by Hauwa Gambo
President Goodluck Jonathan has asked an Abuja High Court to dismiss a suit which seeks to stop him from contesting the 2015 presidential elections based on the fact that he is already in his second term in office, having taken the Oath of Office of President twice. The suit was filed by a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) member, Cyriacus Njoku.
In a counter motion, the President has insisted that he is currently serving his first term of four years in office as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
It will be recalled that in July 2011, the president’s spokesman Reuben Abati had made it clear to newsmen that the president would not be running in 2015. Asked to be specific on if the President will contest the 2015 presidential election while briefing State House correspondents, he had said: “That has been made clear by Mr President that this proposal is not to pursue any personal interest and he has also made it clear that if the proposed amendment scale through, he will not be a beneficiary.
“I don’t see anything that can be more categorical than that. That is quite clear. I think the statement he made in Addis Ababa shortly before elections was that he will not seek a second term in office”.
Njoku, who claims to be a registered member of the PDP in the Zuba Ward of the Gwagwalada Area Council, with registration number 1622735, said he filed the after the President declared that he is currently serving his first term in office.
According to the plaintiff, citing Section 137 (1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution, Jonathan cannot swear to an Oath of Office three times, having sworn first on May 6, 2010, while assuming the office of president after the death of late President Umaru Yar’Adua, and on May 29, 2011, after his victory in the 2011 presidential election.
Jonathan however feels differently. In a 15-paragraph counter affidavit deposed to by Osahon Okeaya-Inneh, the president described the suit as frivolous. “The 1st defendant 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 affidavit says.
“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.”
He then asked the court to dismiss the suit, going as far as noting that Njoku did not attach copies of his recent tax clearance certificate from the Federal Inland Revenue Service and his PDP membership card to prove his identity.
The president was however careful to inform court that he has not announced any intention to run for office in 2015.
The next hearing is fixed for April 18.