Three Nigerians have filed notice of appeal at the Supreme Court on the suit challenging President Muhammadu Buhari’s academic qualification for the 2019 presidential election.
The applicants, Kalu Kalu, Labaran Ismail and Hassy Kyari el-Kuris, have approached the apex court to nullify the candidacy of Mr Buhari on academic grounds.
Their move came after the Court of Appeal struck out their suit on grounds that it was statute-barred and as such could not be heard.
The applicants specifically want Mr Buhari’s nomination and subsequent victory at the February 23 presidential election nullified on the grounds that he lied on oath in his form 001, which he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the purpose of clearance for the poll.
They are now in their appeal before the apex court seeking 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.
Appeal Court Ruling
The Court of Appeal had on July 12, in a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Mohammed Idris, 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 the suit.
The suit was accordingly dismissed for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
“We have decided to settle on the preliminary objection. To determine the issue, we have to pay serious attention to when the cause of action arose.
“I have no doubt in my mind that the cause of action arose on October 18 when the documents said to be false, that is the Curriculum Vitae and affidavit, were submitted to INEC in form CF001,” the court ruled.
It then added that based on section 285 (9) of the 1999 Constitution, the case was brought later than the stipulated period of 14 days when a pre-election matter ought to have been brought.
The court further held that even if the first part of the application had succeeded and the court agreed that the matter was not brought out of time, the stipulated period when such a pre-election matter ought to have been determined elapsed since May.
Consequently, the court ruled that it cannot accord itself any jurisdiction outside that given to it by the constitution.
The Supreme Court Appeal
But in their Notice of Appeal dated and filed July 24, the appellants through their counsel, Ukpai Ukairo, presented 12 grounds for the setting aside of the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Abuja.
Amongst these are that the “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 a 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.
“The Learned Justices of the Court of Appeal 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.
“The Learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law in holding that the cause of action for the purpose of calculating the 14 days provided for in Section 285(9) of the 1999 Constitution, (4th Alteration) Act, 2017 within which to file an action under Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act arose on the day the 1st Respondent submitted his Form CF 001 to the 3rd Respondent.
“The Learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law in holding that the Appellants did not put a date as to when the cause of action arose.
“The Learned Justices of the Court of appeal erred in law by denying the right of the Appellants to a fair hearing by failing to decide on issue one argued by the Appellants which challenged the competence of the processes filed by the 1st Respondent.
“The Learned Justice of the Court of Appeal erred in law in relying on the purpose of determining the appeal, on the processes filed by the law officers in the Ministry of Justice.
“The Learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law in holding that delving into the other issues raised in the appeal will be regarded as an academic exercise as the case has been held to have been statute-barred by virtue of Section 285(9) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) 4th alteration and robs this court of its jurisdiction.”
According to Mr Ukairo, the appellants in their brief of argument distilled two issues for determination.
The issues are, “Whether the learned trial judge was right in relying on the processes filed by the 1st defendant through a Law Officer in the Ministry of Justice?
“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 2nd Respondent?”
The High Court ruling
Meanwhile, the applicants had approached the appellate court to nullify and set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which declined to hear a suit they instituted to challenge the educational qualification of Mr Buhari before the conduct of 2019 general election.
The appellants had asked the court to reverse the judgment of Justice Ahmed Mohammed because the processes filed by Mr Buhari and used to strike out their suit were not competent.
They faulted the judgment of the lower court, which ruled that the suit was statute-barred.
They also claimed that the Federal High Court erred in law and its decision because their purpose was not to challenge the primary election that produced Mr Buhari as the candidate of the APC.
They, therefore, urged the appeal court to assume jurisdiction over the suit and grant all the reliefs sought at the Federal High Court but which were refused.
Among the reliefs sought were a declaration that Mr 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 thus be disqualified.
They also asked for an order of the court directing INEC to remove Mr Buhari’s name as a candidate of APC and another order restraining Mr Buhari from parading himself as a candidate in the 2019 presidential election and also APC from recognising Mr Buhari as a candidate.
The Federal High Court had on May 2 declined to grant the request of the appellants because the suit was not filed within the time allowed by law and therefore sustained the preliminary objection raised by Mr Buhari at the hearing.
But not satisfied, the applicants went before the Court of Appeal to grant their reliefs. They said they are not challenging the primary election of APC as held by the lower court but the qualification of Mr Buhari to stand for the presidential election without demonstrating his educational certificates as required by law.
Mr Buhari’s educational qualification is also one of the grounds upon which Atiku Abubakar and his Peoples Democratic Party want the presidential election tribunal to nullify the February election.
Mr Abubakar argues that the secondary school Mr Buhari claimed to have attended was not in existence at the time the president said he was there.
Mr Abubakar’s suit is still being heard by the tribunal.