An Abuja Federal High Court on Tuesday fixed February 11 for hearing in a fresh suit seeking to disqualify President Goodluck Jonathan from contesting the February 14 presidential election.
The trial judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, fixed the date after listening to counsel to the plaintiffs, Yusuf Alli, and Mr. Jonathan’s counsel, Olatunji Salau.
The plaintiffs, Tunde Samuel, Junaidu Mohammed, Rasak Adeogun and Yahaya Ndu, in the originating summons, prayed the court to restrain Mr. Jonathan from contesting in the election.
The plaintiffs contended that Mr. Jonathan is constitutionally ineligible for re-election because to do otherwise was tantamount to allowing him spend more than eight years assigned for anyone to serve as president.
The plaintiffs also urged the court to declare that it was unconstitutional for any person to occupy the office of president for more than a cumulative period of eight years.
According to them, such a scenario can only happen when the country is at war.
They noted that in computing the period Mr. Jonathan has already spent in office as president, the period from May 6, 2010 to May 28, 2011 should be reckoned with.
They, therefore, prayed the court to declare that having spent a period of more than four years in office from May 6, 2010, Mr. Jonathan is ineligible to contest for another term.
Two similar cases are pending before the same court, while another is before the Court of Appeal for determination.
In one of the cases, Justice Ahmed Mohammed of an Abuja Federal High Court on Monday had on December 16 adjourned a suit filed by Olatoye Wahab and Adejumo Ajegbe till January 12, 2015.
Justice Mohammed said he would rule on the application on January 12, after he listened to the submissions of both counsel to the plaintiffs and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke.
The plaintiffs had urged the court to determine whether the president was constitutionally eligible to seek re-election, having participated as candidate and emerged winner in two previous presidential elections.
They contended that Mr. Jonathan had in 2007 contested and won presidential election on a joint ticket with late President Umaru Yar’Adua and in 2011, thereby taking oath of office twice.
They argued that Mr. Jonathan would have been sworn-in twice and spent a commutative period of more than eight years as prescribed by the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The plaintiffs also argued that by the combined effect of Section 135(2) (a) and (b) of the Nigerian Constitution, a person sworn-in twice as President is deemed to have been elected to that office twice.
They, therefore, urged the court to determine whether Mr. Jonathan, having been elected and sworn-in twice, would not have exhausted the constitutionally allowed maximum of two terms if allowed to seek re-election.
The Counsel to the plaintiffs, Mahmoud Magaji that December 16, 2014 brought an application seeking to transfer the suit to the Court of Appeal for determination.
The application was opposed by the Attorney-General of the Federation’s counsel, who argued that “the Federal High Court is constitutionally empowered to interpret the constitution and determine the case.”
He said that the case bordered on interpretation of the provisions of the constitution and referring it to the Court of Appeal would amount to the trial court abandoning its responsibility.
Justice Mohammed, therefore, adjourned the case until January 12, 2015 for ruling on the application.
But the judge could not rule because judiciary workers were on strike for most of January and the courts were largely closed.