ELECTION SEQUENCE: COURT REFUSES TO LIFT INJUNCTION AGAINST NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, ADJOURNS CASE

Federal High Court, Abuja. [Photo credit: OfCounsel Nigeria]

An Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Tuesday did not lift its order barring the National Assembly from overriding President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto of the electoral amendment bill.

The court presided by Ahmed Mohammed had in its previous sitting stopped the National Assembly from proceeding with implementation of Section 58 of the Constitution which allows lawmakers to override the president in the process of signing a bill into law.

The National Assembly Conference Committee on Electoral Act (amendment) Bill had recently adopted a reordered sequence of the 2019 general elections, putting the presidential election last.

This has initiated a series of controversies in the polity with some senators of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) saying it was targeted at Mr. Buhari, to prevent his re-election.

Both chambers of the National Assembly, though dominated by the APC, amended the order of the election. The proposed sequence of elections would make the National Assembly election come first in 2019, followed by governorship and state Houses of Assembly, and presidential as last.

This is against the sequence rolled out by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) late 2017, which put presidential and National Assembly elections first and governorship and state assembly to follow.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on March 13 refused assent to the bill, after it was forwarded to his office. He had said the amendments if allowed to pass violate parts of the constitution.

Shortly after the bill was refused by the president, the Federal High Court restrained the Senate from proceeding with further actions on the matter.

The restraining order followed an application by counsel to the Accord Party, Wole Olanipekun, who is asking the court to stop the lawmakers from tampering with the electoral act.

After issuing the restraining order, the court decided to proceed with the substantive application on Tuesday.

At the resumed hearing, however, an Abuja based lawyer, Okere Kingdom, informed the court of his decision to join in the matter.

In an attempt to persuade the court to entertain his appeal, Mr. Kingdom said he was filing the motion on behalf of ‘a political party’ and thus reserves a right to be heard, since the decision of the court would adversely affect his party’s position in the forthcoming 2019 general elections.

Mr. Kingdom said the rules of the court allowed him to be joined, if he wished to do so.

He, therefore, asked the court to allow his application. The applicant also threatened to file a separate application, at the same court, should his request be refused.

The other parties to the matter, however, opposed the application in its entirety.

Mr. Olanipekun said the applicant has not undertaken to comply with the speed with which the parties plan to proceed with the case. He urged the court to refuse the application to ensure an accelerated hearing of the substantive suit.

Also present at the hearing was the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who urged the court to refuse the application for lacking in merit. Mr. Malami said the argument brought forth by the applicant that he is representing a political party is not sufficient to allow him partake in the trial.

Speaking on behalf of INEC, its counsel, Femi Falana, urged the court to refuse the application on the grounds that the motion is ”materially defective”.

After standing down the matter for about an hour, Justice Mohammed refused the application by Mr. Kingdom.

The court then adjourned the matter till March 26, without proceeding with hearing into the substantive matter.

With Tuesday’s court case, the injunction against the lawmakers still stands.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Senate resolved to write the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) on the matter, saying it was a case of an arm of government (Judiciary) preventing another arm (Legislature) from performing its duties.

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