Jonathan Not Barred From Contesting For President, Says Lawyer

A legal practioner, Okoli Akirika, has said that the amended 1999 constitution cannot bar former President Goodluck Jonathan from vying for president of Nigeria if he chooses to.

The amendment, which was assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari penultimate week, stated that anyone who had been sworn in as president or governor to complete the term of an elected president or governor cannot do more than a single term.

Jonathan was sworn in as president in May 2010 after the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

After completing Yar’Adua’s tenure, Jonathan contested and won the presidential election in 2011.

He contested again in the 2015 presidential election but lost to Buhari.

Speaking with Sunday Punch in Awka, Anambra State, Akirika hailed the National Assembly for the amendment.

He said the ‘intendment’ of the lawmakers was salutary because it would ‘cure’ the kind of stalemate that arose during the death of former President Umaru Yar’Adua.

He said that, generally speaking, the new law had barred any person from occupying the office of president or governor for more than eight years.

While saying the amendment was not targeted at Jonathan, Akirika said that by contextual and community reading of sections 135 and 137 of the Constitution, the new law would not bar the former president from contesting any presidential election if he chooses to because he did not swear under the amended Constitution as president of Nigeria.

He said, “Under Section 137(1b) A person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if he has been elected to such office at any two previous elections.

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He asked, “Would you say Jonathan has been elected to the office of president in two previous elections?”

The lawyer added, “Inasmuch as I don’t think Jonathan is harbouring any intention to contest for Nigerian president now or in future, I don’t think the amended Constitution can stop him if he chooses to run, because he was not sworn in as president of Nigeria under the amended Constitution.

“Law does not act in retrospection.”

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