Group sues Nigerian Government, wants proposed National Conference stopped

Jonathan Goodluck, President of Nigeria

The group also said N7 billion allocated to the confab is illegal.

Less than one week to the inauguration of the proposed National Conference, a human rights group, Legal Defence and Assistance Project, LEDAP, on Wednesdayasked the Federal High Court, Abuja to stop the Federal Government from convening the conference.

The group contended that government did not have the constitutional powers to convene such conference.

A Constitutional Lawyer, Tunji Abayomi, had last Friday also approached the court asking it to stop the government from going ahead with the conference.

The conference is scheduled to be inaugurated on Monday. Already a list of 492 delegates to the confab as well as its principal officers has been released by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF.

In a suit filed against the Attorney General of the Federation and Clerk of the National Assembly, LEDAP sought court’s declarations that the conference was a usurpation of the powers of the National Assembly under Section 4 of the Constitution.

Also relying on the 2003 decision of the Supreme Court in Gani Fawehinmi v Ibrahim Babangida SC.360/2001 in respect of the faulted Oputa Panel, the group argued that the federal government could not legally set up a national conference in a federation like Nigeria to deliberate on issues outside the exclusive legislative list of the constitution, but could do so through the National Assembly.

The particulars of the orders sought are as follows:

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-A declaration that the proposed National Conference by the Federal Government of Nigeria is unconstitutional and violates the provisions of Section 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, being an illegal usurpation of the constitutional powers of the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly;

-A declaration that the constitutional and legal responsibility for considering, deciding and making resolutions in respect of matters relating to laws, the constitution, fiscal allocations and management, political structure, and order and good government of Nigeria rest exclusively with the National Assembly as established under section 4 of the Constitution and no other body or conference, and with the State assemblies with respect to matters within their respective legislative competence;

-A declaration that the Federal Government of Nigeria has no constitutional powers under Nigeria’s Federal Constitution to set up, institute, summon or establish a national conference to deliberate and or take decisions or make legislative or other recommendations on matters outside the Exclusive Legislative List in Part 2, Second Schedule to the Constitution, or on matters on the Concurrent Legislative List thereof except as the later relates to the Federal Capital Territory;

-A declaration that there is no law permitting or authorizing the Federal Government of Nigeria to summon or set up a National Conference to deliberate on issues already covered by the constitution or other laws of the Federation or of the States or any other issue whatsoever;

-A declaration that the Tribunals of Inquiry Act, Cap. 447 that authorizes the Federal Government to set up bodies or panels in respect of specific issues within its legislative competence does not mandate it to set up, institute, or otherwise manage a national conference as proposed by the Federal Government of Nigeria;

-A declaration that the allocation of 7 billion Naira the Appropriation Bill 2014 presented to the National Assembly by the Federal government for the purpose of undertaking, carrying out, instituting and managing a National Conference is unconstitutional, illegal, wasteful, ultra vires, and contrary to the constitutional obligation of government to ensure optimal utilization of national resources under Chapter 2 of the Constitution;

-An order restraining the National Assembly from appropriating any funds for the purpose of holding a National Conference as proposed by the Federal government or at all; and

-An order restraining the Federal Government of Nigeria from convening, holding or managing a National Conference as proposed or at all in so far as the said conference is to deliberate and consider issues and matters already covered by the Constitution and any existing law.

The Plaintiff also formulated the following questions for the court:

Whether by virtue of section 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 the National Assembly has the exclusive powers to consider, deliberate and make resolutions on issues already relating to governance, laws, political structure, or matters covered by the Constitution and other existing laws to the exclusion of anybody or assembly such as the National Conference as proposed by the Federal Government of Nigeria;

-Whether the Federal Government of Nigeria is mandated by the Constitution or any existing law to set up, assemble and manage a National Conference for the purpose of deliberating on national issues, matters concerning the states or matters already covered or contained in the constitution or existing law;

-Whether the Federal Government of Nigeria can set up or hold a National Conference or any assembly to consider and deliberate on any issue not contained in the Exclusive Legislative List, or if contained in Concurrent List, with respect to the Federal Capital Territory;

-Whether the National Assembly can allocate and appropriate funds in the Appropriation Act for purpose of holding a National Conference that is not permitted or mandated by the constitution or law; and

-Whether the proposed allocation of 7 billion Naira by the Federal Government in its proposed Appropriation Bill 2004 for holding the National Conference is contrary to its obligation under Chapter two of the Constitution, which required government to demonstrate rational and optimal utilization of national resources, and the Fiscal Responsibility Act and other laws governing the proper and efficient use of resources, and therefore wasteful, unlawful and inappropriate.

 

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