Two applications brought by new parties seeking to be joined as defendants in a suit filed against the All Progressives Congress, APC presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday stalled proceedings in the case.
It would be recalled that since Buhari’s emergence as APC candidate, so many cases have been filed challenging his eligibility to contest for president on account of a West African School Certificate which they alleged he does not possess.
At Tuesday’s resumed sitting slated for hearing, two new intended parties, Olu-Ebun Adegboruwa from Lagos and Chukwu Oshu from Rivers, represented by their counsel, sought to be joined as fourth and fifth defendants.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola had to hear the submissions of Adegboruwa’s counsel, Mr David Fadile, and Oshu’s counsel, Mr Ajayi Olowo, who gave reasons for their clients’ wish to be joined as defendants in the suit.
They argued that their clients are lawyers and registered voters and Nigerian citizens who would not fold their arms and watch things that would jeopardize their interest continue without being joined in order to protect their interests.
Justice Ademola, therefore, fixed Wednesday, March 25 for ruling on the joinder applications before further proceedings in the case.
The judge, in a short ruling, also decided that he would be taking all the plethora of processes filed before him together with the substantive suit.
He gave the ruling after listening to the submissions of Mr Mike Ozekhome, SAN, the plaintiffs’ lead counsel and Mr Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, the defendants’ lead counsel.
Mr Chukwunweike Okafor, one of the plaintiffs in the seven suits, now consolidated, is seeking an order compelling Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to disqualify Buhari from contesting the March 28 polls.
Okafor is urging the court to hold that Buhari’s claim in his Form CF001 that his West African School Certificate was with the Nigerian Army, is false, thereby disqualifying him from contesting the election.
He therefore prayed the court to give an order compelling INEC to remove Buhari’s name and that of the APC from the list of persons and political parties eligible to contest for the office of President of Nigeria.
Okafor had joined Buhari, the APC and INEC as the three defendants in the suit.
Fagbemi who led Buhari’s team of lawyers comprising six Senior Advocates of Nigeria, had submitted in their preliminary objection that all the suits were targeted at stopping Buhari from participating in the polls.
He also argued that no court has the power to stop INEC from conducting the March 28 presidential election and urged the court to discountenance the plaintiffs’ suit.
Fagbemi further argued that Section 87 (11) of the Electoral Act cautions courts not to do anything or take action or issue any injunction that will stop the holding of primary or general elections.
According to him, the issue of legality of the service of the court process on Buhari, which he argued, was not properly done, should be determined first before hearing the substantive suit.
However, Ozekhome, in his submission, urged the court to expedite hearing on the suit to enable it determine the fate of the APC candidate before the March 28 poll.
Opposing Ozekhome’s submission, Fagbemi argued that the suits were pre-election matters that could be heard and determined even after the election.
Mr Hassan Liman, INEC counsel, in his submission, also objected to the consolidation of the originating summons and the preliminary objections for hearing.