I’m In My First Term, Jonathan Tells Court
President Goodluck Jonathan has told an Abuja High Court that he is currently doing his first term of four years in office as the president of Nigeria as provided for in the 1999 Constitution.
Jonathan stated this in his preliminary objection while responding to a suit by a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Cyriacus Njoku, challenging the propriety of Jonathan contesting for the 2015 presidential election.
The president also seized the opportunity to say that he had not indicated or announced anywhere that he would be contesting for the 2015 poll.
Njoku had, on March 20, 2012, filed a suit before an Abuja High Court asking it to stop Jonathan from contesting the presidential election in 2015 on the grounds that he was already in his second term in office.
The suit was said to be sequel to a declaration by the president in the first week of March 2012 that he is serving his first term in office.
But the plaintiff is asking the court to take a judicial notice of the fact that Jonathan is running a second term in office and cannot be a candidate in 2015.
He also alleged that the president could not swear to an Oath of Office thrice in the light of Section 137(1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution.
The plaintiff also named the PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as co-respondents to the suit.
But the president had, in a 15-paragraph counter-affidavit filed by his lawyer, Mr Ade Okeaya-Inneh (SAN), described the suit as frivolous and vexatious, saying that it had failed to disclose reasonable cause of action.
Okeaya-Inneh had claimed on behalf of the president that, ‘‘When my law firm was briefed by the 1st defendant (president) 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 (Jonathan) 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 contest 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 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 was to end in 2011.”
Jonathan further argued 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.
According to Jonathan, this is the first time he is coming to power as the president of Nigeria through an election where he was voted as the presidential candidate of his party, the PDP.
The president told the court that the plaintiffs did not attach copies of his recent tax clearance certificate from the Federal Inland Revenue Service Commission (FIRS) and his PDP membership card as proof of who he claims 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 is purely an academic exercise.
But the plaintiff’s lawyer, Mr. Osuagwu Ugochukwu, has raised two questions for determination by the court.
These are: ‘‘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.’’
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 that Njoku will take the president to court.
He had, in August 2010, attempted to stop the PDP from allowing Jonathan to participate in the PDP presidential primaries of January 2011. Njoku, 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 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 Gumi, dismissed the ‘‘zoning’’ suit.