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Tenure Suit: GEJ Says This Is My First Term As President

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ABUJA, April 15, (THEWILL) – Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has declared that he is presently serving his first four years as President as allowed by the 1999 constitution, adding that he has not announced his decision on whether he would seek a second term of four years in 2015.

In the suit before Justice Mudashiru Onyangi of an Abuja High Court, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Cyriacus Njoku, has prayed the court to block President Jonathan suspected bid to seek reelection in 2015, claiming that that he is already in his second term having taken the oath of office twice – First as Acting President after the demise of President Umaru Yar’Adua; and secondly after he was declared winner of the April 2011 Presidential election and subsequently sworn into office.

The 1999 constitution only allows two terms of 4 years apiece per citizen and Njoku is insisting that it is unconstitutional for Jonathan to be administered the oath of office thrice.

The lawsuit followed President Jonathan’s declaration a few days that he is in his first term as President. The statement was issued by his spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati.

Those joined in the suit are the President (first respondent), the PDP (second respondent), and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the third Respondent.

The plaintiff in his originating summons raised two questions for determination by the court.

They are:
"Whether Section 135(2) of the Constitution which specifies a period of four years in office for the President is only available or applicable to a person elected on the basis of an actual election or includes one in which a person assumes the position of President by operation of law as in the case of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan

"Whether Section 137(1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution which provides that a person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if he has been elected to such office at any two previous elections applies to the 1st Defendant who first took an Oath of Office as substantive President on May 6, 2010 and took a second Oath of Office as President on May 29, last year".

However, in a 15-paragraph counter affidavit deposed to by a counsel, Osahon Okeaya-Inneh in the law firm of Mr. Ade Okeaya-Inneh (SAN), President Jonathan counsel, he described the suit as frivolous and vexatious that failed to disclose reasonable cause of action.

The deponent said, "I am a counsel in the law firm of Ade Okeaya-Inneh and co. counsel to the 1st defendant in this suit, by virtue of which I am conversant with the facts of this case

"I have the consent and authority of the 1st defendant/respondent to depose to this affidavit

"When my law firm was briefed by the 1st defendant to represent him in his action, I, together with Mr. Matthew Aikhionbare (senior special assistant to the President) and Dr Reuben Abati (special adviser on media and publicity to the President) meticulously went through the 11-paragraph affidavit of the plaintiff in support of his originating summons.

"The 1st defendant is currently doing his first term of 4 years in office as the president of Nigeria as provided by the 1999 constitution as amended.

"The 1st defendant status and position is formidably backed by the 1999 constitution.

"The constitution of Nigeria only makes provisions for a president to contest for not more than 2 terms of 4 years each.

"The constitution recognizes the Executive President’s tenure of office to be 4 years.

"I was informed by Dr Reuben Abati on the April 4, 2012 at about 5.30 pm in his office and I verily believe that. The 1st defendant has not indicated or announced anywhere whether in words or in writing that he will contest for the presidential elections to be conducted in 2015.

"The late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua contested and won the presidential elections conducted in 2007 for a one term of four years. He was the president from May 29, 2007 until sometime in May 2010 when he passed on. Yar’Adua’s four years was to end in 2011."

Jonathan stated further that on May 6, 2010 he was sworn in as the president after the demise of Yar’Adua thereby completing the remainder 12 months in Yara’Adua’s 4-year tenure, adding that this is his first time he sought to be elected as President and was subsequently voted for as presidential candidate of the PDP.

While urging the court to throw out the suit, Jonathan said the plaintiff did not attach copies of his recent tax clearance certificate from Federal Inland Revenue Service and his PDP membership card as proof of who he claimed to be.

He therefore prayed the court to declare that the suit was a waste of the court’s time and purely a futile academic pursuit.

The trial judge, Justice Mudashiru Onyangi has fixed April 18 to hear Jonathan’s application for an extension of time within which his lawyer could file his memorandum of appearance and counter affidavit in response to the plaintiff’s suit dated March 20.

This is the second time that Njoku will take the President to court.

He had in August 2010 attempted to stop PDP from allowing Jonathan to participate in the PDP presidential primaries of January 2011.

Njoku, from Zuba Ward in Gwagwalada Area Council and with PDP registration number 1622735, had urged the court to ask the PDP to respect its principle on zoning formula in line with Article 7. 2(c) of the party’s constitution.

He said the declaration of Jonathan to contest the presidency on the PDP platform was contrary to Article7.2(c) of the PDP 2009 Constitution (as amended).

However the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court, Justice Lawan Gunmi did not agree with the submissions of the plaintiff and subsequently dismissed it.