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Presidency: PDP reps, SANs warn Jonathan, group threatens suit

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Presidency: PDP reps, SANs warn Jonathan, group threatens suit

Former President Goodluck Jonathan who is considering joining the All Progressives Congress to run for President is set to face a legal battle in the coming days, The PUNCH has learnt.

This is just as the Vice Chairman/Director of Public Affairs, Igbo Leadership Development Foundation, Dr. Law Mefor, says his group will be going to court to challenge Jonathan should he declare his intention to contest.

Mefor stated this as the Peoples Democratic Party members in the House of Representatives warned the ex-President against accepting offers of the APC and the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)

Explaining the stand of the ILDF, Mefor, who believes the next President should be from the South-East region, argued that Jonathan had been affected by the constitutional amendment and thus had no right to contest.

 

He said, “I have said it before and I’m saying it again. We will go to court to challenge it if Jonathan joins the presidential race.

“What my group, Igbo Leadership Development Foundation, would test in court is whether Jonathan can be sworn in as President of Nigeria a third time despite the express constitutional provision against it.

“We are just waiting for Jonathan to pick up a political party’s nomination form and the Igbo Leadership Development Foundation will approach a court of competent jurisdiction to challenge his qualification to stand this election. I have nothing personal against Jonathan. After all, I was in his media team in 2015 but we have to do things right as a nation under the law and not as a nation of impunity.”

Jonathan had, while addressing supporters last week, informed them that he was still consulting on whether to contest and asked them to “watch out”.

Sources also told The PUNCH that Jonathan had given the APC the condition that he would only join the party if the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), endorsed him and he was picked as a consensus candidate.

In a chat with The PUNCH, a human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), said any party that picked Jonathan as its candidate risked being disqualified.

When asked what would happen if Jonathan emerged candidate, Falana stated, “Of course, their opponents will go to court to challenge the legal validity of his election. It will be too much of a risk without having a definitive pronouncement on this matter.”

The senior advocate maintained that Jonathan having been inaugurated as President twice could not be sworn in the third time.

Falana also noted that Section 137(3) of the constitution which was amended in 2018, states 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.

He argued that since Jonathan became President following the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua, he would not be able to serve two more full terms.

The senior advocate said it would be very risky for any political party to pick Jonathan as a candidate as his candidacy could be annulled by a court.

A statement he later issued read in part, “It has been confirmed that former President Goodluck Jonathan has decided to join the APC for the purpose of contesting the 2023 presidential election. However, the former President is disqualified from contesting the election by virtue of 137 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

“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 terms of eight years.

“In other words, the constitution will not allow anyone to be in office for more than a cumulative period of eight 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 four years and not a day longer.”

He noted that in the case of Governor Rasheed Ladoja v INEC, the Supreme Court rejected the prayer of Ladoja for 11 months’ extension to cover the period he was kept out of office through an illegal impeachment.

Falana added that the Supreme Court rejected the prayer on the grounds that a governor was entitled to spend a maximum period of eight years or less and not more than eight years.

Supporting Falana’s position, the Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria, through its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, advised Jonathan not to allow greedy politicians to push him into diminishing his international reputation.

Onwubiko said, “Falana’s legal opinion is the correct position of the law which does not allow an individual to spend more than the required number of years in a particular office.

“Falana had used adequate points in law and in fact that nullified any attempt by Jonathan to try to get into any political kind of contestation as President of this country. Jonathan had already spent five years as President. He can’t spend nine years because it is unconstitutional.”

Also speaking to The PUNCH, another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Emeka Ngige, said Falana’s position was valid.

Ngige said, “I have not looked at the amendment to confirm what Falana said but I believe that he may be right because there was an amendment that was done when Buhari came into power. The amendment affected the eligibility of any person who has completed the tenure of another person. That person is deemed to have done his tenure.”

Ngige further said that morally it was wrong for Jonathan to contest the presidency as it would only lead him to further ridicule.

Attempts to get a response from Jonathan’s Spokesman, Ikechukwu Eze, proved abortive as his phone indicated that it was switched off.

Jonathan free to contest, constitution amended after he left office – SAN

But another senior advocate, Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe, said Jonathan was free to contest since the constitution was amended after he had left office.

Adedipe also faulted the law, adding that it would not withstand a judicial challenge.

He said, “Constitutionally he can run, provided he can run, there is nothing stopping him from running.”

Reject APC’s offer, it’s offensive, disgraceful to all of us – PDP Reps

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Responding to the controversy surrounding Jonathan’s purported ambition, members of the House of Representatives warned Jonathan against accepting any offer from the Presidency and the APC.

The lawmakers, who are members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, said the ex-president had been too ridiculed by the current Buhari regime.

Regardless of Jonathan being from the South-South geopolitical zone like them, some of the lawmakers said it was better for the ex-President to continue to enjoy goodwill.

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