The senator for Katsina North district, Ahmed Babba-Kaita, says the Senate will appeal the court judgement which last week struck down section 84 (12) of Electoral Act 2022.
The senator said the judgement is not in the collective interest of Nigerians.
PREMIUM TIMES reported the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, saying the Federal Government will speedily enforce a court judgement of the Federal High Court in Umuahia, which on Friday removed the section from the Electoral Act 2022.
In what appeared to have foreclosed the possibility of an appeal being filed against the judgement, Mr Malami said the verdict would be enforced by government gazetting the Electoral Act with the “offensive provision” deleted from it.
But in an interview with BBC Hausa Service Monday, Mr Babba-Kaita said nobody should dare tamper with the Electoral Act by erasing any section of the law.
“The court cannot erase any section of the Electoral Act formulated by lawmakers, it can only say the section is good or bad, upon which it will be brought back to the assembly for possible corrections,” the lawamaker said.
Mr Babba-Kaita said the lawamakers have reasons for whatever they did, decrying a situation where a governor would appoint about 1000 persons who all automatically become delegates to party primaries, thus7 narrowing the chances of other aspirants not supported by the governor.
He said those contending against the sections of the Electoral Act want to contest elections, which made them not to be at ease with the sections.
“When they resign their appointments they will find it difficult to contest. The election of a candidate must be open and that will discourage the imposition of candidates,” Mr Babba-Kaita said.
“We will appeal the section of constitution they depend on, we will appeal the case. Even if anybody does not appeal the case, I will personally do that.
“In the appeal, we will pray the court that the law should stay until when the Supreme Court decides on it. Only the apex court ruling will determine who is right or wrong
“We cannot succumb to anybody who thought he is above the interest of all Nigerians by erasing a section of the Act, we will not take that,” Mr Babba-Kaita insists.
The conflicting sections
The controversial provision prohibits political appointees from voting as delegates in party conventions or congresses for the election or nomination of candidates, stating that they must resign their appointments 30 days to a congress to be able to participate in it.
A lawyer and member of the Action Alliance (AA), one of Nigeria’s fringe political parties, Nduka Edede, had filed the suit that challenged the constitutionality of the provision, with the Attorney-General of the Federation as the defendant.
Delivering her judgement on the suit on Friday, the judge, Evelyn Ayandike, agreed with the plaintiff that the provision conflicted with Nigerian citizens’ rights guaranteed by the constitution.
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 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”.
She ordered the Attorney-General of the Federation, to forthwith, delete the said section 84(12) from the body of the Electoral Act, 2022.
The judgement offers a big relief to President Muhammadu Buhari, whose request for the removal of the provision from the newly amended Electoral Act was rejected by the Senate earlier in the month.
It also came as a respite to members of the president’s cabinet, including Mr Malami, speculated to have seen the contested provision of the Electoral Act as a threat to their political ambitions ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Judgement will be enforced – Malami
“The office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice will accordingly give effect to the court judgment in line with the dictates of the law and the spirit of the judgment,” the minister’s spokesperson said immediately after the judgement.
He stressed that with the judgement, section 84(12) of the Electoral Act 2022 is no longer part of Nigerian law.
“The judgment of the court will be recognised by the government printers in printing the Electoral Act.
“The Act will be gazetted factoring the effect of the judgment into consideration and deleting the constitutionally offensive provision accordingly.
“The provision of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act 2022 is not part of our law and will be so treated accordingly,” the statement also stated.
The speed with which Mr Malami promised to enforce the judgement runs in sharp contrast with the Buhari administration’s reputation for scant regard for court decisions.
But Mr Malami justified the move being made to enforce the Friday’s judgement citing constitutional provisions as a backing.
“This is in line with the dictates of chapter 7, Part 4, Section 287 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) on enforcement of decisions that makes it a point of duty and obligation on all authorities and persons to have the judgment of the Federal High Court, among others, to be enforced,” the statement stated.
With both the plaintiff who instituted the suit, and Mr Malami, who appears to be the sole defendant sued in the case, being in agreement with the judgement, it may well be taken that there would be no appeal against the verdict.
A third party not involved in the case at the trial court and suddenly shows interest in pursuing an appeal against the verdict will have to surmount a legal obstacle obtaining the court’s leave to file such appeal.