Federal court suspends proceedings on Electoral Act suit

efec gavel
efec gavel

From Godwin Tsa, Abuja

Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court has put on hold proceedings in the suit filed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) against the contentious section 84(12) of the Electoral Act to await the decision of the Supreme Court on a similar subject matter.

The court by consensus of counsel to both parties consequently adjourned the case to June 28, 2022.


Justice Ekwo had earlier adjourned the matter to Tuesday for President Muhammadu Buhari and the Peoples Democratic Party to address it on the import of a recent judgement of the Court of Appeal, which declared the contentious section 84 (12) of the amended Electoral Act, unconstitutional.

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In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/ 247/2022, the PDP asked the court to stop the National Assembly from tampering with the newly amended Electoral Act 2022, which made it mandatory that political office holders must firstly resign from office before they could vie for any elective position.

However, when the matter was called, the attention of the court was drawn to a similar suit pending before the Supreme Court on the same subject matter.

Joseph Daudu, SAN, led counsel to the PDP, further informed the court that the Supreme Court has already fixed Thursday, May 26 to hear the suit.

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This was confirmed by counsel to the 1st and 2nd defendants, Oladipo Okpeseyi (SAN) and other defence counsel.

Besides, Okpeseyi added that aside from the suit at the Supreme Court, the PDP who is the 1st respondent at the Court of Appeal has now appealed to the apex court.

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He submitted that the opportunity was right for the Supreme Court to take a firm decision on the matter.

Following the consensus position by counsel to both parties, Justice Ekwo adjourned to matter to June 28 to await the decision of the Supreme Court.

Justice Ekwo however directed parties to file and exchange all relevant processes relating to the suit before the adjourned date.

Other defendants listed in the suit are Abubakar Malami (AGF) and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

PDP prayed the court to declare that President Buhari, having assented to the Electoral Bill, could no longer give any directive to the National Assembly to take immediate steps to remove the section or any section of the Act on any ground whatsoever.

At the last adjourned date, Justice Ekwo drew the attention of all the parties to the Court of Appeal judgement.

While counsel to the PDP, Mr Joseph Daudu, SAN, insisted that there was no express order from the appellate court in respect of the controversial section, President Buhari’s lawyer, Mr Oladipupo Okpeseyi, SAN, contended that the decision of the Appeal Court touched on the substance of PDP’s suit before the high court.

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Consequently, Justice Ekwo ordered the parties to appear on the next adjourned date to formally address the court on the effect of the Court of Appeal judgement on the suit pending before him.

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The Abuja division of the Court of Appeal had on May 11, despite setting aside the judgement of the High Court in Umuahia that directed the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, to delete the said section from the electoral law, still proceeded to declare it illegal and discriminatory.

A three-member panel of Justices of the appellate court had in their verdict, held that the court in Umuahia acted without jurisdiction when it struck out that portion of the Electoral Act, stressing that the plaintiff, Mr Nduka Edede, lacked the locus standi to institute the action.

Though it made an order setting aside the judgement of the lower court, the appellate court, invoked its constitutional powers to look at the substantive suit on its merit.

The court held that the contentious provision was unconstitutional and in breach of section 42 (1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, maintaining that the section denied a class of Nigerian citizens their right to participate in elections.

However, without granting any declaratory relief, the appellate court, implored those with the requisite interest in the matter, to seek further interpretation.

Meanwhile, both President Buhari and the AGF, have taken the matter before the Supreme Court for further interpretation.

They are, in suit No. SC/CV/504/2022, urging the apex court to void the controversial section.

The National Assembly was listed as the sole Respondent in the matter.

The Plaintiffs, while invoking the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, contended 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).”

The matter has been fixed for Thursday, May 26, for hearing by the Supreme Court.

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