Appellants head for Supreme Court
The Abuja division of the Court of Appeal on Friday dismissed a suit challenging the qualification of President Muhammadu Buhari for the 2019 presidential election.
The appellate court in a judgement delivered held that the suit has been cut up by the Fourth Alteration to the 1999 Constitution which stipulate a 14 days time period within which an election matter must be filed.
The Court of Appeal in a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Mohammed Idris 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.
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 APC held its primary election to select candidate of the party in the 2019 general election.
But the appellate court however held that the cause of action took place on October 18, 2018, the date Buhari submitted his form 001 to 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 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.
Earlier, the three man panel of the justices of the Court of Appeal had 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 judge held that the failure of the Registrar of the Federal High Court to transmit the record of proceedings was fatal to the originating summon and makes the suit incompetent.
Meanwhile, the appellants have said they will appeal against the judgment. Counsel to the appellants Ukpai Ukairo speaking to journalists shortly after the judgment was delivered, noted that the court did not go into the merit of the case before dismissing the suit just like the trial judge.
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.
At the last sitting, counsel to the appellant, Ukpai Ukairo, insisted that President Buhari was not educationally qualified to have stood for the presidential poll on the grounds that the required certificates were not attached to his form CF001, submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for clearance to contest the presidential poll.
The counsel denied the claim that the suit of the appellants was statute barred, adding that the case was instituted on November 5, 2018 within the 14 days allowed by law. He said the cause of action started with the announcement and publication by INEC of successful candidates for the 2019 general election on October 25, 2018.
Ukairo therefore urged the Court of Appeal to allow the appeal and set aside the decision of the Federal High Court on grounds of miscarriage of justice.
He asked the court to nullify Buhari’s participation in the February 23 presidential election because he was not educational qualified for the poll at the time he did.
However, lawyers to the 1st and 2nd respondents urged the court to dismiss the appeal for being incompetent and lacking merit.
Buhari’s counsel, Abdullahi Abubakar, specifically told the Appeal Court that the case of the appellant was statute barred having not been filed within the mandatory period stipulated by the law.
He urged the court to uphold the decision of the Federal High Court to the effect that the suit was not filed in line with the position of the law.
Counsel to the All Progressives Congress Babatunde Ogala, aligned himself with Buhari’s submission and urged the court to dismiss the appeal, while counsel to INEC, Onyeri Anthony, said the commission is neutral and would abide by the decision of the Court.
The appellants in their appeal are asking the appellate court to reverse the judgment of Justice Ahmed Mohammed on the grounds that the processes filed by Buhari and used to strike out their suit were not competent.
While faulting the Judgment of the lower court, which was predicated on the grounds that the suit was statute barred, the appellants claimed that the Federal High Court erred in law and in its decison because they did not challenge the primary election that produced Buhari as candidate of the APC.
They therefore urged the Court of Appeal to assume jurisdiction over the suit and grant all the reliefs sought at the Federal High Court but which were refused.
Among the reliefs were a declaration that Buhari submitted false information regarding his qualification and certifcate to INEC for the purpose of contesting election into the office of the President of Nigeria and that he should be disqualified.
They also prayed for an order of court directing INEC to remove Buhari’s name as a candidate of APC and another order restraining Buhari from parading himself as a candidate in the 2019 presidential election and also 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 Buhari at the hearing.
But not satisfied, the appellants are now asking the Court of Appeal to grant their reliefs because they are not challenging the primary election of APC as erroneously held by the lower court but the qualification of Buhari to stand for the presidential election without demonstrating his educational certificates as required by law.