodluck Jonathan has told an Abuja High Court that even though he is currently doing his first term of four years in office as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as provided by the 1999 Constitution he has not indicated or announced anywhere that he would be contesting for the presidential elections in 2015.
A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Cyriacus Njoku, had on March 20 filed a suit before an Abuja High Court asking it to stop Jonathan from contesting the 2015 presidential election on the ground that he was already in his second term in office.
The suit followed a declaration by the president in the first week of March this year that he was serving his first term in office.
The applicant is, however, claiming 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 (first respondent), the PDP (second respondent) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the third respondent.
But in a 15-paragraph counter affidavit deposed to by a counsel, Osahon Okeaya-Inneh, in the law firm of Jonathan’s lawyer, Mr. Ade Okeaya-Inneh (SAN), he described the suit as frivolous and vexatious that failed to disclose reasonable cause of action.
The deponent said: “I am a counsel in the law firm of Ade Okeaya-Inneh and Co. counsel to the 1st defendant in this suit, by virtue of which I am conversant with the facts of this case.
"I have the consent and authority of the 1st defendant/respondent to depose to this affidavit.
"When my law firm was briefed by the 1st defendant to represent him in his action, I, together with Mr. Matthew Aikhionbare (Senior Special Assistant to the President) and Dr. Reuben Abati (Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President) meticulously went through the 11-paragraph affidavit of the plaintiff in support of his originating summons.
"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 is 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 the Executive President’s tenure of office to be four years.
"I was informed by Dr. Reuben Abati on April 4, 2012 at about 5.30pm 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 contesting for the presidential elections to be conducted in 2015.
"The late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua contested and won the presidential election 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 (were) to end in 2011."
Jonathan stated further that on May 6, 2010, he was sworn in as the president after the demise of Yar’Adua thereby completing Yar’Adua’s 12 months of the four-year tenure.
He stated that this was the first time he became the president of Nigeria through a conducted election wherein he was voted as the presidential candidate of his party, PDP.
The president told the court that the plaintiff did not attach copies of his recent tax clearance certificate from Federal Inland Revenue Service and his PDP membership card as proof of who he claimed to be.
Consequently, he asked the court to discountenance the suit as it was meant to make the court labour in futility because the suit was purely an academic exercise.
The plaintiff, in his originating summons, raised two questions for determination by the court.
"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 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."
The trial judge, Justice Mudashiru Onyangi, has fixed April 18 to hear Jonathan’s application for an extension of time within which his lawyer could file his memorandum of appearance and counter-affidavit in response to the plaintiff’s suit dated March 20.
This is the second time Njoku will take the president to court.
He had in August 2010 attempted to stop PDP from allowing Jonathan to participate in the PDP presidential primaries of January 2011.
Njoku, who is from Zuba Ward in Gwagwalada Area Council and with PDP registration number 1622735, had urged the court to ask the PDP to respect its principle on zoning formula in line with Article 7. 2(c) of the party’s constitution.
He said the declaration of Jonathan (third defendant) to contest for the presidency on the PDP platform 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.