The Senate will, on Wednesday, debate the controversial ruling of the Federal High Court, in Umuahia, Abia State, which nullified section 84 (12) of the amended Electoral Act.
This followed a point of order raised by George Sekibo (PDP-Rivers) during plenary on Tuesday.
The section requires political appointees at any level participating in primaries, convention and other electoral activities to resign 30 days before participating in such activities.
“No political appointee at any level shall be a 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,” it reads.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Federal High Court in Umuahia, Abia State, had on March 18, nullified the section for being in conflict with constitutional provision.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how lawyers and pro-democracy advocates have condemned the decision considered as undoing a legal provision put in place to check abuse of public office during political party elections.
Call for debate
Reacting to the judgement on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday, Mr Sekibo invoked the Senate Orders 10 and 11, saying the electoral law emanated from the National Assembly, therefore the parliament should have been joined as a party to the suit.
“What the judge relied on is not interpretation of the Constitution. The Constitution defines for us who is a civil servant and who is a public servant.
“It does not include political appointees. Moreso, Section four gives us powers to make laws.
“If in the course of doing our job we find Section 84(12) as enshrined in the Electoral Act just assented to is for the good interest of the people, I don’t think somebody should go to court without joining the Senate or the House of Representatives where this law emanated from.
“So if you think it is faulty, you take us to court. We did not know; we were not told they just went there and got a judgement destroying our work over one year.”
He, therefore, moved that the issue be discussed during plenary today (Tuesday) to avoid setting a bad precedent on laws enacted by the federal parliament.
The motion was supported by Chukwuka Utazi (PDP-Enugu).
However, the Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege, who presided over the plenary, suggested that the debate on the issue be postponed to Wednesday since the Senate President Ahmad Lawan and many other lawmakers were absent.
Many members of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet, who are nursing political ambitions ahead of the 2023 general elections, are against the provision.
The politicians, including the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, who is believed to be seeking to contest the governorship election in his home state, Kebbi State, in 2023, were able to get the President to write the National Assembly to delete the section 84(12) from the Electoral Act.
But the Senate rejected the President’s request earlier this month, and the battle immediately shifted to court.
Nduka Edede, a lawyer and top member of the Action Alliance (AA), one of Nigeria’s fringe political parties, filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Umuahia to challenge the constitutionality of the said section 84(12) of the Electoral Act.
He picked the AGF, a known antagonist of the provision, as the only defendant, leaving out other important bodies such as the National Assembly and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with high stakes in the making and operation of the Electoral Act.
In her judgement on Friday, Mrs Anyadike agreed with the plaintiff that the provision violated the constitutional rights of Nigerian citizens.
She noted that the Nigerian constitution already has a provision that mandates appointees of government seeking to contest elections to resign at least 30 days to the date of the election.
Therefore, the judge ruled, any other law mandating such appointees to resign or leave the office at any time before that “is unconstitutional, invalid, illegal null and void, to the extent of its inconsistency to the clear provisions of the Constitution.”
Some senior lawyers, including prominent human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, had argued that the judgement was anchored on faulty grounds.
Mr Falana said there is no existing constitutional provisions compelling political appointees to resign to contest in a general election as the judgement suggested.
Political appointees, according to lawyers, are not part of the public service which section 318 of the constitution requires to resign within 30 days to contest an election.
Mr Falana said persons referred to in Section 318 of the Constitution are those employed in the public service, which, according to him, excludes political appointees.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: Call Willie - +2348098788999