A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has fixed April 25, 2018 for judgement in a case challenging the powers of the National Assembly to legislate on the sequence of general election in the country as proposed in a bill amending the Electoral Act 2010. The Court presided over by Justice Ahmed Mohammed reserved judgment
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has fixed April 25, 2018 for judgement in a case challenging the powers of the National Assembly to legislate on the sequence of general election in the country as proposed in a bill amending the Electoral Act 2010.
The Court presided over by Justice Ahmed Mohammed reserved judgment on the matter after all the parties had argued and adopted their respective briefs of argument pertaining to the suit that was filed by Accord Party.The National Assembly is challenging the jurisdiction of the Court to interfere with its constitutional right to make laws. In its submission through its lead counsel, Mr. Joseph Daudu, SAN, the National Assembly queried the jurisdiction of the court to stop it from securing two-third majority to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, 2018, which altered the election sequence. Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, representing the executive arm of government said the federal government is opposed to the change in 2019 election sequence by the National Assembly because the 1999 constitution made the actions of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) sacrosanct in the choice of date for elections.
Malami, while presenting his argument before Justice Ahmed Mohammed, said: “ issues concerning the powers of INEC to fix dates for election had long been settled by the Supreme Court in NASS vs President, 2003, 9-NWLR, part 824, page 104.
“The 3rd defendant (INEC) has issued and released a time table for the conduct of the 2019 election, an action the 1st defendant (NASS) is seeking to legislate on. We submit that this is not practicable since the action of INEC is sacrosanct having been clothed with statutory protection.”
The AGF and INEC’s lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, had while adopting their processes, insisted that sections 78(1), 116, 132, 153, 178 and item 15 to the Third Schedule of the 1999 constitution, as amended, gave the electoral body unfettered discretion to the choice of date for elections.
Mr. Falana accused the NASS of attempting to place the Electoral Act above the constitution, saying: “what the NASS has done is to say that four sections of the constitution that has to do with powers of INEC to conduct/fix date for elections, be made subject to the Amended Electoral Act.“It is our submission that the constitution cannot be made subject to any Act. It is unheard of. On the issue of locus standi, we can confirm that we registered the plaintiff as Accord Party. It applied to us and all their documents, certified, has been exhibited by the plaintiff as exhibit 4 to 8.This plaintiff was registered as Accord and it won seats, with their representatives currently sitting in the chambers of the 1st defendant.
“It is therefore our submission that the plaintiff has the jurisdiction to file this suit which falls under public interest litigation. We urge my lord to exercise its discretion and grant the reliefs as sought by the plaintiff. We shall however ask for cost if they win, for bringing us here”.
It will be recalled that the National Assembly recently effected some changes to the Electoral Act 2010. One of the changes was the re-ordering of the sequence of election. The Bill was vetoed by the President and returned to the National with a covering letter pointing to some conflict in the Bill with the constitution. The National Assembly had subsequently threatened to override the President’s veto with two-thirds majority vote in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
It was while this was going on that the Accord went to Court to halt the National Assembly from going any further. The Court has since granted an injunction restraining the National Assembly from further action until the final determination of the suit before it.