Olalekan Awojodu, Abuja
The National Assembly (NASS) on Thursday, sought the dismissal of a suit accusing both President Buhari and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami of abusing the judicial process, before the Supreme Court.
NASS made the request at the resumed hearing of the proceeding in Abuja through its counsel, Dr. Kayode Ajulo. The suit in question was filed to void section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
The respondents argued that President Buhari, having assented to the Electoral Act, he could not turn back to challenge its provisions in court. More so, they contended that only the political appointees whose rights may be infringed upon by the said provision of the Electoral Act, could institute an action at the High Court to challenge it.
Gavel International reported that the National Assembly was originally cited as sole respondent in the matter, however, Rivers State, through the Speaker of its House of Assembly and its Attorney-General, applied and were joined as interested parties in the matter. The state through its team of lawyers led by Mr. Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, told the court that they were opposed to the suit marked SC/CV/504/2022.
In the same vein, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, also brought an application to be allowed into the case as amicus curiae (friend of the court). The legal body which said it was before the court to represent Nigerian citizens, prayed the Supreme Court to dismiss the suit in public interest.
The body noted, “It is our submission that there is no conflict between section 84(12) and any other section of the Electoral Act, the 1999 Constitution, as amended, or the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right.
“Your lordships should take note of the ill the said section is meant to cure. The essence of the section is to provide a level playing field for all Nigerians, such that political appointees should not use their office to advance their personal interests”, counsel for the NBA, Mr. Charles Mekunye, SAN, submitted.
Although the Supreme Court has reserved its judgement in the suit, a seven-man panel of the Justices of the apex court led by Justice Muhammad Dattijo has adjourned to give its verdict on the matter, after hearing out arguments by parties in the suit.
After it had listened to all the sides, the apex court panel said it would communicate the judgement date to the parties.
It will be recalled that President Buhari and Malami had approached the Supreme Court, insisting that 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 as well Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.
They are, among other things, seeking, “a declaration that the joint and or combined reading of Section 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192 and 196 of the Constitution, the provision of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022 which also ignores Section 84(3) of the same Act, is an additional qualifying and/or disqualifying factors for the National Assembly, House of Assembly, Gubernatorial and Presidential elections as enshrined in the said constitution, hence unconstitutional, unlawful, null and void”.
“A declaration that having regard to the clear provision of section 1(3) of the Constitution read together with section 4 of the same Constitution, the legislative powers vested in the defendant do not permit or empower it to make any other law prescribing additional qualifying/disqualifying grounds for election to the national assembly, house of assembly, gubernatorial and presidential election outside the express constitutional qualification and disqualification provisions as already provided in each or all of sections 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192 and 196 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), and without amendment to any of those sections is for the reason of inconsistency, unconstitutional and therefore null and void.
As well as, “An order nullifying the provision of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022 by application of the blue-pencil rule, for being unconstitutional, illegal, null and void and having been made in excess of the legislative powers of the defendant as enshrined in section 4 of the constitution (as amended).”