Senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Olisa Agbakoba, has said that former President Goodluck Jonathan is eligible to contest for president in 2023.
A group that described itself as a Fulani group recently procured the presidential form of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for Jonathan, which he rejected.
There are, however, reports claiming he had made a U-turn and may decide to contest for the president on the APC platform.
But there have been arguments on the eligibility of Jonathan to contest the 2023 presidential election by some lawyers in the country.
Recall that Femi Falana, a human rights advocate, had recently argued that section 137(3) of the constitution disqualifies Jonathan from contesting. He further argued that the former president would spend a cumulative period of nine years as president if he wins the 2023 presidential election,
But Mike Ozekhome, SAN, countered Falana, arguing that Jonathan is “constitutionally” qualified to contest for president in 2023.
Making his position on the issue known, Agbakoba said that the amended section 137(3) of the 1999 constitution does not apply to Jonathan since the clause was not in existence when he was a president.
He said, “The eligibility of Former President Goodluck Jonathan to run for the office of President has become a vexed issue. In reviewing whether he is eligible to run, I will consider strictly the legal issues. The moral and ethical questions are not for me to consider.
“The question of Jonathan’s eligibility is determined by section 137 (3) of the 1999 constitution (as amended). The purpose of Section 137(3) of the constitution is to resolve the dilemma of a vice-president who completes the tenure of a president who dies in office.
“Such a vice-president if he decides to run for the Office of President will be eligible for one term of 4 years only. Even though ordinarily he will be entitled to two terms of 8 years.
“The logic behind it is that if the vice-president fills the president’s void and runs for two terms, he is most likely to exceed the constitutionally prescribed maximum tenure of 8 years.
“But the question is whether Section 137 (3) of the constitution applies to Former President Goodluck Jonathan.
“I don’t think it applies to him because at the time Former President Goodluck Jonathan was president, section 137 (3) of the constitution was not in existence and there is a rule that you cannot backdate laws. Former President Goodluck Jonathan is eligible to run for the office of President.”
Section 137(3) of the fourth alteration to the 1999 constitution stipulates that “a person who was sworn in to complete the term for which another person was elected as president shall not be elected to such office for more than a single term.”