President Goodluck Jonathan and his Vice, Namadi Sambo have filed a notice of preliminary objection at a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, asking the court to dismiss the legal action challenging their eligibility to contest the 2015 Presidential election.
The objection of the duo is that the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the suit filed by one Mase Daphine Acho, and two others.
According to the Notice of Preliminary Objection filed by the legal team of the first and second defendants, led by Mr Ade Okeaya-Inneh, SAN, and Dr Fabian Ajogwu SAN, the plaintiffs lacked the requisite standing in law to institute the action.
Specifically, the President’s counsel cited the Supreme Court judgment in 1981 in the matter between Senator Abraham Adesanya and the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and others, as reported in All Nigerian Law Reports part 1.
Accordingly, the court ruled “that to entitle a person to invoke judicial power to determine the constitutionality of legislative or executive action, he must show that either his personal interest will immediately be or has been adversely affected by the action or that he has sustained or is in immediate danger of sustaining an injury to himself, and which interest of injury is over and above that of the general public.”
The counsel relied on the Supreme Court ruling in the case between Agip Nigeria Limited and Agip Petroli International and Others decided in 2010 and reported in the Nigerian Weekly Law Report (Part 1187), in respect of their position that the facts constituting the Plaintiffs’ cause of action were “speculative, academic and conjectural as a matter of law,” The court held that: “It is trite principle also that a court should not decide a case on mere conjecture or speculation. Courts of laws are courts of facts and laws. They decide issues on facts established before them and on laws. They must avoid speculation.”
The defence team also requested proof that the plaintiffs/respondents had not disclosed any sufficient interest to warrant a claim in public or private law.
The particulars of objection stressed that the first and second defendants enjoy immunity from civil and criminal proceedings in their personal capacities.
It relied on Section 308 of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution which rules out civil or criminal proceedings against the President, the Vice President, state governor and the Deputy Governor while they remain in office.
In their written address, the President and his deputy contended that the plaintiff/respondents had on the processes filed not shown any private law nexus with the defendants with regard to the cause of action.
They averred: “The question therefore is whether the plaintiff/respondents satisfied the test of locus standi in public law as laid by the courts in order to be able to maintain this action. The test is whether they have sufficient interest to maintain this action for the interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution. My Lord, the irresistible answer based on the specific facts of the case is in the negative.”
According to the defendants/applicants, locus standi is a threshold issue and the root of the entire action vis-à-vis the jurisdiction of the court itself. It argued: “In other words, where the plaintiffs lack locus standi to institute an action, the court invariably lacks jurisdiction to entertain the said action. Locus standi is a condition precedent and fundamental to the institution of any matter before a court. A party prosecuting an action would have locus standi where the reliefs claimed confer some benefit on such party.
Ruling in a suit filed by Shuaibu Lili and Richard Mnenga on March 17, 2014, Justice Evelyn Anyadike, of the Federal High Court, Kaduna had declared that President Goodluck, the first defendant, had been wrongly sued in his personal name and therefore struck out his name. She also ruled that the plaintiffs lack the requisite locus standi to initiate the suit.
On March 1, 2013, Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja had ruled in the matter brought by Cyriacius Njoku against President Jonathan and others that the latter was eligible to contest the 2015 presidential election. That suit had sought for the interpretation of Sections 135 and 137 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.