The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has said that it would challenge President Muhammadu Buhari’s suitability to contest the 2019 Presidential election in court.
Recall, that there has been controversy over the affidavit Buhari submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in 2015, claiming that his certificates could not be attached to his nomination form, because they are with the Military.
He had said: “I am the above-named person and the deponent of this affidavit herein. All my academic qualification documents as filled in my Presidential form, APC/001/2015, are currently with the Secretary of the Military Board, as of the time of this affidavit.”
The Director, Army Public Relations, at that time, Brig-Gen Olajide Laleye, however, said that the Army is not in possession of Buhari’s certificates, as claimed.
Buhari also made the same submission in his nomination form for the 2019 Presidential election.
Although, the Presidency has dismissed the controversy as needless, contending that the matter had been settled since 2015.
Some Legal Experts, who spoke at the weekend, agreed with the President’s men, arguing that under the 1999 Constitution as amended, no certificate was required to be tendered before a Candidate’s suitability could be determined.
They cited section 131 of the Constitution, which specified the qualification for the office of President.
It states: “A person shall be qualified for election to the office of President, if – (a) he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth; (b) he has attained the age of forty years; (c) he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party; and (d) he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level, or its equivalent.”
According to one of the Lawyers: “There is no doubt that the President has fulfilled all these conditions, including the last one, that talks about academic qualification.”
He said there was a mistaken notion that a formal certificate was required, explaining that what a Candidate needed, is to show evidence that he had been educated up to a school certificate.
“A Candidate may indeed score F9 in all subjects; he does not need to pass. Once he has attempted, he is covered by the Constitution”, he said; adding that: “Can we then say Buhari who went to War College and became a Major-General in the Army, has not been educated up to school certificate level?”
Notwithstanding, the PDP maintained that it would test this argument in court.
Speaking, the South-West Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Eddy Olafeso, disclosed that the main opposition party is heading to court, to ensure a logical conclusion to the controversy surrounding Buhari’s certificate.
The move was also corroborated by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, who said that the PDP’s Lawyers were “under instructions to challenge the President’s unsubstantiated claim in court.”
“The party’s position”, said Ologbondiyan, “is the legal principle that he who asserts must prove”, adding that: “The President deposed to an affidavit that his certificates are with the Army; but the Army denied the claim. The court will have to determine whether Candidate Buhari perjured, and if he did, whether he is a fit and proper person to hold high office. Secondly, should he be allowed to use perjury to qualify to contest again?”
He added that its Senior Lawyers are of the strong view that a case of perjury could be made, and whilst the President could not be tried, a court declaration that on the face of his affidavit and the denial by the Army, he could be held to have perjured.
“But we leave the matter for the court to decide”, Ologbondiyan said.
On his part, Olafeso said: “No one should still be under any form of doubt that Buhari has no certificate.”
According to him: “We have done so (approached the court) in the past, they subverted the will of the people, they bent justice to their side and they remained silent over the matter. But this second time around, we will follow it to the letters. We will do so, before he knows it.”
Olafeso noted that the issue of certificate was not the only albatross around Buhari’s neck.
He added: “Buhari has not been duly elected, because the Electoral law is clear; that it is either you elect the President or any other elective position in each of the party by direct or indirect primary.
“In his own case, they did not do only indirect, they went ahead to do direct primary. At what point in time did the law stipulates that both can be done at the same time. As far as I am concerned, the APC has no Presidential Candidate.”
Section 31 (5) (8) of the Electoral Act states: “A person who has reasonable grounds to believe that any information given by a Candidate in the affidavit or any document submitted by that Candidate is false, may file a suit at the High Court of a State or Federal High Court, against such person, seeking a declaration that the information contained in the affidavit is false.
“(8) A political party which presents to the Commission the name of a Candidate who does not meet the qualifications stipulated in this section, commits an offence, and is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000.00.”
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