2019 Election Sequence: Court restrains National Assembly on Electoral Act amendment

Chambers of the Nigerian Senate used to illustrate the story.
Chambers of the Nigerian Senate used to illustrate the story.

The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, asked the National Assembly not to take any action on the Bill amending the Electoral Act which President Muhammadu Buhari refused to sign into law.

One of the major amendments done by the lawmakers is that which seeks to change the sequence of elections. The lawmakers want their election to come first, followed by that of state lawmakers and governors, and lastly the presidential election.

Justice Ahmed Mohammed made the order while delivering ruling in an application filed by the Accord through its counsel, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), asking for a preservative order on the matter.

The judge said: “All parties in the suit are hereby directed to maintain status quo pending the determination of the substantive suit between now and the next adjourned date.”

Mr. Mohammed said that he was making the order to preserve the sanctity and integrity of the court adding that he was not granting the motion on the face of the application.

He noted the apprehension expressed by the plaintiff with regards to Section 58 of the Constitution which says that where the president withholds assent to a bill and it is passed by both houses of the National Assembly, it becomes law.

The judge, however, stated that no time frame had been stipulated within which the National Assembly should convene and form two third majority to pass the law.

The plaintiff had approached the court seeking an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the National Assembly from taking action or actions on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018.

The plaintiff said it wanted the restraining order so that the NASS would not pass the bill by two-third majority until the final determination of the substantive originating summons.

The plaintiff is claiming “a declaration that the legislative powers vested in the national assembly by the constitution do not empower or imbue it with the right, liberty or authority to pass or purport to pass any bill into law.

“This is with regards to a bill which attempts to interfere with or undermine the independence of INEC as guaranteed by the content, spirit and tenor of the Constitution.

“A declaration that the legislative powers vested in the National Assembly by the Constitution do not empower or imbue it with the right, liberty or authority to control or dictate to INEC the way and manner it should organise, undertake and supervise elections.

“This is with regards to elections to the offices of the President and Vice president, Governor and deputy governor of a state, membership of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly of each state including fixing the sequence and dates of the elections into the said offices.”

The counsel to the National Assembly, Chinelo Ogbozor, had argued that the substantive matter was not yet ripe for hearing since her client was served less than 48 hours ago.

Ms. Ogbozor further argued that it was wrong for her client to be pressured into making an undertaking not to take any action on the matter since her client was still within time to respond to the motion.

“The defendant cannot be put under pressure by a party who is yet to comply with provisions of the law.

“Also for the plaintiff to try to bundle the defendant to respond in less than 48 hours to a process he took his time to prepare tantamount to injustice,” she argued.

Justice Mohammed adjourned the matter until March 20, for hearing of the motion.

(NAN)

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