Non-qualification: Appeal Court Decides Buhari’s Fate Friday

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Muhammadu Buhari

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Abuja division of the Court of Appeal will Friday decide the fate of President Muhammadu Buhari, in a suit challenging his qualification for the 2019 presidential election.

A three-member panel of the Court of Appeal presided over by Justice Atinuke Akomolafe-Wilson, had on July 8, reserved judgment in the suit after listening to the argument canvassed by counsel to parties in the matter.

The court had held that the date for its judgment would be communicated to the parties.

But as the 60-day timeframe provided by the law for the hearing of the matter expires July 12, the court yesterday communicated to the parties of its readiness to deliver judgment today (Friday).

Kalu Kalu, Labaran Ismail and Hassy El-Kuris had approached the appellate court to nullify and set aside the judgment of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court, which declined to hear their suit instituted to challenge the educational qualification of President Buhari before the conduct of the 2019 general election.

At the last sitting, counsel to the appellant, Ukpai Ukairo, insisted that President Buhari was not educationally qualified to have stood for the presidential poll on the grounds that the required certificates were not attached to his form CF001, submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for clearance to contest the presidential poll.

The counsel faulted the claim that the suit of the appellants was statute-barred, adding that the case was instituted on November 5, 2018 within the 14 days allowed by law.

He said the cause of action started with the announcement and publication by INEC, of successful candidates for the 2019 general election on October 25, 2018.

Ukairo, therefore urged the Court of Appeal to allow the appeal and set aside the decision of the Federal High Court on grounds of miscarriage of justice.

He asked the court to nullify Buhari’s participation in the February 23 presidential election because he was not educational qualified for the poll at the time he did.

However, lawyers to the 1st and 2nd respondents urged the court to dismiss the appeal for being incompetent and lacking merit.

Buhari’s counsel, Abdullahi Abubakar, specifically told the Appeal Court that the case of the appellant was statute-barred, having not been filed within the mandatory period stipulated by the law. He urged the court to uphold the decision of the Federal High Court to the effect that the suit was not filed in line with the position of the law.

Counsel to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Babatunde Ogala, aligned himself with the submissions of Buhari’s counsel and urged the court to dismiss the appeal, while counsel to INEC, Onyeri Anthony, said the commission was neutral and would abide by the decision of the court.

The appellants, in their appeal, are asking the appellate court to reverse the judgment of Justice Ahmed Mohammed on the grounds that the processes filed by Buhari and used to strike out their suit were not competent.

While faulting the judgment of the lower court, which was predicated on the grounds that the suit was statute-barred, the appellants claimed that the Federal High Court erred in law and in its decision because they did not challenge the primary election that produced Buhari as candidate of the APC.

They, therefore urged the Court of Appeal to assume jurisdiction over the suit and grant all the reliefs sought at the Federal High Court but which were refused.

They also prayed for an order of court directing INEC to remove Buhari’s name as a candidate of APC and another order restraining him from parading himself as a candidate in the 2019 presidential election as well as the APC from recognising Buhari as a candidate.

The Federal High Court had on May 2 declined to grant the request of the appellants on the grounds that the suit was not filed within the time allowed by law and therefore sustained the preliminary objection raised by Buhari at the hearing.