By Vivian Okejeme Abuja
The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal has been asked to invoke its original jurisdiction to determine whether President Muhammadu Buhari supplied false information about his educational qualification and certificates.
Buhari was accused of supplied a false information in the Form CF001 submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, before the 2019 general elections
In an appeal marked CA/A/436/2019, the appeal court was asked to determine whether the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, is competent to file processes to defend the allegation that President Buhari lied on oath about his qualifications.
The appellates, Kalu Agu, Labaran Ismail and Hassy El-Kuris, challenging the dismissal of a suit they filed against President Buhari, prior to the February 23 presidential election.
Trial Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court in Abuja had in a judgment on May 2, dismissed the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1310/2018, on the premise that it was statute barred.
They had among other things, prayed the high court to determine; “Whether having regard to the information in the Affidavit contained in the 1st Defendant’s INEC FORM CF001 regarding his educational qualifications/certificates, the Defendant has submitted false information to the 3rd Defendant.
“Whether from the facts and exhibits contained in the affidavit in support of this Originating Summons, and having regard to section 31(5) and (6) of the Electoral Act, 2010 ( as amended ), the 1st Defendant is disqualified from running for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the 2019 General Elections.
Whether the 1st Defendant having submitted false information to the 3rd Defendant, the 2nd Defendant can validly present the 1st Defendant as its Candidate for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the 2019 General Elections.
“Whether the 3rd Defendant can validly receive, accept or act upon the false information in the Affidavit and documents submitted by the 1st as Candidate of the 2nd Defendant for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the 2019 General Elections.
As well as, “Whether the 3rd Defendant ought to have rejected the said false information and documents submitted by the 2nd Defendant for the 1st Defendant”.
The litigants prayed the court to hold that President Buhari was ineligible to contest the presidential election.
Meanwhile, in their four grounds of appeal, the appellant contended that the high court judge erred by relying on a preliminary objection that was filed on behalf of President Buhari by the AGF, to dismiss the suit. Citing several decided cases, the appellants argued that, “The Attorney General or a lawyer in his office cannot appear or file processes for the 1st Defendant”.
Besides, they urged the Court of Appeal to determine, “Whether the Learned Trial Judge was right in holding that the suit was statute-barred by computing the number of days from the 28th day of September, 2018 when the 2nd Respondent held its primary election wherein the 1st Respondent was elected as a candidate of the 2ndRespondent?
“Arising from the foregoing it is our submission that the Learned Trial Judge was, with respect, wrong to have held that the objection to the representation by the Attorney General and ipso facto the processes was belated in that there was no objection to the appearance of the law officers and that the Appellants reacted to the processes filed.
A court must be guided by the process before it: “It is evident from the processes and proceedings before the court that there was a frontal challenge by the Appellants to the processes filed on behalf of the 1st Respondent by the law officers. The court was bound to rule on this issue and not sweep it under the carpet.
“Howbeit, it is further submitted that it is settled law that the issue of competence of a proceedings or a process cannot be waived when the challenge goes to the fundamental nature of the process and not merely on a procedural aspect of the process: “In the circumstances of the foregoing we urge Your Lordship to hold that the reliance of the Court on the processes and the refusal to strike them out was wrong. “Further, we urge Your Lordship to reverse the decision of the Court, assume original jurisdiction on the matter and strike out all the processes filed by the 1st Respondent’s Counsel. “By Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act, it is the information given by the 1st Respondent, the candidate to the 3rd Respondent that is the subject matter of this suit.’’
President Buhari, All Progressives Congress, APC, and INEC are mentioned as defendants in the matter.