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Supreme Court Decision ends Legal Tussle on Buhari’s Qualification to contest for President

The Supreme Court on Monday, 2nd September 2019 dismissed a suit which sought the disqualification of President Muhamamdu Buhari from the February 23 Presidential election, for allegedly lying on oath in his Form CF001 (Personal Particulars Form), which was submitted to the Independent National Electoral commission (INEC) prior to the election. The appellants queried the President’s claim to possessing the requisite educational qualification to contest election into the office of President. The matter which was instituted at the Federal High Court in Abuja, had been dismissed on the basis that it was brought after the 14-day timeline stipulated for filing pre-election matters in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as altered). While President Buhari’s Form CF001 was submitted to INEC on 18th October 2018, the appellants filed the case on 15th November 2018. Dissatisfied with the decision of the Federal High Court, the appellants challenged the decision at the Court of Appeal, where the judgment of the lower court was upheld. Upon appeal at the Supreme Court, a five-man panel of Justices dismissed the case for bring statue barred, reiterating the decisions of the Federal High court and Court of Appeal. Essentially, the case was not heard on its merit owing to the fact that it was filed out of time. However, the Supreme Court issued a stern warning to a Senior State Counsel in the Federal Ministry of Justice, Abdullahi Abubakar, who announced appearance for President Buhari, the first respondent in the matter. The Court explained that the action amounted to the use of public office to defend a private litigation and was therefore unacceptable. The Court also reminded President Buhari that the appearance of the legal practitioner on his behalf contravened the Code of Conduct for Public Officers.

 

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