Court Stops Buhari, Malami, Others From Tampering With Electoral Act

Court Stops Buhari, Malami, Others From Tampering With Electoral Act

…Says Proper Place to Challenge Validity of Any Laws is a Court of Competent Jurisdiction …Section 84(12) Violates 1999 Constitution…Buhari The Federal High Court, Abuja on Monday, stopped President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami and Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan from tampering with the newly amended

…Says Proper Place to Challenge Validity of Any Laws is a Court of Competent Jurisdiction

…Section 84(12) Violates 1999 Constitution…Buhari

The Federal High Court, Abuja on Monday, stopped President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami and Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan from tampering with the newly amended Electoral Act 2022.

Justice Inyang Ekwo in a ruling on an ex parte application by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) agreed that the Electoral Act had become a valid law and could not be tampered with without following due process.

Justice Inyang held that the proper place to challenge validity of any existing law was in a court of competent jurisdiction.

The PDP, through its Counsel, Mr James Onoja (SAN), sued the President along with the others challenging what it described as a bid to tinker with the newly amended Electoral Act.

The AGF as well as the Senate President, Speaker, House of Representatives, Clerk of National Assembly, Senate Leader, House of Representatives Leader and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were named as defendants in the suit.

Also joined as defendants in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/247/2022 were Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker, Deputy Senate Leader and Deputy Leader, House of Representatives.

The party prayed the court for an order of interim injunction restraining the President and other defendants from refusing to implement the duly signed Electoral Act.

PDP also applied for an order of the court stopping the National Assembly from giving effect to the President’s request to remove Section 84 (12) from the Electoral Act or take any steps that would make the provision inoperative pending the resolution of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction. Hearing of the matter has been fixed for March 21.

While signing the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2022, passed by the National Assembly, President Buhari had said the Bill holds a lot of promise for improving the election processes in the country, with introduction of new technology, and efforts to engender clarity and transparency. But he had reservations about section 84(12) which he wanted deleted.

In a statement issued by the Special Adviser to the President on Media & Publicity, Femi Adesina, penultimate Friday, at a signing ceremony held at the State House, Abuja, President Buhari, highlighted the need to amend section 84(12), which contravenes the rights of political office holders to vote, or be voted for in political party conventions and congresses.

In his words; “Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members of the National Assembly, from the review it is my perspective that the substance of the Bill is both reformative and progressive. I am making this bold declaration because I foresee the great potentials of the Bill. Worthy of note include the democratic efficacy of the Bill with particular reference to sections 3, 9(2), 34, 41, 47, 84(9), (10) and (11) among others.

“This, however, cannot be said about one provision as contained in the proposed Bill, which provision constitutes fundamental defect, as it is in conflict with extant constitutional provisions.

“Section 84 (12) constitutes a disenfranchisement of serving political office holders from voting or being voted for at Conventions or Congresses of any political party, for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election in cases where it holds earlier than 30 days to the National Election,’’ he said.

Quoting the section, “84(12) No political appointee at any level shall be voting delegate or be voted for at the Convention or Congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election,” the President noted it had introduced qualification and disqualification criteria that ultra vires the Constitution by way of importing blanket restriction and disqualification to serving political office holders of which they are constitutionally accorded protection.

“The practical application of section 84(12) of the Electoral Bill, 2022 will, if assented to, by operation of law, subject serving political office holders to inhibitions and restrictions referred to under section 40 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

“It is imperative to note that the only constitutional expectation placed on serving political office holders that qualify, by extension as public officers within the context of the constitution is resignation, withdrawal or retirement at least 30 days before the date of the election.

“Hence, it will be stretching things beyond the constitutional limit to import extraneous restriction into the constitution on account of practical application of section 84(12) of the bill where political parties’ conventions and congresses were to hold earlier than 30 days to the election.

“Arising from the foregoing, with particular regards to the benefits of the Bill, industry, time, resources and energy committed in its passage, I hereby assent to the Bill and request the National Assembly consider immediate amendments that will bring the Bill in tune with constitutionality by way of deleting section 84(12) accordingly.’’

President Buhari however commended the National Assembly for their commitment and dedication to improving the previous Electoral Bill 2021.

“It is gratifying to note that the current Bill comes with a great deal of improvement from the previous Electoral Bill 2021. There are salient and praiseworthy provisions that could positively revolutionize elections in Nigeria through the introduction of new technological innovations. These innovations would guarantee the constitutional rights of citizens to vote and to do so effectively.

“The Bill would also improve and engender clarity, effectiveness and transparency of the election process, as well as reduce to the barest minimum incidences of acrimony arising from dissatisfied candidates and political parties.

“These commendable efforts are in line with our policy to bequeath posterity and landmark legal framework that paves the way for credible and sound electoral process that we would all be proud of,’’ he said.

The President said he received inputs from relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government, after careful and thorough reviews of the Bill and its implications to democratic processes, before signing The Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2022 into law.

President Buhari noted that the National Assembly forwarded the Electoral Bill for Presidential Assent, via a letter dated 31st January, 2022.

The President, in a letter addressed to Senate President Ahmad Lawan, and read at plenary on Thursday, demanded the federal lawmakers to delete Section 84 (12) outright.

The letter reads: “I write to draw your kind attention to some salient issues contained in the act and to seek your immediate legislative action thereon. I have carefully studied the recently assented electoral act amendment 2022 and must admit that there are positive provisions that could revolutionalise election process in Nigeria, particularly through the introduction of technology that will guarantee the constitutional rights of citizens to vote effectively.”

He, however, added that the practical application of section 84(12) “subjects serving political office holders to inhibitions referred to under Section 40 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution, as it is imperative to note that the only constitutional expectation from serving political office holders that qualify by extension as public officers within the context of the constitution is resignation, withdrawal or retirement, at least 30 days before the date of the election, as provided in Section 6(1)(f) of the 1999 Constitution.”

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