By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Court of Appeal in Abuja, on Monday, reserved judgment in the appeal challenging President Muhammadu Buhari’s academic qualification and his eligibility to contest the 2019 presidential election.
A three-member panel of Justices of the appellate court led by Justice Atinuke Akomolafe-Wilson okayed judgement on the matter after all the parties adopted their final briefs of argument.
Three litigants, Kalu Agu, Labaran Ismail and Hassy El-Kuris, who identified themselves as electorates and tax payers are praying the court to invoke its original jurisdiction to determine whether President Buhari supplied false information about his educational qualification and certificates, in the Form CF001 he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, before the 2019 general elections.
The appellate court is in an appeal marked CA/A/436/2019, further urged 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 trio, are 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.
Cited as defendants in the matter were President Buhari, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and INEC.
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”.
Upon determination of the questions, they prayed the court to hold that President Buhari was ineligible to contest the presidential election.
While adopting his argument, counsel to the appellants, Mr. Ukpai Ukairo, insisted that President Buhari was not educationally qualified to participate in the election.
He urged the court to allow the appeal and set aside the decision of the Federal High Court on grounds of miscarriage of justice.
However, President Buhari, through his lawyer, Abdullahi Abubakar, challenged the competence of the suit he said had become statute barred.
President Buhari argued that the appellants failed to institute the action within the period that was stipulated in the constitution.
He argued that the litigants ought to have approached the court, 14 days after he submitted the Form CF001 to INEC.
Similarly, counsel to the All Progressives Congress, APC, Babatunde Ogala and that of INEC, Onyeri Anthony, urged the appellate court to dismiss the appeal for want of merit.