I have just read an article titled: “Error on the Certificate of return”, (via TheNigerialawyer.com online news blog), authored by Mohammed Habib wherein Mohammed had identified supposed irregularities on the Certificates of Return issued to President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, GCON, SAN by the professor Mahmood Yakubu-led Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), following the 23rd February 2019 Presidential election.

Mohammed had identified the two irregularities thus:

  1. “Certificate of Returns to the Office of the President and also Certificate of Returns to the Office of the Vice-President; in my modest view and if one may ask: President and Vice-President of what?”
  2. “I hereby certify that Yemi Osinbajo of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been elected to the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; instead of the Office of the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

I have critically reviewed the said Certificates in line with the views as expressed by Mohammed and I now submit as follows;

ON IRREGULARITY NUMBER 1:

1.1 Section 75 of the Electoral Act (As Amended by the Electoral (Amendment) Act No. 15, 2015) 2010 provides thus:

  1. 75 “Sealed Certificate of Return at an election in a prescribed form shall be issued within 7 days to every candidate who has won an election under this Act- PROVIDED that where the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court being the final appellate court in any election petition as the case may be nullifies the Certificate of Return of any candidate, the Commission shall, within 48 hours after the receipt of the order of such Court, issue the successful candidate with a valid Certificate of Return”. The Electoral Act (ibid) in this regard, prescribes Form EC 8.

In addition, the authority of INEC to issue Certificate of Return and/or the format thereto has been reiterated on countless occasion including the case of HON. GABRIEL YUNISA OLOFU & ORS. V. MR. MICHAEL ADEJOH ITODO & ORS. (2010) LPELR-2585 (SC).

1.2 The body of the said Certificate of Return (for President Muhammadu Buhari) reads: “…has been elected to the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at…”

The above, to my mind suffices, as there has been substantial compliance with the Electoral Act; as well as clear meaning was conveyed. Hence, this issue of “President of what” as contended by Mohammed Habib in his article, was properly addressed and laid to rest.

ON IRREGULARITY NUMBER 2:

2.1 S. 130 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides thus: “There shall be for the Federation a President”

2.2 S. 141 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides thus: “There shall be for the Federation Vice President”

2.3 S. 142 (1) CFRN (supra) in effect, recognizes and distinguishes the offices of the President from the Vice President’s.

2.4 I therefore share the view that the Certificate of Return issued to the Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo ought to have specifically stated the office he was returned, which is the office of the Vice President and not the Office of the President as irregularly presented.  This is moreso as the irregularity implies that Buhari & Osinbajo were both returned as “Presidents” in the same election, under the same political party.

I place reliance on the cardinal principle of interpretation that parties are presumed to intend what they have in fact said or written down; the words employed by them will be construed and should be given their ordinary and plain meaning and additional words or clause ought not to be imported into a written document. See HON. GABRIEL YUNISA OLOFU & ORS. V. MR. MICHAEL ADEJOH ITODO& ORS. (2010) LPELR-2585 (SC);  See also, ADISA V. OYINWOLA (2000) 10NWLR 9PT. 674) P. 116.

In conclusion therefore, I am submitting that the Certificate of Return issued President Muhammadu Buhari is perfectly in order without any defect whilst the Certificate of Return issued to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo remains defective in law and the INEC should immediately recall same and reissue another in compliance with all the afore-cited laws/authorities, and particularly  SS. 130 & 141 CFRN (supra).

Justice U. John, Esq

#Legalbreed writes from lagos, Nigeria.,justiceujohn@gmail.com

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