The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, has ruled that President Goodluck Jonathan has only taken oath of office once and therefore upheld his eligibility to contest the forthcoming Nigeria’s presidential election slated for March 28.
The court held that the oath of office Mr. Jonathan took in 2010 was to complete the “unexpired tenure” of late President Umar Yar’Adua.
The appellate court delivered the judgement Tuesday.
The appeal was brought before the court by Cyriacus Njoku who was challenging the ruling of the High Court of Federal Capital Territory, Abuja which on March 1, 2013 dismissed the suit he filed to stop Mr. Jonathan from contesting the 2015 polls.
In a lead judgement delivered by Justice Abubakat Yahaya, the full panel of the court unanimously held that Mr. Jonathan had only spent one term in office as President going by the provision of the Constitution.
Mr. Jonathan was empowered as acting President on February 9, 2010, following a motion for “doctrine of necessity” by the Senate, owing to the protracted stay of late President Umaru Yar’Adua in Saudi Arabia for medical treatment.
When Mr. Yar’Adua eventually died on May 5, Mr. Jonathan was sworn in as president. He was elected President in 2011.
Mr. Njoku had submitted that Mr. Jonathan had sworn to oath of office and allegiance twice and therefore, should be disqualified from contesting the next election as victory would amount to being sworn in thrice.
But the court ruled that the oath Mr. Jonathan took in 2010 was to complete the unexpired tenure of late Yar’Adua, adding that by virtue of Section 135 (2)(b) of the Constitution, Jonathan took his first oath in May 2011. More over, it held that disqualification is through election, not oath taking.
The judgement read in part: “In this appeal, it is not controverted by the appellant that the first oath taken by the first defendant (Jonathan) was the oath he took as the Vice President and not as President.
“But he took the oath in May 2010 to complete unexpired tenure of late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
” Section 37(1)(b) disqualifies a person from contesting for president if he had been elected twice. Disqualification is through election and not oath taking. Election is a process of choosing a person to occupy a position by voting. When election is given its literal meaning, it connotes when a voting is employed to choose a person for political office.
“This did not take place when Jonathan stepped into the shoes of his Principal who went to the great beyond. To say these things were done is to import words not used by the constitution. Section 146(1) of the constitution cannot be deemed an election for a VP to step into the office of a President.
“Election involves conducting primaries by party, nomination, election and announcement of results. All these processes were not done . If a VP suceeds a President that dies, that cannot be challenged. It is amode of stepping into the vacant office provided for by the constitution.
“When a President dies, the Vice President automatically becomes President as provided for by S130 (1)(2) of the 1999 constitution.”
It further held that, “It was not election that produced the first respondent in May 2010, the oath he took then was not an oath of elected President as provided for by Section 180 of the constitution.
“The process of election was followed in 2011. The oath of office taken in 2011 was the first oath taking by the first respondent as an elected President having fulfilled all the process of election.”
The court therefore upheld the decision of the lower court which dismissed Mr. Njoku’s suit for lack of locus standi.
It noted that “it is fundamental that where a party lacks locus, the court cannot assume jurisdiction.”
“We agree with the lower court that the appellant has no locus to sue,” the court held.
On the cause of action, the court held that the case of the appellant was “speculative and imaginary as none of the reliefs he sought accrued to him any benefit”.
The court had earlier noted that a cause of action is what gives right to a plaintiff to sue in a matter.
The court awarded the sum of N50,000 each as cost to the defendant.