There was anxiety in the camp of the All Progressives Congress on Tuesday as a Federal High Court in Abuja fixed Wednesday (today) for further proceedings in one of the suits challenging the eligibility of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari(retd.), to contest in Saturday’s presidential election.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola is to rule on fresh applications by intended parties seeking to join the suits as defendants.
The judge fixed Wednesday (today) for the ruling after hearing the intended parties’ applications on Tuesday.
Those whose applications for joining the suit as defendants were heard on Tuesday are Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, Chukwuma Ochu, Sunusi Musa, Ahmed Maitarki and the Fiscal and Civil Rights Enlightenment Foundation.
The suit was filed on January 26, 2015 by a lawyer, Chukwunweike Okafor, asking the court to declare Buhari ineligible to contest the presidential election slated for Saturday over his (Buhari’s) alleged failure to submit his school certificate along with his Form CF001 to INEC.
The Plaintiff’s counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), had in his objection to the applications of the intended defendants, described the applicants as interlopers.
The existing defendants in the suit are the Independent National Electoral Commission, Buhari and the APC.
Earlier on Tuesday, the judge ruled that he would hear both the main suit and Buhari’s preliminary applications challenging the court’s jurisdiction together.
The plaintiff, through his counsel, Ozekhome, insisted that both the main suit and the preliminary applications should be heard together.
But Buhari and the APC had urged the court to hear and determine their preliminary applications which bordered on the court’s jurisdiction first before entertaining the main suit.
The court agreed with the plaintiff and ruled that he would entertain the preliminary applications and the main suit together.
But when the suit will be heard depends on the outcome of the court’s ruling on the applications of intended parties in the suit.
Buhari and the APC had challenged the mode of service of the plaintiff’s originating summons on them, insisting that the issue bordered on the jurisdiction of the court.
Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), who is representing Buhari and Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), counsel for the APC, had while opposing the plaintiff’s prayer to quickly hear the suit, argued that there was no law stipulating that pre-election cases must be heard before the conduct of the elections.
There are about 10 suits instituted against Buhari’s eligibility to participate in the presidential election.
The plaintiff argued that failure of Buhari to submit his school certificate to INEC contravened provisions of sections 131 and 318 of the 1999 Constitution and section 31(3) of the Electoral Act, 2010.
APC warns against disqualifying Buhari
Before the court’s sitting, the APC warned against any orchestrated and last-minute disqualification of Buhari in order to pave the way for an easy victory for President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party.
The APC, through a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, also cautioned against another postponement of the elections.
It said, ‘If it is true, as it is being widely speculated across the country, that the Jonathan administration has procured a judgment to disqualify the APC presidential candidate on Wednesday(today), when the Federal High Court in Abuja is expected to rule on the issue, then it portends a great danger for the nation.”
The party said in addition to other reasons, the six-week postponement of the elections might have been used by those who never wanted the polls to hold to shop for such a “satanic judgment.”
The statement partly read, ‘’Anyone who will disqualify a presidential candidate on the eve of an election can only have one and only one purpose for that: to trigger chaos and pandemonium across the country.
“Perhaps, this is the reason for the deployment of troops across the country to crack down on possible protests and create confusion.
‘’Then, those who orchestrated the disqualification will simply use what they expect to be angry reactions nationwide as an excuse to postpone the elections again, thus triggering a constitutional crisis, the end of which no one can predict.
‘’This is why we are hoping that good reason will prevail and nothing will be done, deliberately, to plunge Nigeria into crisis by the same people who have always been quick to say their political ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian.’’
When contacted, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Abdullahi Jalo, said, “By now, Nigerians have become accustomed to the antics of the opposition. I don’t think anybody takes them seriously any more.”