By Joshua Omoloye
The newly signed Electoral Act may have suffered a setback as a court invalidated and struck out its Section 84 (12) dealing with the right of political appointees to vote or be voted for in an election.
The Federal High Court sitting in Umuahia, in a judgment delivered by Justice Evelyn Anyadike, held that Section 84(12) was unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null, void, and of no effect whatsoever and ought to be struck down as it cannot stand when it is in violation of the clear provisions of the Constitution.
President Muhammadu Buhari had while signing the amended Electoral Act urged the National Assembly to delete the provision as it violated the Constitution and the rights of government appointees.
The President further wrote a letter to both chambers of the National Assembly seeking a change by way of deleting the provision, an amendment the Senate rejected in plenary.
Justice Anyadike in the suit marked FHC/ UM/CS/26/2022 held that Sections 66(1)(f), 107(1) (f), 137(1)(f) and 182(1)(f) of the 1999 Constitution already stipulated that appointees of government seeking to contest elections were only to resign at least 30 days to the date of the poll.
He held that any other law that compelled them to leave office at any time before that was unconstitutional, invalid, illegal null and void to the extent of its inconsistency to the clear provisions of the Constitution.
Counsel to the Plaintiff Emeka Ozoani (SAN) while addressing newsmen stated that by the judgment, the National Assembly is not required to further make any amendments to the section as the import of this ruling is that Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act is no longer in existence.
The judge thereafter ordered the Attorney General of the Federation to forthwith delete the said Subsection 12 of Section 84 from the body of the Electoral Act, 2022. Meanwhile, the National Assembly said it has not received a copy of the judgement, The Trumpet gathered.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Media, Senator Ajibola Basiru declined to comment on the judgement because neither was he aware of the suit nor sighted the ruling. “I’m not aware of the suit and whether the National Assembly was a party or was served and/or represented.
I have also not seen or read the judgment or whether the National Assembly has been served with the judgment or any order of court.
“I cannot react to newspaper reports of court judgment without seen the actual court judgment,” he said. The Federal Government says it will immediately go with the court ruling and effect it in a complete Electoral Act to be printed or gazetted.
Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, made this known in a statement, saying: “The office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice will accordingly give effect to the Court judgment in line with the dictates of the law and the spirit of the judgment.
“The judgment of the Court will be recognized by the Government printers in printing the Electoral Act. “The Act will be gazetted factoring the effect of the judgment into consideration and deleting the constitutionally offensive provision accordingly.
“The provision of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act 2022 is not part of our law and will be so treated accordingly. “This is in line with the dictates of chapter 7, Part 4, Section 287 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) on enforcement of decisions that makes it a point of duty and obligation on all authorities and persons to have the judgment of the federal High Court, among others, to be enforced.”
However, the new development portends a constitutional crisis, according to some pundits. One, a university teacher, said: “This issue is tending towards a constitutional crisis. There is no court in the land that can upturn an Act of Parliament or part of it. An Act of Parliament can only be tempered with by the Parliament itself.