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Group tackles Falana, says Jonathan is qualified to contest

A body formed to promote law, equity and justice, the Law and Order Group, has picked holes in a recent statement credited to Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, where he submitted that former President Goodluck Jonathan was not qualified to contest the 2023 presidential election.

It argued that the position was not only erroneous but also misconceived. The group pointed out that the senior lawyer only placed reliance on the provisions of the said Section 137(3) (supra) of the constitution.

“In the first place, the 4th 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. 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 June 7, 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,” it explained.

The body further stated that the courts have, over the years, declared retroactive application of laws as reprehensive and abusive, stressing that the provisions of Section 137(3) of the 1999 constitution was not and would not present an exception simply because some persons desire it to be so.

It added: “The oaths of office which former President Jonathan 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 Jonathan on May 6, 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 Jonathan is the one he took on the 29th of May, 2011.

“Again, it is not in dispute that the former president contested the presidential election in 2015 on the basis of the right which accrued to him. It follows, therefore, that 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.”

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