Dr. Kayode Ajulo, an Abuja-based legal luminary and former National Secretary of the Labour Party has said that President Muhammadu Buhari is qualified by law to contest the 2019 presidential election.
Ajulo reacting to the controversy surrounding the WAEC certificate of the president, said that for qualifications for the elective position, the Nigerian Constitution recognizes primary Six Leaving Certificate and Public/Corporate Service Experience as School Certificate Equivalents.
Ajulo told NAN in Lagos on Sunday that the controversy and arguments over the president’s certificate were far-fetched as he meets all legal requirements to contest.
He noted that while the President may or may not win re-election bid on other grounds, the question of certification and the position of the law on it is that he is qualified.
He said that the constitution empowers INEC to accept any proof of 10 years previous employment as the equivalent of School Certificate from any presidential candidate to contest.
“Patently for lack of knowledge of the Constitution, most people do not know what the Constitution provides as equivalents of School Certificates because they are hidden in the Interpretation of the material Section as PART IV, Section 318.
“It states that one does not even require any certificate to be President of Nigeria.
“The academic qualifications or suitability of Nigeria’s incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari has been one of the scathing issues that have engulfed the space, particularly the media, wherein the issue has received exponential attention and review.
“In 2015, the same certificate question was raised and was highly controverted. It became a near albatross to the presidential ambition of President Buhari.
“Even now that the president seeks re-election, the ghost of the certificate question that resurrected to hunt itself has continued to generate endless controversies.
“Section 131 (d) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) has been cited in support of the contention by proponents of that view to support their position.
“The said Section (Section 131) provides: a person shall be qualified for election to the Office of President if- (d) he has been educated up to at least school certificate level or its equivalent.
“Section 177 (d) prescribes that candidates contesting election into the office of State Governor must have been educated up to at least School Certificate Level or its equivalent. By virtue of Sections 142 (2) and 187 (2), the provisions on educational qualification of President and State Governors also apply to the Offices of Vice President and Deputy Governors, respectively.
“Sections 65 (2) (a) and 106 (c) of the Constitution prescribe that candidates contesting elections as National Assembly and State House of Assembly members, respectively, must also have been educated to at least School Certificate Level.”
According to Ajulo, in Section 318, “School Certificate or its equivalent” means:(a) a Secondary School Certificate, or Grade II Teacher’s Certificate, the City and Guilds Certificate; or (b) education up to Secondary School Certificate level; or (c) Primary Six School Leaving Certificate or its equivalent and –(i) service in the public or private sector in the Federation in any capacity acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission for a minimum of 10 years.
“Also (ii) attendance at courses and training in such institutions as may be acceptable to the INEC for periods totalling up to a minimum of one year, and (iii) the ability to read, write, understand and communicate in the English language to the satisfaction of the electoral commission, and
“(d) any other qualification acceptable by INEC. This means INEC has also been empowered by the Constitution to accept any piece of employment paper as School Certificate equivalent to be President of Nigeria.
“The provision of Section 318 (1) was construed by the Court of Appeal in the case of BAYO v. NJIDDA (2004) 8 NWLR (Pt. 876) page 544 at 629H-630D, where Ogbuagu, J.C.A (as he then was) held: the above provisions, are conjunctive and they qualify or mean “school certificate or its equivalent.
“Therefore, if any one of them is not present/available, then, the candidate is out. Even if (i), (ii), (iii) and (d) are accepable by or satisfactory to INEC and therefore, cannot be questioned in a tribunal as being final, the absence of (c), also disqualifies the candidate
“It is the duty that lawyers must take on to educate the society of the truth,” he added.
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