The Nigerian presidency has threatened the lawyer who filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari in a federal court challenging his eligibility for the office of president because of his failure to present a WAEC certificate.
Abuja-based lawyer, Mr. Nnamdi Nwokocha-Ahaaiwe had made public comments on the educational qualification of Buhari, who is a former military dictator.
In a press interview, the lawyer reportedly rehashed the content of his lawsuit against Buhari saying that the president had failed to present his basic secondary school certificate, commonly referred to as WAEC certificate.
Nwokocha-Ahaaiwe is challenging Buhari’s eligibility to contest for the office of president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria because he did not sit for the Cambridge West African School Certificate (WASC) in 1961 as he claimed in his form submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu took issues with the lawyer’s press interview warning Nwokocha to stop his “unfair and professionally inappropriate abuse of free speech”.
In an interview with journalists in Abuja on Sunday, June 19, 2016, Mr. Shehu said that the president’s lawyers would use the “instrumentality of the law in dealing with [Nwokocha-Ahaaiwe’] unethical actions”. He said that by granting the interview to a national newspaper, the lawyer had “hijacked” the power of the judge by declaring Mr. President guilty “in the pages of newspapers”.
The presidency’s outburst is, in fact, interesting because going on record in the media and declaring officials of previous governments guilty of corruption and most times, crimes they have even been charged for is the mainstay of the Buhari government.
“Newspaper pages are not alternative courts where a lawyer can declare anybody guilty of anything when the court has not formally given a definitive judgment on an issue before it,” Shehu said.
“The two-page interview published on Saturday, June 11 breaches lawyers’ ethical code and we hope that the court and the Nigerian Bar Association will take notice of this.”
He also said that what Nwokocha had done was “trial by media”.
“Free speech is not synonymous with recklessness and wanton abuse of the rights other parties to a case in court,” the presidential spokesman said.
“The litigant’s unabashed claim that he was a card-carrying member of the opposition PDP which lost power in the last election clearly indicates a scheme that seeks power by circumventing the democratic process of elections.”
‘Buhari Show Your WAEC Certificate’
Outrage greeted the news that Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has hired 13 senior lawyers to defend him in a suit at a federal high court in Abuja challenging his eligibility for the office of president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria over his failure to present his WAEC certificate.
The president’s legal team is made up of 13 senior advocates of Nigeria, SAN, and is led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN). The other lawyers on Buhari’s defence team are Mr. Lateef O. Fagbemi (SAN), Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN), Oluwarotimi O. Akeredolu (SAN), Kola Awodein (SAN), Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN), Charles Edosomwan (SAN), Emeka Ngige (SAN), Femi Atoyebi (SAN), Femi Falana (SAN), Funke Aboyade (SAN), H.O. Afolabi (SAN), Muiz Banire (SAN). Ten other lawyers are on the team.
Nigerians took to social media to express their disappointment and anger that their president would fail to present a basic education certificate for secondary school. Buhari had sworn an oath while filing his form at the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in 2014 that his original school certificates were with the military board.
The Nigerian Army had issued a statement denying being in possession of the retired general’s certificates in the heat of the 2015 elections.
The court case has been adjourned indefinitely, following an appeal filed by President Buhari against a preliminary ruling by the federal judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola.