Nigeria's Jonathan can contest presidential elections next year, court rules

FILE PHOTO: Goodluck Jonathan, former President of Nigeria and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Mediator for Mali crisis, attends an extraordinary summit of ECOWAS to hear reports from recent missions to Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea following military coups in those countries, in Accra, Ghana March 25, 2022. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko

YENAGOA, Nigeria (Reuters) - Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan can run in next year's presidential election, a court ruled on Friday, clearing doubts over his eligibility and paving the way for him to return to national politics.

Jonathan, who was president from 2010 to 2015, has not yet said if he intends to contests the election. His spokesperson said this month he would not seek the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) party's ticket although a group of supporters from northern Nigeria bought nomination forms for him.

However, some APC members brought a case to disqualify Jonathan based on term limits which a person can serve as president. A judge on Friday ruled that Jonathan can contest in 2023, his lawyer said.

President Muhammadu Buhari signed a constitution amendment in 2018 seeking to bar vice-presidents from serving more than one full-term in event of succeeding a president through death, impairment or ill-health, a hurdle which Jonathan had to clear.

The court said that the new amendment was not binding on Jonathan.

"If the court had said it was binding, Jonathan would have been deemed to have done eight years in office and therefore not qualified to contest election as President of Nigeria," the lawyer said.

Jonathan succeeded his boss, former president Umaru Yaradua, who died in office. He subsequently contested and won presidential elections under the People's Democratic Party (PDP), now an opposition party.

Parties are yet to pick their candidates for next year's election. Jonathan, who was defeated in 2015 by the APC's candidate, has not said under which party he intends to contest.

With Buhari due to step down next year after serving two full terms, the race to succeed him is wide open with more than 20 ruling party candidates registering to contest the primary vote.

(Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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