The National Assembly says the Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain a suit filed by President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney- General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, challenging the amended Electoral Act 2022.
Jurisdiction is the scope of the power a court has to hear a particular case.
Messrs Buhari and Malami filed their suit at the Supreme Court, seeking an interpretation of the controversial clause in the Electoral Amendment Act 2022.
According to section 84 (12) of the legislation, “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.”
But, the parliament in a preliminary objection filed by its lawyer, Kayode Ajulo, said the “court lacks the requisite jurisdiction to hear and determine this suit.”
Laying grounds of objection to the suit, the respondent’s lawyer argued that the case was filed in “flagrant violation of Section 1(1)(A) of the Supreme Court Act.”
Mr Ajulo contended that the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court can only be invoked when “there is a dispute between the President and the National Assembly” and that dispute must involve “any question of law or fact on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends.”
Citing Section 232 of the constitution, the respondent further argued that the condition precedent for the activation of the apex court’s original jurisdiction has not been met by Messrs Buhari and Malami.
“The suit as presently constituted neither discloses nor raises the existence of any dispute which may warrant the original jurisdiction of this court as mandated by provisions of the Supreme Court Act 2002,” the court documents revealed.
The lawyer drew the apex court’s attention to the signing of the Electoral bill into law by Mr Buhari in February 2022.
He said: “the 1st plaintiff (Mr Buhari) having conclusively discharged his duty under the constitution and as such there is no basis to attempt to undo that which he has done in exercise of his powers.”
“The original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court cannot be invoked to amend the provision of any law validly made by the National Assembly in the exercise of the legislative powers granted it by the constitution.”
Buhari cannot give conditional assent to bill
The National Assembly also argued that section 58 of the constitution does not provide for a “conditional assent to a bill for an Act of the National Assembly.
“Assent once given signifies the acceptance of and concurrence of the presidency to the entirety of the bill to become an Act of the National Assembly.”
The court documents which were obtained from the apex court registry were filed on May 13.
While Mr Ajulo declined comments on the suit, the Supreme Court has fixed May 19, Thursday, for the hearing of the suit.
It will be recalled that Mr Buhari while signing the Electoral Bill into law, urged the National Assembly to delete the controversial Section 84 (12) of the law.
However, both chambers of the parliament rejected Mr Buhari’s admonition to expunge the clause.
Some ambitious political appointees in Mr Buhari’s cabinet vying for elective offices have been left in a quandary by the provision of the newly amended Electoral Act.
Mr Malami and his colleagues in the ministries of labour and employment; Chris Ngige, petroleum resource; Timipre Sylva and women’s affair; Pauline Tallen, have since shelved their aspirations for elective positions on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Similarly, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, is battling at the Federal High Court in Abuja to retain his position while pursuing his presidential ambition in the APC.
The AGF had vowed to immediately implement the judgement of the Federal High Court in Umuahia, Abia State, which struck down Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act.
Mr Malami was accused of pursuing the deletion of the legal provision because of his interest to ensure that he remained as the AGF while campaigning to become Kebbi State governor.
But the Court of Appeal in Abuja in a rather confusing judgement set aside the Federal High Court judgement while also agreeing with the trial court that the new provision is unconstitutional.
Buhari, Malami’s prayers
In the suit marked SC/CV/504/2022 and filed on April 29, 2022, Messrs Buhari and Malami are seeking an order of the apex court to strike out the section of the Electoral Act, which they argue was inconsistent with the nation’s constitution.
According to the court document published by Sahara Reporters, the plaintiffs contend that the Section 84 (12) of the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2022 is inconsistent with the provisions of sections 42, 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192 and 196 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended), as well Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and People and Peoples Rights.
The plaintiffs also contended that the Nigerian constitution already provides qualification and disqualification for the offices of the President and Vice President, Governor and Deputy Governor, Senate and House of Representatives, House of Assembly, Ministers, Commissioners and Special Advisers.
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