Court Fixes Feb. 7 for Hearing of Suit Seeking Buhari’s Disqualification in Presidential Poll

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By Alex Enumah in Abuja

Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Thursday, adjourned till February 7, 2019, for hearing on the suit seeking the disqualification of President Muhummadu Buhari in the February 16 presidential election.

Justice Mohammed fixed the date following a request by the plaintiffs’ counsel for time to respond to the second defendant’s counter affidavit served on him Wednesday evening.

The plaintiffs, Kalu Agu, Labaran Ismail and Hassy El-Kuris, in the suit, are alleging that President Buhari lied in his Form CF 001 submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) regarding his educational qualification and certificates.

In the suit filed November 5, 2018, they are therefore seeking an order of the court to disqualify Buhari from presenting himself and or contesting for president in the 2019 general election.

The suit, which was filed on behalf of the plaintiff by Okpai Ukiro, has President Buhari, All Progressives Congress (APC) and INEC as first, second and third defendants respectively.

When the matter was called Thursday, the plaintiffs’ counsel, Godwin Haruna, who held brief for Ukpai Ukiro, informed the court that the matter was adjourned at the last sitting to January 21 for hearing of all pending applications but was further adjourned to Thursday January 31, since the court did not sit.

He however said he would be asking the court for a short adjournment to enable him respond to the second defendant’s notice of preliminary objections, which he said was filed on January 31 and served on him around 4.30pm Wednesday.

Haruna, who recalled that the processes had been served on the APC since November 21 and they just responded only Wednesday, asked the court for a cost of N100,000 against the APC for foisting the adjournment on the court.

He said the defendant has been in court since but never bothered to file its response.

While counsel to President Buhari, Abdullahi Abubakar, did not object to the request for adjournment, the counsel to APC, Tayo Lasaki, who said he is not opposed to the adjournment, however said he is opposing the request for cost against him.

Lasaki said since the second defendant is challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter, it does not matter when the issue is raised.

He also argued that the request for adjournment was made by the plaintiffs and not him, adding that though the second defendant is appearing in the matter for the first time, they are however prepared to go on with the matter if the plaintiffs are ready.

In a short ruling, Justice Mohammed, in granting the adjournment, agreed with the second defendant that the issue of jurisdiction can be raised at anytime and refused the request for cost.

He subsequently adjourned till February 7 for hearing of all pending applications.

Mohammed also ordered that hearing notices be served on the third defendant, INEC.

Issues raised for determination before the court in the suit marked: FHC/CS/ABJ/1310/2018, include: “Whether having regards to the information in the affidavit contained in the first defendant’s INEC form, CF 001 regarding his educational qualification/certificate, the first defendant has submitted false information to the third defendant.

“Whether from the facts and exhibits contained in the affidavit in support of the Originating Summons and having regards to Section 31(5)(6) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended the first defendant is disqualified from running for the office of president in the 2019 general election.

“Whether the first defendant, having submitted false information to the third defendant, the second defendant can validly present the first defendant as its candidate for the office of president for the 2019 general election.”

Upon the determination of the above questions, the plaintiffs therefore are seeking the following reliefs from the court: “A declaration that the first defendant submitted false information regarding his educational qualification to INEC for the purpose of contesting elections into the office of President of Nigeria in the 2019 general election.

“A declaration that the president, having submitted false information regarding his educational qualification/certificate is disqualified from contesting elections into the office of president in the 2019 election.”

Consequent upon this, the plaintiffs are seeking an order of court disqualifying the president from presenting himself and or contesting for president in the 2019 general election.

They also prayed the court for an order directing INEC to reject or remove Buhari’s name as the presidential candidate of the APC submitted to INEC for the 2019 general election.

“An order of this court restraining the president from parading himself as the presidential candidate of the APC for the 2019 general election.

“An order of the court restraining the APC from parading Buhari as its presidential candidate in the 2019 general election,” it said.

In a 40-paragraph affidavit, the plaintiffs, who claimed to be card-carrying members of the APC, said based on the alleged false information the president gave to INEC, he lacked the honour and integrity required for the lofty office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.