Sequence of Elections: Court Nullifies National Assembly Re-ordering

Sequence of Elections: Court Nullifies National Assembly Re-ordering

A Federal High Court in Abuja ruled yesterday that the National Assembly does not have the power to re-order the proposed sequence for the 2019 general election as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Justice Ahmed Mohammed held in his judgment that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is the only body that

A Federal High Court in Abuja ruled yesterday that the National Assembly does not have the power to re-order the proposed sequence for the 2019 general election as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Justice Ahmed Mohammed held in his judgment that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is the only body that is constitutionally empowered to organise, undertake and supervise elections in the country.

“I am persuaded by the argument of the plaintiff that it is the sole responsibility of the 3rd defendant (INEC) to conduct elections, and further in doing so, the 3rd defendant has the power to fix dates for elections”, the judge held.

The Judge noted particularly that the National Assembly commenced moves to amend the Electoral Act after INEC had already released its timetable for the 2019 elections. The court held that the action of the National Assembly was in clear breach of paragraph 15 (a) of the 3rd schedule of the 1999 constitution (as amended). Justice Mohammed stressed that the National Assembly, through its belated process of amending the Electoral Act, cannot remove the right that was constitutionally vested on INEC.

Consequently, the court granted reliefs 1 to 10 that were sought by Accord Party, which is the plaintiff in the matter, even as it nullified section 25 of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, 2018, which sought to alter the sequence of the forthcoming general election. The court also refused to compel President Muhammadu Buhari to reject the 2018 Amended Electoral Act on the basis that the president has already withheld his assent to it.

In the election timetable released by INEC, it fixed Presidential and National Assembly (NASS) elections for Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, and Governorship and State Assembly elections for Saturday, March 2, 2019.

The National Assembly, however, changed the arrangement, putting the National Assembly elections

Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki

first and the presidential poll last.

In his immediate reaction, Counsel to the National Assembly Mr Sebastine Hon, (SAN) indicated his client’s decision to appeal the judgement.

The Accord Party had dragged the National Assembly before the court, praying it to stop the lawmakers from tampering with the election timetable as released by INEC. The party approached the court with a motion seeking an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the National Assembly from taking any further action or actions on the Bill titled Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018, particularly to pass the said Bill into Law by two-third majority of its two chambers, pending the final determination of the substantive suit.

INEC had persistently insisted it would comply with whatever the law says on the matter.

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