Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN) on Wednesday argued that former President Goodluck Jonathan cannot contest the 2023 presidential election by 137 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
Tongues have been wagging that the former President may defect from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Jonathan was elected President of Nigeria in the 2011 election but lost to Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.
Falana, in a statement in Lagos, said, “It has been confirmed that former President Goodluck Jonathan has decided to join the All Progressives Congress, APC, to contest the 2023 presidential election.
“However, the former President is disqualified from contesting the said election by section 137 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended which provides as follows:
“‘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.’
“Some people have said that the amendment is not retrospective and therefore cannot apply to Dr. Jonathan.
“Assuming without conceding that the amendment is not retrospective it is submitted that under the current Constitution a President or Governor cannot spend more than two terms of eight years.
“In other words, the Constitution will not allow anyone to be in office for more than a cumulative period of eight years.
“In Marwa v. Nyako (2012) 6 NWLR (Pt.1296) 199 at 387 the Supreme Court stated that Section 180 (1) and (2)(a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has prescribed a single term of four years and if a second term, another period of four years and not a day longer.
“In the case of Gov. Ladoja v INEC (2008)40 WRN 1 the Supreme Court rejected the prayer of Governor Ladoja for 11 months’ extension to cover the period he was kept out of office through illegal impeachment.
“The Supreme Court rejected the prayer on the ground that a Governor is entitled to spend a maximum period of eight years or less and not more than eight years.
“It is not in dispute that Dr. Jonathan became the President of Nigeria in 2010 following the sudden death of President Umoru Yar’adua.
“He later contested and won the 2011 presidential election. Having spent five years in office as President, Dr. Jonathan is disqualified from contesting the 2023 presidential election.
“The reason is that if he wins the election he will spend an additional term of 4 years.
“It means that he would spend a cumulative period of nine years as President of Nigeria in utter breach of Section 137 of the Constitution, which provides for a maximum two terms of eight years.”