Electoral Act: Senate vows to appeal Umuahia court judgement

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By King Richard

The Senate on Wednesday vowed to appeal the Umuahia Court verdict empowering the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami to delete Section 84(12) of the amended Electoral Act.

The Senate on Tuesday were divided but by Wednesday the lawmakers resolved to appeal the Umuahia Court verdict.

The motion entitled: ‘Urgent need to appeal the Judgement of the Federal High Court Umuahia on Suit No.: FHC/UM/CS/26/2022 on Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act 2022 sponsored by Senator George Thompson Sekibo
and over 80 Senators.

While leading the debate, Sekibo stated that the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria passed the Electoral Bill 2022 and a clean copy forwarded to the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria for his assent and knows also that the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, assented to the Bill into law which, was widely appreciated by the citizens of the country.

He submitted that a court in Umuahia, Abia State in a suit marked FHC/MU/SC/26/2022 faulted the provision of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act 2022 and declared it unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null void and of no effect.

“Aware that the said Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act 2022 states as follows:

No political appointee at any level shall be voting delegate or be voted for at the convention or congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.

“Observes that the Judge in his ruling said that Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act 2022 was inconsistent with Sections 66(1)(f), 107(1)(f), 137(1)(g) and 182(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

In seconding the motion, Senator Sabi Abdullahi described the move as a timely intervention, saying its content was straightforward.

Senator Gabriel Suswam, who also supported the motion, believes time is of the essence and the motion is straightforward for the appropriate channel to appeal.

“In making an appeal, we do not necessarily need the guidance of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters,” he said. “I think we should just go ahead and pass this motion as presented.”

The lawmakers, in their resolution, agreed to appeal the judgement in suit marked FHC/MU/SC/26/2022 to set aside the decision of the court.

For members in the lower chamber, the clause in question is directed at political appointees and not civil servants.

They insisted that the court passed a judgement on a matter which was not included in the Electoral Act passed by the National Assembly.

They also questioned why the National Assembly was not joined as a respondent to the suit, stressing that the action of the judge was an ‘aberration’.

While the lawmakers hinted at writing a petition to the National Judicial Council (NJC), the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, said he would not allow the National Assembly to be ridiculed.

Just like his colleagues, he queried why the judgement was obtained in faraway Abia State, insisting that only the National Assembly has the constitutional authority to alter any part of the legislation which it passed.

Gbajabiamila, therefore, appealed to the AGF not to hastily implement the court judgement, and not to get into the legitimate functions of the National Assembly.

President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the Electoral Act 2022 on February 25, following series of attempts by the National Assembly to amend the nation’s electoral laws.

He had, however, objected to the provisions of Section 84 (12), which read, “No political appointee at any level shall be voting delegate or be voted for at the Convention or Congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.”

The President believes the section constitutes a disenfranchisement of serving political office holders from voting or being voted for at conventions or congresses of any political party, for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election in cases where it holds earlier than 30 days to the national election.

He later asked the National Assembly to amend the section of the Act, but the request was rejected by the lawmakers.

Recall on Friday last week, Justice Evelyn Anyadike of the Federal High Court in Umuahia, Abia State ordered the AGF to delete the section from the Act.

She held that the section was unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever and could not stand, saying it was in violation of the clear provisions of the Constitution.