A plot to stop President Muhammadu Buhari from seeking re-election on account of age and other excuses has been uncovered, The Nation learnt yesterday.
Some senior lawyers have been engaged “to embarrass the President” ahead of next year’s election, a source in the Presidency said, pleading not to be named because he is not allowed to talk on the matter.
The Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) plan to file many cases to compel Buhari to step aside, having attained more than 70 years age limit for certain public offices.
The plot is said to have the support of some leaders of opposition groups and “those hell-bent on halting Buhari’s presidential ambition”.
A source said: “The lawyers include Senior Advocates who are now raising funds from some prominent Nigerians, who have openly expressed their opposition to President Buhari’s second term ambition.
“While the position of the Constitution does not disqualify anyone on the basis of age as the senior lawyers are planning, the whole point of the case is to embarrass the president as the election draw near.
“Funds are being raised from some opposition groups’ leaders and individuals to go to court and argue that the President ought to be disqualified on age basis.”
The plan, a source said, is to argue that because certain public officers, including judges, have to retire at age 70, no one above that age should be allowed to contest.
But while some lawyers are ready for the brief, others have opposed the plot.
The source added: “Already, some of those approached are read to support the cases financially and now the lead senior lawyers are mobilising several other lawyers to file series of legal suits and cases to argue on why the President should be disqualified from running.”
“But there are also a number of some of those approached who are concerned that the plot by a few of the senior lawyers is not likely to be effective and might only be a ploy by the senior lawyers to raise money for themselves.”
A source in government said: “We have unearthed a big plot to initiate frivolous suits to frustrate the President from realizing his second term ambition.
“We are also monitoring those behind this plot, which borders on ‘ambition’ to make money. They have made some of those opposed to the President to believe that Buhari can be stopped in court.
“But let them go and read sections 130, 131, and 137 of the 1999 Constitution very well. They cannot disqualify Buhari on account of age. They want the court to interpret some parts of the constitution and apply it to Buhari.”
Sections 130 and 131 read: “There shall be for the Federation a President. The President shall be the Head of State, the Chief Executive of the Federation and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation.
“A person shall be qualified for election to the office of President if; he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth; he has attained the age of 40 years; he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party and he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.”
Section 137 (1), among others, says: “A person shall not be qualified for election to the office of the President if-
(a) subject to the provisions of Section 28 of this Constitution, he has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a country other than Nigeria or, except in such cases as may be prescribed by the National Assembly, he has made acceleration of allegiance to such other country; or
(b) he has been elected to such office at any two previous elections; or
(c) under the law in any part of Nigeria, he is adjudged to be a lunatic or otherwise declared to be of unsound mind.
(d) he is under a sentence of death imposed by any competent court of law or tribunal in Nigeria or a sentence of imprisonment or fine for any offence involving dishonesty or fraud(by whatever name called) or for any other offence, imposed on him by any court or tribunal or substituted by a competent authority for any other sentence imposed on him by such a court or tribunal
(e) within a period of less than 10 years before the date of election to the office of President, he has been convicted and sentenced for an offence involving dishonesty or he has been found guilty of the contravention of the Code of Conduct …
… (I) he has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)