The last of the controversial Section 84(12) of the Electoral Amendment Act 2022 has not been heard as it emerged yesterday that President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, have filed a suit at the Supreme Court, seeking an interpretation of the contentious clause.
In the suit filed on April 29, Messrs Buhari and Malami, who are the plaintiffs, listed the National Assembly as the sole defendant.
Section 84(12) has been a subject of intense litigation and political debate in Nigeria since President Buhari signed the amended Electoral Act 2022 into law in February this year.
Shortly after signing it into law, President Buhari had urged the parliament to delete the controversial clause, but the National Assembly declined the President’s request.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja, last week, set aside the Federal High Court judgment that deleted the clause from the Act, while also agreeing with the lower court that the new provision is unconstitutional.
On the basis of the Appeal Court ruling, President Buhari had directed political appointees, who declared intentions to vie for elective positions, to resign latest by today.
The President’s directive forced the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, to shelve his presidential aspiration, but Ministers of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio; Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu and Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, resigned from office
In the suit marked SC/CV/504/2022 and filed on April 29, 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, 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 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.
They urged the Supreme Court to make: “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 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended), 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.”
In the same vein, the National Assembly has asked the Supreme Court to strike out the suit instituted by President Buhari. The National Assembly, in its counter-affidavit, filed by its lawyer, Kayode Ajulo, said the Supreme Court cannot be invoked to amend the provision of any law validity made by lawmakers in the exercise of their legislative powers as granted by the Constitution.
They argued that the 1999 Constitution as amended gave the National Assembly the power to make laws for good governance in Nigeria.
“We submit that the first plaintiff having on Friday, February 25, 2022, signed the Electoral Bill, 2022 into law in accordance with the Constitution, cannot approbate at the same time by making a U-turn by using the machinery of this Court as enshrined in Section 232 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and the Supreme Court (Additional Jurisdiction) Act of 2002 to partly undo that which by the provision of Section 58 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) has been done.
“By assenting to the passage of the Electoral Bill, 2022 into law, the first plaintiff has conclusively discharged his duty under the Constitution and there is no basis to attempting to undo that which he has done by virtue of his powers under Section 58 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
“My Lords, we must commend the audacious attempt by the plaintiffs to build a castle in the air. However, we must be guided by our knowledge of the law of physics and the dynamics of our mortal world in calling the plaintiffs to order so as to prevent the impending waste of state resources by embarking on what should be ordinarily be found within the infantile imagination of a six-year-old who is still exploring the infant probabilities of overindulgence in Marvel comics.”
Daily News Reporters