By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—RESPITE respite came the way of the presidential candidate of the Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) yesterday, as hearing on 10 separate suits that sought to disqualify him from contesting against President Goodluck Jonathan this weekend, suffered a setback.
Justice Ademola Adeniyi of the Federal High Court in Abuja adjourned hearing on all the suits till April 22 and 23, shortly after he declined to join two human right activists, Mr. Chukwuma Ochu, who is a member of the APC in Rivers State, and Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa from Lagos State, as interested parties in the suit.
The court struck out the two joinder applications on the premise that the matter could be effectively heard and determined without the input of the two activists who the court described as “meddlesome interlopers and busybodies”.
Justice Adeniyi maintained that the duo failed to convince the court on how their personal interests would be affected by the outcome of the suits if they are not joined as parties in the matter.
“The parties seeking to be joined in the suit have nothing to lose if they are not made parties. I agree with counsel to the plaintiff that they are meddlesome interlopers who want to waste time of this court. The two joinder applications lack merit, they are hereby discountenanced and accordingly struck out”, the court held.
Essentially, the deferment of hearing on the suits has put paid to speculations that Buhari who was accused of supplying false details to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, with regards to his educational qualifications, might be legally knocked out of the presidential race at the eleventh hour.
Investigations by Vanguard yesterday further revealed that the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, was a major influence on the decision of Justice Adeniyi to subtly push hearing of the suits beyond the already scheduled presidential election.
A top source in the office of the CJN, who pleaded anonymity, told Vanguard yesterday that the CJN had sternly warned all heads of courts in the country, including the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, to caution all judges under them not to grant or issue any order or injunction on any election related matter, capable of exposing the judiciary to unnecessary public opprobrium.
The CJN was said to have particularly warned two judges of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, who were said to have between them, issued over 50 ex-parte orders prior to the 2011 general elections, to put themselves on check or face severe sanctions from the National Judicial Council, NJC.
The source equally told Vanguard that other heads of courts that the CJN also directed to closely monitor all political matters pending before Justices/Judges under them, included the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa and the Chief Judge of the FCT, Justice I.M. Bukar.
“I can assure you that no ridiculous or frivolous injunction will be granted by any judge before this election. The CJN is really committed towards ensuring that the judiciary is not used by anyone as a tool to truncate the democratic process in Nigeria”, the source added.
Meantime, constitutional lawyer and counsel to one of the plaintiffs in the suit that came up before Justice Adeniyi yesterday, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, has warned the APC and Buhari’s supporters against celebrating prematurely over the postponement of hearing on eligibility suits.
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