The All Progressives Congress and its presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, have opposed the orders of a Federal High Court in Abuja, directing that they be served through substituted means in the suit challenging Mr. Buhari’s eligibility to stand for the March 28 presidential poll.
The Judge of a Federal High Court Abuja, Adeniyi Ademola, had in two separate suits challenging Mr. Buhari’s eligibility to contest the election, last week granted ex parte orders permitting the plaintiffs, Chukwunweike Okafor and Max Ozoaka, to serve Mr. Buhari and the APC through newspaper publications.
The court had also granted an order of abridgment of time within which the defendants must respond to the suits.
The lawyers of the two plaintiffs were in court to represent their clients in the separate suits in on Monday.
The electoral empire, Independent National Electoral Commission, was also joined in the suit as defendants.
Counsels to Mr. Buhari and the APC informed the court Monday that they would file applications challenging the competence of the suits and the entire steps taken so far, including the orders of service through substituted means.
Their lawyers, Wole Olanipekun and Lateef Fagbemi, urged the court to adjourn the matter to enable them to file all the necessary documents.
Mr. Fagbemi also urged the court to set aside the order of abridgment of time within which the defendants must file their responses, arguing that the granting of the order hinged on urgency had already been diminished with the postponement of the poll from February 14 to March 28.
The judge adjourned the suits to February 23.
Apart from the two suits under consideration, at least three other suits seeking an order directing INEC to disqualify Mr. Buhari from participating in the poll are also in separate courts.
In the substantive suit, Mr. Ozoaka through his counsel Ade Okeaya-Inneh is seeking among other relief:
-“A declaration that by the combined provisions of Sections 31(1) (2) and (3) of the 2010 Electoral Act as amended and INEC Form CF 001, the 1st defendant is mandatorily obliged by the law to comply strictly with the provisions laid down under the Electoral Act as amended and INEC Form CF 001 as it relates to attaching evidence of the 1st defendants birth certificate and evidence of his educational qualifications as required under INEC Form CF 001;
-A declaration that by the combined reading of Sections 31(1)(2) (3) and 31 (8) of the Electoral Act, the 1st and 2nd defendants are mandatorily obliged by law to comply strictly with the provisions laid down under the Electoral Act vis-a-vis the filing and submission of INEC Form CF 001, by the 1st defendant attaching evidence of educational qualifications as required under the said INEC Form CF 001 and that noncompliance with this condition inherent amounts to an offence under Section 31(8) of the Electoral Act;
-A declaration that the curriculum vitae and voters registration card attached by the 1st defendant in his INEC Form CF 001 and submitted to the 2nd defendant as a presidential candidate in 2015 general election is not in conformity with the form prescribed by the Electoral Act/INEC Form CF 001 and is manifestly in contravention of the said Act/INEC Form CF 001 and therefore null and void;
-An order declaring as invalid the INEC Form CF 001 as filled by the 1st defendant as being inchoate and manifestly in contravention of the provisions of the Electoral Act/INEC Form 001 as the 1st defendant did not comply with a condition inherent/precedent in the INEC Form CF 001 submitted to the 2nd defendant, by failing and/or refusing to attach evidence of his birth certificate and educational qualifications which are conditions inherent/precedent as prescribed in the form;
-A declaration that the 1st defendant is not eligible to participate in the 2015 Presidential election for failure to comply with the terms for submission of list of candidate and affidavit of personal particulars of persons seeking election to the office of the president;
-A declaration that the sworn affidavit by the 1st defendant stating that his original certificates are presently with the Secretary Military Board cannot replace and/or satisfy the provision under INEC Form CF 001 requiring him to attach evidence of his educational qualification as such requirement is a condition inherent and a condition precedent to his eligibility to contest/participate in the 2015 presidential election;
-An order disqualifying the 1st defendant from contesting and/or participating in the presidential election fixed for the 14th February, 2015 or any other date that the 2nd defendant may fix; and
-An order restraining the 2nd defendant from permitting the 1st defendant from participating in the presidential election fixed for 14th February, 2015 or any other date that the 2nd defendant may fix.
Mr. Ozoaka also raised eight questions for the court’s determination. Among the questions are:
-Having regards to the clear, unequivocal and sacrosanct provisions of Section 31(1), (2), (3) and (5) of the Electoral Act, Cap 15 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2010 and INEC Form CF 001 which stipulates the conditions to be complied with in the submission of list of candidates and their affidavits to INEC, whether the 1st defendant herein has complied with the said law and INEC Form CF 001, when he failed to attach evidence of his educational qualifications to the INEC Form CF 001 submitted to the 2nd defendant for the purpose of the 2015 presidential election.
-Whether the curriculum vitae of the 1st defendant as attached by the 1st defendant alongside the affidavit sworn by the 1st defendant and attached in the INEC Form CF 001 to the 2nd defendant suffices and/or replaces evidence of the 1st defendant’s educational qualifications as required by INEC Form CF 001 and is in accordance with the prescribed form as stipulated by Sections 31 (1) of the Electoral Act, Cap 15 LFN, 2010.