Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Supreme Court will on Monday, September 2, begin hearings in the appeal seeking the disqualification of President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 Presidential Election over an alleged act of perjury.
The appellants, Kalu Kalu, Labaran Ismail and Hassy El-Kuris had approached the Supreme Court to nullify the candidacy of President Buhari in the February presidential poll over allegations of perjury.
The appeal, lodged by a legal practitioner and two others, is one among others slated for Monday, by the Supreme Court.
The appeal is against the decision of the Court of Appeal which dismissed their case on grounds that it was statute barred and as such cannot be heard.
The appellants specifically want the President’s nomination and subsequent victory at the February 23 Presidential Election nullified on the grounds that President Buhari had lied under oath in his Clearance Form 001 submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as a formal requisite to participate in the election.
In the Notice of Appeal marked CA/A/436/2019, the appellants are asking the apex court for an order to set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal and hear the matter on merit and grant the reliefs sought in the Originating Summons.
The Court of Appeal, in a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Mohammed Idris, had on July 12, 2019, held that the singular fact that the suit was filed outside the 14 days provided by the law robbed the court of jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
The suit was accordingly dismissed for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
In the Notice of Appeal dated and filed July 24, 2019, the appellants through their counsel, Ukpai Ukairo, presented 12 grounds for the setting aside of the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Abuja, amongst which are:
“That the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law in relying on a Preliminary Objection withdrawn and struck out by the Court of Appeal in striking out and dismissing the appeal.
“The Learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law and breached the right of the Appellants to fair hearing by relying on a Preliminary Objection, withdrawn by the 2nd Respondent and struck out by the Court, thus being a case not made out or relied upon or abandoned by a party in entering a decision in a judgment.
“The Learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law in holding that ‘the failure of the Registrar to sign the Originating Summons is fatal and goes to the issue of jurisdiction’ and thereby struck out the Originating Summons.
“The Learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law in holding that delving into the other issues raised in the appeal will be regarded as an academic exercise as the case has been held to have been statute barred by virtue of Section 285(9) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) 4th alteration and robs this court of its jurisdiction.”
According to Ukairo, the appellants in the brief of argument distilled two issues for determination:
(i) Whether the Learned Trial Judge was right in relying on the processes filed by the 1st defendant through a Law Officer in the Ministry of Justice?
(ii) Whether the Learned Trial Judge was right in holding that the suit was statute-barred by computing the number of days from the 28th day of September, 2018 when the 2nd Respondent held its primary election wherein the 1st Respondent was elected as a candidate of the 2nd Respondent?
The appellants had approached the appellate court to nullify and set aside the judgment of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court, which declined to hear their suit instituted to challenge the educational qualification of President Buhari before the conduct of the 2019 general election.
But the appellate court, in a judgement delivered, held that the suit had been cut up by the Fourth Alteration to the 1999 Constitution which stipulates a 14-days period within which an election matter must be filed.
Though the appellate court agreed with the trial court that the suit was statute barred, having filed out of time, it, however, disagreed with the trial court on the date the cause of action took place.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed had in his judgment held that the cause of action took place on September 28, 2018 when the All Progressives Congres (APC) held its primary election to select candidate of the party in the 2019 general election.
However, the appellate court held that the cause of action took place on October 18, 2018, the date Buhari submitted his form 001 to the INEC for the purpose of clearance for the presidential election.
The appellants had filed the suit on November 5, 2018, claiming October 25, the date the INEC published the list of successful candidates in the 2019 General Election, as the date the cause of action arose, making the suit to be competent.
The three-man panel of the justices of the Court of Appeal had also dismissed the suit based on the preliminary objection filed by the APC’s lawyer challenging the jurisdiction of the suit on the grounds that it is incompetent.
The justices held that the failure of the Registrar of the Federal High Court to transmit the record of proceedings was fatal to the Originating Summons and makes the suit incompetent.
The decision prompted the appellants to approach the apex court in their further quest for justice.
Kalu Kalu, Labaran Ismail and Hassy El-Kuris had approached the appellate court to nullify and set aside the judgment of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court, which declined to hear their suit instituted to challenge the educational qualification of President Buhari before the conduct of the 2019 General Election.
Among the reliefs sought are a declaration that Buhari submitted false information regarding his qualification and certifcate to the INEC for the purpose of contesting election into the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; and that he should be disqualified.
They also prayed for an order of court directing the INEC to remove Buhari’s name as a candidate of the APC and another order restraining Buhari from parading himself as a candidate in the 2019 presidential election, and also the APC from recognizing Buhari as a candidate.
The Federal High Court had on May 2 declined to grant the request of the appellants on the grounds that the suit was not filed within the time allowed by law and, therefore, sustained the preliminary objection raised by the President at the hearing.