A socio-political group under the platform of the Law & Order Group, has faulted the submissions of senior lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), on the eligibility of former President Goodluck Jonathan for the 2023 presidential election.
Falana, had on a national television submitted that Jonathan cannot contest the 2023 presidency because of a new constitutional provisions that foreclosed him from participating.
According to Falana, Section 137 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) forbids a person who completed the tenure of another from serving beyond a single term.
But in a swift response, the group in statement titled: “Former President Goodluck Jonathan is Qualified to Contest for the Office of the President of Nigeria in the 2023 General Election”, faulted Falana’s submission describing it as “erroneous and misconceived.”
The group in the statement signed by its coordinator, Aliyu Mohammed, explained that the fourth Alteration to the Constitution which introduced Section 137(3) was signed into law as part of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) by President Mohammadu Buhari in June 2018 while Jonathan was president between 2011 and 2015.
“The said Section 137 (3) contains a commencement date which is the date it was signed into law. Thus, the provisions of Section 137(3) of the 1999 Constitution (4th Alteration) became operative on the 7th of June, 2018 and not any time before that date.
“The law is settled beyond controversy or dispute that a law does not take effect retroactively. Again, it is the law that, where a piece of legislation sets out a specific commencement date, as in the case of Section 137 (3), all rights, duties, obligations and interests created or intended to be created or imposed by that law will not be applicable to rights, events or duties which accrued or occurred before then,” the group submitted.
They further stressed that one of the cardinal principles of the country’s legal system is that constitutional provisions and, indeed, laws are not applied retroactively.
In addition, the Law and Order Group stated that the courts have, over the years, declared retroactive application of laws as reprehensive and abusive, adding that Section 137(3) of the 1999 Constitution is not and will not present an exception simply because some persons desire it to be so.
“As we all know, former President Jonathan left office since 2015. The oaths of office which he took were taken prior to the enactment of Section 137(3). In a case decided by the Court of Appeal in 2015, the Court rightly held that the oath of office sworn to by former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on the 6th of May, 2010 cannot be taken into account in the interpretation of Section 137(1) of the Constitution.
“It follows, therefore, that the only oath of office sworn by the former President Goodluck Jonathan is the one he took on the 29th of May, 2011,” the group added.
Flowing from the above, the group reminded that Jonathan contested the presidential election in 2015 on the basis of the right which accrued to him.
“It follows, therefore, that former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has the right to contest the forthcoming presidential election on the platform of any of the registered political parties in Nigeria.
“Any contrary position will be manifestly inconsistent with the provision of the Constitution which grants him the right to contest for any elective office in Nigeria”, The Law & Order Group submitted.