LEGAL experts have faulted the suit challenging the right for the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari to contest the Saturday, February 14, 2015 election on grounds of not possessing the basic qualification to run for the highest office in the land.
They aired their views in phone interviews with ENCOMIUM Weekly on Saturday, January 31, 2015.
‘The case will fail’ – AGBAJE
In his reaction, constitutional lawyer, Chief Fred Agbaje categorically stated that the litigants are jokers. He also predicted that the case against Buhari will fail.
“The case will fail. INEC had since cleared him without any eye brow. What is the locus standi of those busy bodies in court? They’re just attention seekers. Constitutionally, Buhari is pre-eminently qualified. He has over met the requirements of the constitution, that is, School Certificate Attempted! Buhari’s military qualifications are mere additional mathematics, having initially met the requirements of the constitution. Those challenging Buhari’s pre-eminent qualifications have no job to do. They’re grave diggers.”
‘It would be difficult to nail BUHARI on forgery and perjury’ – ITODO
Similarly, another legal luminary, Barrister John Itodo has also stated his position on the matter. In his elaborate submission, Itodo noted that it would be a herculean task to prove the allegation of perjury and forgery against the former Head of State. He, however, urged the National Assembly to raise the basic qualification to run for President to at least a university degree since the office requires more serious and educated minds.
“Please, note that legally speaking, Buhari is innocent of any allegation against him until the contrary is proven. Anything short of that validates his eligibility and it is only a court of law, a competent one at that, that can invalidate his nomination on account of the allegations against him.
“It is germane to note that the onus is on the person who asserts the allegations to prove them against him. In this case, some members of the public alleged that Buhari forged his certificate, has committed perjury, amongst other allegations. The burden on them does not end at alleging, they have the task of proving every ingredient of the offence of forgery and perjury under the law and I kid you not, it’s an herculean task to do.”
The legal expert went on to educate us on what the Nigerian constitution says about eligibility to contest for the office of the President.
“A person shall be qualified for election to the office of President if
- a) He is a Citizen of Nigeria by birth;
- b) He has attained the age of forty years;
- c) He is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party; and
- d) He has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.
On this point reference is made to Section 131 (a)-(d) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as
“These are the basic requirements for a presidential candidate in Nigeria. I am very concerned that our laws still retain these requirements at this time and age.”
“Let’s look at the first requirement – Citizenship by birth- Section 25 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). This has the potential of disqualifying some people in the near future, especially those born outside Nigeria, whose parents and grandparents were/are born outside Nigeria as well. Those who rush abroad to give birth should mind this provision so they don’t by their own design put paid to their children’s political ambition for the highest political position in Nigeria.”
“The most unfortunate requirement is the School Certificate/or its equivalent clause. This is absolutely ridiculous for a time and age as ours currently. I urge the Legislature to do something about that requirement. Allowing a school cert holder control the machinery of government in a country as ours blessed with highly educated personalities including a Nobel Laureate in Literature and others doing marvels in sciences, medicine, law, engineering, etc, is a slur on our collective sensibility. In fact, it’s akin to a School Certificate Holder heading a large corporation like the CBN, NNPC, Shell, Microsoft, Chevron, General Electric, Dangote Group, KPMG, etc. Imagine what will happen to such corporation, especially when they are other better qualified, highly literate persons in that organisation.
“As unfortunate as this is, that is the law as it is and it must be followed as it is until repeal or amended.”
‘INEC has cleared him’ – UBANI
Also commenting on the case before an Abuja High Court, former Chairman of Nigeria Bar Association, Ikeja branch, Barrister Monday Ubani said, that INEC has already cleared him. He also argued that nothing again is an issue when it comes to the APC presidential flag bearer’s qualification.
“There is no strong case against Buhari on issue of his educational qualification. INEC has cleared him in accordance with the provisions of the constitution. The constitution gives INEC power to accept any qualification that it deems satisfactory. In any case, his former school has written out his statement of result that showed his grades in 1961 and made it public. So, what again is even the issue? Ignore those who are making noise instead of addressing issues that are bedeviling the country. Their enterprise will not succeed. Buhari is eminently qualified to run for the office of the president.”
Other legal professionals ENCOMIUM Weekly’s reporters consulted declined comments on grounds that their statement might be sub-judice (influence the decision of the court).
An Abuja- based lawyer, Mr Chukwunweike Okafor, last week, approached the Federal High Court, Abuja, seeking a special hearing to determine the eligibility or otherwise of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), General Muhammadu Buhari, over his academic qualifications. Okafor, a senior partner at Emerald Attorneys & Solicitors, appealed to the Chief Judge of the court to set up a panel that should urgently begin hearing on the case. The case, according to the claimant, is brought based on Section 131 of the Constitution, which prescribes a minimum qualification for a candidate to participate in Presidential Elections and Section 31 of the Electoral Act that stipulates that all presidential candidates must depose to affidavits indicating their compliance with constitutional requirements to be president.
He claimed that Buhari failed to prove that he has the minimum educational qualification to run for president in next month’s election. He added that, “General Buhari’s affidavit that he possesses the West African School Leaving Certificate (WASC) is false, as not only did he not attach it to his nomination form, as compulsorily required, but his claim that the Certificates are in the custody of the Military has been denied by the Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Olajide Laleye.”
Mr. Okafor, therefore, requested the court to disqualify Buhari, the retired Major General and former military head of state, from contesting the 2015 presidential election.
This, according to him, is provided by Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act that allows a person that has reasonable grounds to believe that false information has been given by a candidate in his Affidavit or document submitted to INEC, in support of his nomination Form, to approach the Court for the candidate to be disqualified.
He said the suit had been ready since January 6, but could not be filed due to the nation-wide strike by judicial workers. The lawyer emphasized the need to commence hearing on the case as a result of the nature and urgency of this matter which borders on the qualification or non-qualification of Buhari.
“My Lord, we have reviewed all the documents published by the Independent National Electoral Commission and inclusive of the said documents is the affidavit deposed by General Muhammadu Buhari which clearly shows that the nomination of General Muhammadu Buhari by the All Progressives Congress does not meet the minimum requirement enshrined in Section 31 (d) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We have formed a strong case to be made for the qualification or non-qualification of General Muhammadu Buhari to contest as the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the 2015 elections,” Mr. Okafor averred.
Interestingly, General Buhari had deposed to an affidavit saying his academic records and credentials were with the military. But the military authorities later addressed a press conference saying although they have some of the records of the APC candidate on file, they do not have copies of his certificates, including his West African Certificate Exams results.
Responding, Buhari expressed surprise that the military could claim not to have his results, and insisted that he indeed completed high school and passed at Division Two level.
Buhari’s WASC results as well as a master list containing the results of some of his classmates was later published by an online portal. Despite that publication, the PDP has however continued to attack the APC presidential candidate, claiming the result was not genuine. Not even the presentation of Buhari’s Statement of Result by his alma mater, Provincial Secondary School, Katsina (now Government College, Katsina) could convince his political opponents that he has Secondary School Certificate.
In fact, the Jonathan Presidential Campaign Organisation media team are alleging that the school indeed forged his Cambridge School Certificate.