By Vivian Okejeme Abuja
The Supreme Court has dismissed a suit seeking the disqualification of President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 presidential election over alleged perjury.
The appellants, Kalu Kalu, Labaran Ismail and Hassy El-Kuris, specifically wanted Buhari’s nomination and subsequent victory at the Feb. 23 presidential election nullified on the grounds that President Buhari lied on oath in his form 001 that he submitted to Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, for the purpose of clearance for the presidential election.
They asked the apex court for an Order to set aside the judgment of the court of appeal and hear the matter on merit and grant the reliefs sought in the Originating Summons.
Delivering judgment, the Justice Mary Odili-led panel of five justices held that the case was statute-barred.
Mr Abdullahi Abubakar, announced appearance for the 1st respondent, Muhammad Buhari.
Reacting, Justice Odili’s panel question why State Counsel from the Federal Ministry of Justice will be representing a private individual.
Another justice, Muhammad Dattijo, warned him to desist from such act of using public office to defend private litigation as it contravene the Code of Conduct for public servants who have consequences.
Odili in her judgment said, ‘the court notes the inappropriate appearance of Mr Abdullahi Abubakar state counsel from the Federal Ministry of Justice, representing the first respondent Gen. Muhammad Buhari Rtd in his personal capacity.
“This practice must be discouraged, appeal haven been withdrawn is hereby dismissed,” Odili said.
The justices had warned Abubakar
The appellant’s grievances had arisen from the dismissal of their suit at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, on grounds that it was statute-barred and as such could not be heard.
The appellants sought for a declaration that Buhari submitted false information regarding his qualification and certificate 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 the 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 recognising Buhari as a candidate.
The Federal High Court had in May 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 at the hearing.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed had in his judgment held that the cause of action took place on Sept. 28, 2018, when the APC held its primary election to select the candidate of the party in the 2019 general election.
Consequent to the ruling, the appellant went to the Court of Appeal court to nullify and set aside the Judgment of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court which declined to hear their suit.
The Appeal court in a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Mohammed Idris had on July 12, held that the singular fact that the suit was filed outside the 14 days provided by the law robbed the court of jurisdiction to entertain it.
But the appellate court in a judgement delivered held that the suit had been caught up by the Fourth Alteration to the 1999 Constitution which stipulates a 14 days’ time period within which an election matter must be filed.
Again, not satisfied with the decision of the Appeal court headed to the Supreme court for redress.
The appellants had through their counsel, Ukpai Ukairo, presented 12 grounds for the setting aside of the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
According to them, ”Learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law in relying on a Preliminary Objection withdrawn and struck out by the Court of Appeal in striking out and dismissing the appeal.
“The Learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law and breached the right of the appellants to fair hearing by relying on a preliminary objection, withdrawn by the 2nd Respondent and struck out by the Court, thus being a case not made out or relied upon or abandoned by a party in entering a decision in a judgment.
“They erred in law in holding that ‘the failure of the Registrar to sign the Originating Summons is fatal and goes to the issue of jurisdiction’ and thereby struck out the Originating Summons.
Supreme court, in its judgement, yesterday, dismissed the appeal on the ground that the case was statute-barred.