UPDATE: Supreme Court dismisses perjury suit against Buhari

Condemns use of govt lawyer for private matter

The Supreme Court, on Monday, dismissed the suit seeking the disqualification of President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 23, 2019 presidential election over an alleged act of perjury.

The appellants, Kalu Kalu, Labaran Ismail and Hassy El-Kuris had prayed the Apex Court to nullify the candidacy of President Buhari in the presidential election over allegations of perjury.

The move to ventilate their grievances was occasioned by the dismissal of their suit at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, on grounds that it was statute barred and as such cannot be heard.

The appellants specifically want Buhari’s nomination and subsequent victory at the February 23 presidential election nullified on the grounds that President Buhari lied on oath in his form CF001 he submitted to INEC for the purpose of clearance for the presidential election.

But the Apex Court, in the judgment on Monday, dismissed the appeal shortly after it was withdrawn by the appellants’ counsel, Ukpai Ukairo following hints from the court that it was pointless going ahead with the matter having been caught up by the Fourth Alteration to the 1999 constitution.

Though, the lawyer advanced several reasons to convince the court that it was not statute-barred the justices, however, drew his attention to Buhari’s form CF001 which was the bone of contention, which was received by INEC on October 14, whereas the case was instituted in the middle of November thereby indicating that the suit, being a pre-election matter was filed outside the 14 days provided by the law.

Following the hint, the appellants’ counsel subsequently withdrew the action and the suit was dismissed without cost in the unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Odili.

The Supreme Court, however, frowned at the appearance of a Principal State Counsel from Federal Ministry of Justice, Abdullahi Abubakar for president Buhari in a personal litigation.

The Supreme Court held that the action of the lawyer contravenes the Provisions of the code of conduct for public officers.

The panel cited the case of former American president Bill Clinton, who throughout his tenure never engage public funds to run personal litigation, adding that same must be applicable to Nigeria since the country is copying the American system of government.

Abubakar had announced his appearance for the first respondent (General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd) in the suit.

But, Odili in the 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.

The appellants’ 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.

They had approached the apex court to nullify the candidacy of President Buhari in the just concluded presidential poll over allegations of perjury.

The appellants specifically wanted Buhari’s nomination and subsequent victory at the February 23 presidential election nullified on the grounds that President Buhari lied on oath in his form 001 that he submitted to 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.

Among the reliefs sought is 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.

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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 Court of Appeal 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.

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.

The appellants had through their counsel, Ukpai Ukairo, presented 12 grounds in urging appellate court to nullify and set aside the Judgment of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court which declined to hear their suit instituted to challenge the educational qualification of President Buhari before the conduct of the 2019 general election.

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.

Though the appellate court agreed with the trial court that the suit was statute-barred having filed out of time, it, however, disagreed with the trial court on the date the cause of action took place.

Justice Ahmed Mohammed had in his judgment held that the cause of action took place on September 28, 2018, when the APC held its primary election to select a candidate of the party in the 2019 general election.

But the appellate court however held that the cause of action took place on October 18, 2018, the date Buhari submitted his form 001 to INEC for the purpose of clearance for the presidential election.

The appellants had filed the suit on November 5, 2018, claiming October 25, the date INEC published the list of successful candidates in the 2019 general election as the date the cause of action arose, making the suit to be competent.

The three man panel of the justices of the Court of Appeal had also dismissed the suit based on the preliminary objection filed by the APC’s lawyer challenging the jurisdiction of the suit on the grounds that it is incompetent.

The justices held that the failure of the Registrar of the Federal High Court to transmit the record of proceedings was fatal to the originating summons and makes the suit incompetent.

The decision had prompted the appellants to approach the apex court in their further quest for justice.

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