Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja division has adjourned proceedings in the suit seeking the disqualification of President Muhammadu Buhari from participating in the February 16 presidential election till February 7, 2019.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed fixed the date following a request by the plaintiffs’ counsel for time to respond to the second defendant’s counter-affidavit served on him on Thursday evening.
The plaintiffs, Kalu Agu, Labaran Ismail and Hassy El-Kuris, in the suit, are alleging that the President Buhari lied in his Form CF 001 submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), regarding his educational qualification and certificates.
In the suit filed on November 5, 2018, they are therefore seeking an order of the court to disqualifying Buhari from presenting himself and or contesting for president in the 2019 election.
Defendants in the suit filed on behalf of the plaintiff by Okpai Ukiro, has President Buhari, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and INEC as 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants respectively.
When the matter was called for hearing, plaintiffs’ counsel, Godwin Haruna, who held brief for Ukpai Ukiro, informed the court that the matter was adjourned at the last sitting to January 21 for the hearing of all pending applications but was further adjourned to today January 31, since the court did not sit.
He, however, said he would be asking the court for a short adjournment to enable him to respond to the second defendant’s notice of preliminary objections which he said was filed on January 31 and served on him around 4.30pm.
Haruna who recalled that the processes were served on the APC since November 21 and they just responded only today, asked the court for a cost of N100k against the APC for foisting the adjournment on the court.
He said the defendant had been in court since but never bothered to file its response.
While counsel to President Buhari, Abdullahi Abubakar, did not object to the request for adjournment, counsel to APC, Tayo Lasaki, who said he was not opposed to the adjournment, however, said he was opposing the request for cost against him.
Lasaki said since the second defendant was challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter, it did not matter when the issue was raised.
He also argued that the request for adjournment was made by the plaintiffs and not him, adding that although the second defendant was appearing in the matter for the first time, they were, however, prepared to go on with the matter if the plaintiffs were ready.
In a short ruling, Justice Mohammed, in granting the adjournment, agreed with the second defendant that the issue of jurisdiction can be raised at any time and refused the request for the cost.
He subsequently adjourned till February 7 for the hearing of all pending applications.
Mohammed also ordered that hearing notices be served on the third defendant, INEC.
Issues raised for determination before the court in the suit marked: FHC/CS/ABJ/1310/2018, included “whether having regards to the information in the affidavit contained in the first defendant’s INEC form, CF 001 regarding his educational qualification/certificate, the first defendant had submitted false information to the third defendant.
“Whether from the facts and exhibits contained in the affidavit in support of the originating summons has regards to Section 31(5)(6) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended, the first defendant is disqualified from running for the office of president in the 2019 general election.
“Whether the first defendant, having submitted false information to the third defendant, the second defendant can validly present the first defendant as its candidate for the office of president for the 2019 general elections.”
Upon the determination of the questions, the plaintiffs, therefore, are seeking the following reliefs from the Court: “A declaration that the first defendant submitted false information regarding his educational qualification to INEC for the purpose of contesting elections into the office of president of Nigeria in the 2019 general election.
“A declaration that the president, having submitted false information regarding his educational qualification/certificate is disqualified from contesting elections into the office of president in the 2019 election”.
Consequent upon this, the plaintiffs are seeking an order of court disqualifying the president from presenting himself and or contesting for president in the 2019 general elections.
They also prayed the court for an order directing INEC to reject or remove Buhari’s name as the presidential candidate of the APC submitted to it for the 2019 presidential election.
“An order of this court restraining the president from parading himself as the presidential candidate of the APC for the 2019 general election.
“An order of the court restraining the APC from parading Buhari as its presidential candidate in the 2019 general elections.”
In a 40-paragraph affidavit, the plaintiffs, who claimed to be card-carrying members of the APC, said based on the alleged false information the president submitted to INEC, he lacked the honour and integrity required for the lofty office of president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.