Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) says Justice Isa Hamma Dashen of the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State granted a relief not prayed for by claimants in a case involving former President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
Saharareporters had reported that Justice Dashen on Friday in a judgement held that Jonathan’s right to vie for the office of president again cannot be stopped by any retroactive law.
The suit marked FHC/YNG/CS/86/2022 was filed by Andy Solomon and Idibiye Abraham as first and second plaintiffs. It listed Jonathan, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as first, second, and third defendants respectively.
But the APC and the INEC did not have any legal representations in the matter, which SaharaReporters learnt was a deliberate move by the party and the electoral body.
Solomon and Abraham had approached the court through their counsel, Egbuwabi Seigha and Timi Robinson, seeking the disqualification of Jonathan from the 2023 presidential polls.
They argued that by virtue of the introduction of Section 137 sub-sections 1(b) and 3 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended, the former president was no longer eligible to vie for the office of the president because he had taken an oath to that office on two previous occasions.
In the suit filed on May 17, 2022, the plaintiffs seek the determination of the following questions to wit:
“Whether in view of the provisions of Sections 137(1)(b) AND (3) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as altered) and the fact that the 1st defendant had earlier been sworn in as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2010 and 2015 respectively, the 1st defendant is qualified to contest for the office of the President of Nigeria in the 2023 General Elections to be organised by the 3rd defendant.
“If the answer to (1) above is the negative, then whether the 2nd defendant is entitled to field the 1st defendant as its presidential candidate in the 2023 general elections
“Whether the 3rd defendant is entitled to disqualify the 1st defendant from contesting and/or from being presented as the 2nd defendant presidential candidate in the 2023 general elections.
“Following the determination of the above questions, the plaintiff seeks the following reliefs:
“A declaration that in view of provisions of Section 137(1)(b) and (3) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as altered) and the fact that the 1st defendant had earlier been sworn in as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2010 and 2015 respectively, the 1st defendant is disqualified from contesting for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the 2023 general elections.
“A declaration that the 2nd defendant is entitled to disqualify the 1st from participating in its primary elections or any other selection process(es) for the determination of the 2nd defendant’s presidential candidate for the 2023 general elections.
“A declaration that the 3rd defendant is entitled to disqualify the 1st defendant from contesting and/or from being presented as a candidate for the election into the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Delivering judgement on the matter on Friday, Justice Dashen dismissed the reliefs sought by the plaintiffs and ruled that Jonathan is eligible to contest the forthcoming 2023 presidential election because he had only been elected into office once in 2011.
In a statement on Sunday, Falana said the relief granted by the court to the effect that Jonathan is not disqualified by the 2018 constitutional amendment was not sought or prayed for by the claimants.
“The claimants prayed the Federal High Court to disqualify the 1st Defendant (Dr.Goodluck Jonathan) from contesting the 2023 presidential election. In spite of the directive of the National Judicial Council that such matters be filed at the Abuja Judicial Division of the Federal High Court the Yenagoa Judicial Division of the Court assumed jurisdiction, heard the case and dismissed all the reliefs sought by the Claimants,” the senior lawyer said.
“But without any counterclaim filed by any of defendants, the Court decided to grant a relief not sought by the Claimants. In other words, the relief granted by the Court to the effect that the 1st Defendant is not disqualified by the 2018 constitutional amendment was not sought or prayed for by the Claimants.
“It is interesting to note that the 2nd Defendant (All Progressives Congress) and 3rd Defendant (Independent National Electoral Commission) were served the processes but did not file any process in the case. They were equally not represented by lawyers for reasons best known to the Defendants.
“As there was no dispute between the parties, the claimants lacked the locus standi to have maintained the action. On that score, the case ought to have been stuck out on the authority of the case of Peoples Democratic Party v Edede & Anor (CA/OW/87/2022) filed by the PDP, v Edede & Anor. wherein the Court of Appeal struck out the suit marked: FHC/UM/CS/26/2022 and held that the federal high court Umuahia had no jurisdiction to hear the case because Edede lacked the locus standi to have filed the suit in the first place.”
President Muhammadu Buhari had on June 4, 2018, signed a constitutional amendment that stops a Vice President who completes the term of a President from contesting for the office of the President more than one more time.
The law also stops a deputy governor who completes the term of a governor from seeking a second term in office as a governor.
A President’s term can be cut short by reasons of death, resignation, or death to pave the way for the Vice President to complete the term of the departed President.
Following the death of then-President Umaru Yar’Adua on May 5, 2010, Jonathan as the then Vice President, took a new oath of office to complete Yar’Adua’s term as President.
He was also sworn in for another term on May 29, 2011, after he won the presidential poll of that year.
Falana had earlier said Jonathan is affected by the constitution amendment and cannot contest the 2023 presidential election
“It has been confirmed that former President Goodluck Jonathan has decided to join the All Progressives Congress (APC) with a view to contesting the 2023 presidential election,” he had said.
“However, the former President is disqualified from contesting the said election by virtue of 137 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended which provides as follows: A person who was sworn in to complete the term for which another person was elected as President shall not be elected to such office for more than a single term.
“Indeed, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No 16) Act, 2017 says: “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (in this Act referred to as “the Principal Act”) is altered as set out in this Act. Section 137 of the Principal Act is altered, by inserting, after subsection (2), a new subsection “(3)”.
“(3)” A person who was sworn in as President to complete the term for which another person was elected as President shall not be elected to such office for more than a single term.”