Which is easier? Hiring 13 senior lawyers to build a team of 23 lawyers to defend a lawsuit in the Nigerian legal system or write to Cambridge and request for your WAEC certificate?
Following a setback in his bid to stop a lawsuit based on the his inability to produce his WAEC certificate, President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed the ruling of Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court in Abuja who had in May, 2015 dismissed his preliminary objection in a suit filed by an Abuja-based legal practitioner, Mr. Nnamdi Nwokocha-Ahaaiwe.
The president’s legal team is made up of 13 senior advocates of Nigeria, SAN, and is led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN). The other lawyers on Buhari’s defence team are Mr. Lateef O. Fagbemi (SAN), Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN), Oluwarotimi O. Akeredolu (SAN), Kola Awodein (SAN), Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN), Charles Edosomwan (SAN), Emeka Ngige (SAN), Femi Atoyebi (SAN), Femi Falana (SAN), Funke Aboyade (SAN), H.O. Afolabi (SAN), Muiz Banire (SAN). Ten other lawyers are on the team.
Nwokocha-Ahaaiwe is challenging Buhari’s eligibility to contest for the office of president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria because he did not sit for the Cambridge West African School Certificate (WASC) in 1961 as he claimed in his form submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
When the suit came up on May 26, Buhari in his preliminary objection challenged the mode of service of the originating summons on him, insisting that he ought to have been served at an address in Kaduna instead of by substituted means at the national secretariat of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja.
The court was satisfied that if it was served on a senior officer of the APC at the national headquarters, it would be brought to Buhari’s attention.
Buhari’s aides in Aso Rock were thrown into panic when Justice Ademola dismissed the president’s challenge to the suit on May 26, 2016 and ruled that the case must continue. This development was received with shock by the presidency as members of Buhari’s government had forgotten about the existence of the court case.
The Trent learnt that the ruling took Buhari and his aides by surprise as they all thought the matter of the ‘missing WAEC certificate’ had been laid to rest when Buhari won the elections.
Buhari has directed his legal team to file a notice of appeal at the Court of Appeal, Abuja Judicial Division presenting seven grounds of appeal.
When contacted on the phone, by ThisDay, the plaintiff, Nwokocha-Ahaaiwe said the president has the constitutional right of appeal and was within his rights to exercise it particularly since he had not yet submitted a defence to the substantive action and had filed nothing in defence of the merits of the case.
The principal registrar of the Federal High Court, Ms. Jane Egbo had issued a summons to the parties to the suit to appear before her on Monday, June 13, 2016 to “settle the records of the president’s appeal”.
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that the plaintiff has filed an application to amend his originating summons to include prayers for the nullification of the election of Buhari, as he was not qualified ab initio to contest the election having contravened the Electoral Act and committed perjury in claiming to have had a WASC when he never even sat for the examination.
The plaintiff also wants to add prayers for the court to order the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Buhari and issue a fresh one to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who came second in the 2015 presidential election.
The plaintiff’s motion on notice for amendment of his originating summons has been served on all the defendants and will come up for hearing on Thursday, June 16, 2016.