Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
The Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday ordered the National Assembly to stop taking any further actions on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018, which seeks to provide the order in which the Independent National Electoral Commission must conduct the 2019 general elections.
The restraining order issued by Justice Ahmed Mohammed is to last till March 17, which is the next hearing date.
Delivering ruling on an oral application by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), lawyer to the plaintiff, Accord Party, Justice Mohammed held that the restraining order was made to preserve the substance of the main suit.
President Muhammadu Buhari had, on Tuesday, informed the National Assembly that he had withheld his assent to the bill which was earlier passed by both chambers of the National Assembly.
There have been threats by some legislators that the National Assembly would evoke its powers under Section 58(5) of the Constitution to override the President’s withholding of assent by two-thirds majority votes of both chambers.
The oral application by Olanipekun for a “preservative order” was opposed by the counsel representing the National Assembly, Chinelo Ogbozor, during Wednesday’s proceedings.
The Attorney-General of the Federation, the second defendant to the suit, was not represented by a counsel.
But INEC, the third respondent, was represented by its lawyer, Mr. Taminu Inuwa, who said he had no objection to the application.
Ruling, the judge held that the National Assembly was not likely to suffer any prejudice if it was restrained from going ahead with the amendment processes before the next hearing date.
He added that on the other hand, if no restraining order was issued and the National Assembly went ahead to exercise its powers under Section 58(5) of the Constitution by overriding the President’s withholding of assent, the essence of the whole suit would have been defeated.
The judge therefore ordered all parties to maintain the “status quo.”
He fixed Tuesday for the hearing of the motion for the interlocutory injunction, the same order which was granted during the Wednesday’s proceedings but would likely last till the final determination of the suit if the application succeeds.
The Accord Party is, by its suit, challenging the constitutionality of the ongoing amendment of the Electoral Act.