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Buhari dragged to court over certificate saga



With the suspension of the three-week-old industrial action embarked upon by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and reopening of federal courts across the country, an Abuja-based lawyer, Chukwunweike Okafor, on Monday asked a Federal High Court in Abuja to disqualify the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the February 14 presidential election, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, over the controversy surrounding his secondary school credentials.

Okafor claimed that Buhari had failed to prove that he has the minimum educational qualification to run for the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

In an originating summons filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja, the plaintiff asked the court to disqualify Buhari from contesting the presidential election because he gave false information in his INEC Form CF 001 and attached an affidavit dated November 24, 2014, where he stated that his educational qualification was the West African School Certificate (WASC) and that it was in the custody of the Secretary, Military Board, which was denied by the Nigerian Army.

According to the suit numbered FHC/ABJ/CS/01/2015, the plaintiff listed Buhari, APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the three respondents respectively.

He contended that the statement of result issued by Government Secondary School, Katsina, belonging to one Mohamed Buhari was not the same as Major-General Muhammadu Buhari.

The plaintiff also averred that the time prescribed in the Electoral Act for the submission of personal particulars of candidates and their documents or their substitution closed on December 30, 2014, long before the APC candidate produced his purported certificate.

He stated that the qualification to contest the presidential election in Nigeria is a threshold issue and the legal framework for that is contained in the Section 131 of the 1999 Constitution, and Section 31 of the Electoral Act (as amended).

Specifically, the plaintiff listed four stages including submission, publication, verification and validation that a candidate vying for the Office of the President must go through sequel to Section 31(1), (2), (3), (5) and (6), adding that this was not the case for the APC presidential candidate.

In the past few weeks, the dust has refused to settle over Buhari’s certificate, even after his school released his statement of result and the Cambridge University/WASC printout last week.

Dismissing the documents, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) called them forgeries.

The suit is principally hinged on Section 131 of the Constitution which prescribes a minimum qualification for nomination to participate in presidential election and Section 31 of the Electoral Act which mandates all presidential candidates to depose an affidavit in proof of compliance with the constitutional requirement to be President of Nigeria.

The plaintiff is contending that Buhari failed to prove that he has the minimum educational qualification to run for president, and that the APC candidate’s WASC result was false, as not only did he not attach it to his nomination form as required, but his claim that the certificates were in the custody of the military had been denied by the Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier-General Olajide Laleye.

The plaintiff formulated a number of questions for the court’s determination, one of which was: “Whether the information given by Buhari in the prescribed forms and submitted to INEC for the 2015 presidential election does not contain falsehood?”
If yes, Okafor equally asked whether Buhari should not therefore be disqualified from the said election.

In his prayers before the court, the plaintiff said should the answer to the question be in the affirmative, the plaintiff urged the court to declare that the information contained in Buhari’s Form CF 001 stating that his educational qualification was the WASC statement of result was false, and therefore disqualify Buhari from contesting the presidential election.

The plaintiff, in the second prayer, is asking the court to declare that the information contained in Buhari’s affidavit dated November 24, 2014, stating that the Secretary of Military Board was in custody of his WASCE certificate was false and therefore disqualify Buhari from contesting the election.

In prayer three, the plaintiff is seeking an order disqualifying Buhari by reason of giving false information on oath in his Form CF 001 and the affidavit dated November 24, 2014.

Finally, the plaintiff asked the court to compel INEC to remove Buhari’s name and that of his party (APC) in the list of persons and political parties eligible to contest the February presidential election.

Reacting to the lawsuit instituted against its candidate, APC said it anticipated the suit in a bid to stop its presidential candidate from contesting the February 14 election.

The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the move was part of President Goodluck Jonathan’s plot to scuttle the elections.

Mohammed, who spoke on the phone with THISDAY on Monday night, said: “We anticipated it. It is only Act One, Scene One of Jonathan’s plot to scuttle this general election.

“He is simply terrified as he knows he will lose the election. More desperate acts will emerge in the coming days.”

ThisDay, January 27, 2015

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