Court of Appeal, sitting in Abuja, Friday, dismissed the appeal challenging the qualification of President Muhammadu Buhari to contest the February 23 presidential election.
The court said that the suit lacked merit
In a unanimous decision, the three man panel of the appellate court, affirmed the judgment of a federal high court, that the suit filed by
Kaku Kalu, Labaran Ismail and Hassy El-Kuris, was statute barred.
Delivering the lead judgment, Justice Mohammed Idris, also held that the preliminary objection filed by the respondents succeeded on the ground that the suit was incompetent.
“The failure of the trial court judge to sign the originating summon is fatal to the suit. I uphold the preliminary objection, I strike out this suit as filed at the federal high court, the judge ruled.
On the substantive matter, Justice Idris noted that the cause of action arose when the All Progressive Congress submitted Buhari’s particulars to INEC on 18th Oct, 2018.
The appellate court disagreed with the trial court that the cause of action was on the 28 Dec, 2018, when Buhari was nominated by APC to contest the presidential election.
“It clearly arose on 18 Oct when INEC received the form.”
The Court of Appeal held that the 14 days allowed by law to file a preelection matter in this case expired on 5 Nov. 2018.
Meanwhile, counsel to the appellants, Ukpai Ukairo, had told the court 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 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 a federal high court on the ground that it will be a 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 appellants was statute barred having not been filed within the mandatory period stipulated by the law.
He urged the court to uphold the decision of a federal high court to the effect that the suit was not filed in line with the position of the law.
Counsel to the APC, Babatunde Ogala, argued in the same line with Buhari and urged the court to dismiss the appeal, while counsel to INEC, Onyeri Anthony, said the commission was neutral and would abide by the decision of the Court.
The plaintiffs had approached the appellate court to nullify and set aside the judgment of the trial court which declined to hear their suit instituted before the conduct of the 2019 general election.
The appellants in their appeal asked 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.
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.
A 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.