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Just In: Jonathan Can Contest 2023 Presidency, Court

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Justice Isa Hamma Dashen of the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, today, ruled that former President Goodluck Jonathan is eligible to contest the 2023 presidential election.

He said Jonathan’s right to vie for the office of president again cannot be stopped by any retroactive law and so is eligible and constitutionally qualified to contest for the 2023 Presidency.

He was vice-president from 2007 and later president in May 2010, following the death of President Umaru Musa-Yar’Adua. He won election in 2011, but was defeated in 2015 by incumbent President Mohammadu Buhari, when he sought election for another term.

However, delivering judgment, Dashen said Jonathan is not affected by the fourth alteration to the constitution barring vice-presidents, who succeed their principals from serving more than one full term, signed by Buhari in 2018.

The former president, who has reported to have bought and returned the N100 million presidential nomination and Expression of Interest form of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), through some people, had allegedly approached the court, also through proxies, praying he “is pre-eminently constitutionally, morally and legally qualified to contest the 2023 presidential election.”

In the case with suit no. FHC/YNG/CS/86/2022, has Andy Solomon and Idibiye Abraham as plaintiffs and the All Progressives Congress (APC), Jonathan and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were listed as defendants.

His Media Adviser, Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, had denied that he obtained the forms and also described speculation that it was bought by a group without his permission, as an insult to his boss.

Falana

Among those who said Jonathan is not eligible to contest is human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), who said it will breach Section 137 (3) of the Constitution, which stipulates that “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.”

According to him, “Some people have said that the amendment is not retrospective and therefore cannot apply to Dr. Jonathan.

“Assuming without conceding that the amendment is not retrospective, it is submitted that under the current Constitution, a president or governor cannot spend more than two terms of eight years.

“In other words, the Constitution will not allow anyone to be in office for more than a cumulative period of 8 years. In Marwa v. Nyako (2012) 6 NWLR (Pt.1296) 199 at 387 the Supreme Court stated that Section 180 (1) and (2)(a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has prescribed a single term of four years and if a second term, another period of 4 years and not a day longer.

“In the case of Governor Ladoja v INEC (2008)40 WRN 1 the Supreme Court rejected the prayer of Governor Ladoja for 11 months’ extension to cover the period he was kept out of office through illegal impeachment.

“The Supreme Court rejected the prayer on the ground that a Governor is entitled to spend a maximum period of eight years or less and not more than eight years.

“It is not in dispute that Dr. Jonathan became the President of Nigeria in 2010 following the sudden death of President Umaru Yar’Adua. He later contested and won the 2011 presidential election.

“Having spent five years in office as President, Dr. Jonathan is disqualified from contesting the 2023 presidential election. The reason is that if he wins the election, he will spend additional years.

“It means that he would spend a cumulative period of 9 years as President of Nigeria in utter breach of Section 137 of the Constitution which provides for a maximum two terms of eight years,” he argued.

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