In view of the recent calls for former president Goodluck Jonathan to run for the president of Nigeria in 2023, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has said that the law denies the former presdent the right to contest again, having previously served a combined 6 years as president.
There have been repeated calls from various quarters for the former leader to vie for the presidency in 2023.
Citing constitutional provisions barring the ex-president from seeking re-election, he said Mr Jonathan, who was Nigerian president between 2010 and 2015, would breach constitutional term limits of two terms of eight years if he runs for the presidency and wins again.
“Dr. Goodluck 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 four 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,” Mr Falana said.
Mr Jonathan became the President of Nigeria in 2010 following the sudden death of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, whom he deputized. He later contested and won the 2011 presidential election and ruled until 2015 when he was defeated by Muhammadu Buhari.
Between 2010 to 2015, Mr Jonathan spent five years in office as President which would make it nine years in office if he contests and wins again, Mr Falana said.
Faulting the argument that Mr Jonathan is exempted from the effect of section
137 (3) of the Nigerian constitution, Mr Falana referenced the failed bid of former Governor of Oyo State, Rasheed Ladoja, to seek an extension of his tenure to cover for the time he was kept out of office through illegal impeachment.
Mr Falana recalled that the Supreme Court rejected Mr Ladoja’s prayer on the grounds that a governor was only entitled to spend a maximum period of eight years or less and not more than 8 years.
He said: “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 that 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 4 years and if a second term, another period of 4 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,” he said.