Appeal court okays Jonathan to contest
THE Court of Appeal, Abuja Division Tuesday held that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was qualified to run the forthcoming presidential race as it held that he had only taken the oath of office as President once in 2011.
In a unanimous verdict of a five-man panel, the Court of Appeal held that Jonathan cannot be said to have taken the Oath of office as President twice because he became President after the death of the then President, Alhaji Umar Musa Yar’Adua, not through election, but by mere constitutional provision.
The judgment was entered in an appeal filed on April 16, 2013 by Cyracus Njoku, who challenged the March 13, 2013 judgment by Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi (then of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), but now of the Court of Appeal).
Justice Oniyangi had dismissed Njoku’s suit and held that President Jonathan was eligible to contest in 2015.
On whether Njoku has locus standi to initiate the suit, the appellate court agreed with Justice Oniyangi’s finding that he did not by virtue of the fact that the case was speculative and imaginary, and that none of the reliefs conferred any benefit on him.
In the lead judgment, Justice Datijo Yahaya upheld Justice Oniyangi’s finding as to the eligibility of President Jonathan for the next presidential election.
The appellate court held that the appellant was wrong to have thought this case was the same as that between Marwa vs Nyako. It held that both cases were distinguishable.
“The trial court was right to have held that he was eligible to seek re-election. The limitation placed on that office is restricted to election and not appointment,” the court said, noting that President Jonathan was, before 2011 elected as Vice President (VP) and not President, and that he had only been elected in that capacity just once.
The court noted that President Jonathan had a joint election with Yar’Adua and was elected as VP in 2007. And that he only became President and completed their joint tenure when Yar’Adua died.
It added that it was wrong for the appellant to urge the court to deem the oath President Jonathan took after Yar’Adua’s death as being his first election.
The court held thus: “The operative word is election. The Constitution says if one had been elected at two previous elections. Election is defined as a process of choosing or electing a person. When election is given its ordinary meaning, it means a process of voting, collation, and the announcement of results must take place. This did not take place in 2010.
“To say this, is to import into the Constitution, that which was not meant to complete somebody’s tenure cannot be taken to mean an election. If a Vice President takes over from his boss, it cannot be challenged in law court. He automatically becomes the president by virtue of being the Vice President.”
“The court held that the process that produced Jonathan as President in 2010 was not an election process, but through constitutional provision because no single vote was given to him.”
“The situation in this appeal is a far cry from that of Marwa case vs Nyako. They won election and we’re later nullified. They stood for fresh election. They were de facto governors and the time they spent must count.
The fact in Marwa vs Nyako were different from this case. When election was nullified, they took a fresh election. The case was essentially about tenure and not about qualification.”
The court held that in this appeal, President Jonathan was not elected as President in 2007, and that in 2010, he did not stand for election as President, but only stood for election in that capacity in 2011.
The court held that President Jonathan was elected as President of Nigeria for the first time in 2011.
“He (Jonathan) has not been elected twice. He only completed the unexpired tenure of the late President Yar’Adua. His tenure started on May 29, 2011.”
The court further held that the trial court’ findings could not be faulted. It proceeded to uphold the judgment.
The court dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit and award N50, 000 cost against the appellant.
Justices Akomolafe Wilson, T Y Hassan, Ekanem Joseph and M Mustapha, who were also on the panel that heard the appeal, agreed with the lead judgment.
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