The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Tuesday, March 3, 2015 ruled unanimously in favour of President Goodluck Jonathan to contest the Saturday, March 28, 2015 presidential election.
The 5-man panel said the suite filed by a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Cyriacus Njoku challenging President Jonathan’s re-election bid on the grounds that he had taken the oath of office twice, was not founded in the laws of Nigeria.
The appellate court said that the first oath taken by President Jonathan on Thursday, May 6, 2010 was for him to complete the tenure of deceased President Umaru Musa Yar’adua in accordance with section 146(1) of the Nigerian constitution, while he took his first substantive oath as President of Nigeria on Sunday, May 29, 2011.
Delivering the lead judgement was Justice Abubakar Yahaya, who said President Jonathan had only been elected as President only once, and could not be disqualified unless his 2010 oath was a fallout of an election, prompting their affirmation of a previous verdict by trial Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi of the FCT High Court on Friday, March 1, 2013.
Njoku was also directed pay N50,000 both President Jonathan and PDP as his appeal lacked merit.
Justice Yahaya said: “Our constitution is the grand norm and it is sacrosanct. The 1999 constitution is the foundation upon which the democracy we practice is anchored. It is therefore a document that must be respected, appreciated and obeyed by all of us.
“The words of the constitution best conveys the mind of the framers. A court of law is bound to consider in its entirety, the relevant portions of the constitution in order to arrive at a logical conclusion.
“When relevant provisions are read together, the words used, if plain and unambiguous, must be given their clear meaning.
“In the instant appeal, it is not controverted that the oath the 1st Respondent took in 2007 as a result of the joint election he had with late President Yar’adua, was the oath for an elected Vice President as it was Yar’adua that took oath of presidency.
“On May 6, 2010 the 1st Respondent who was then the Vice President, took oath of presidency by virtue of section 146(1) of the constitution to complete the un-expired tenure of Yar’adua.
“Section 137(1)(b) disqualifies a person from standing for election for office of president if he had been elected into the office for two previous elections. So the operative word is election. The disqualification is to stop the person from participating in election again if he has been so elected twice.
“So the word election used in section 137(1) (b) of the 1999 constitution when given its ordinary grammatical meaning, connote a process where voting is employed to choose a person for the post of presidency.
“Primary election , nomination, voting, collating and announcement of result must of necessity take place. That is the mode prescribed in the constitution for the election of a president into office. This did not take place when the 1st Respondent took oath in 2010.
“Stepping in of the Vice President after the death of the President cannot be deemed an election, especially for the purpose of taking away a right that has been constitutionally vested.
“All the aforementioned processes, starting with party primaries, can be challenged in the court of law and if it succeed the outcome of an election annulled. However, if the Vice President succeeds a President that has died, such cannot be challenged in court as it is a constitutional requirement.
“The process that produced the 1st Respondent as President in 2010, was not an election as no single vote was cast.
“This was dramatically different from what happened in 2011 when he was nominated, elected and declared winner. That was the first election he took and his first election as a President.”