The suit by the four political parties is praying the court to determine whether the president can proceed to assent to the Electoral Bill 2018…
Godwin Tsa, Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Okwe Obi, Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja has been asked by four registered political parties to stop President Muhammadu Buhari from giving his assent to the amended Electoral Bill 2018.
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Also listed as defendants in the suit are the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Attorney-General of the Federation.
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1469/18, the Advanced People’s Democratic Alliance (APDA), Allied Peoples Movement, (APM) and Movement For Restoration and Defence of Democracy (MRDD), under the aegis of Forum of Presidential Candidates, are contending that the president’s assent to the 2018 Electoral Bill will truncate the 2019 general elections.
Chairman of the Forum, Shitu Mohammed Kabir, who is also the presidential candidate of APDA, described the bill as “a stumbling blocks against a free, fair elections.”
Kabir, who addressed newsmen, yesterday, in Abuja, argued that the time was rather too close to the election to enable INEC train its staff on how to handle the electronic devices, cautioning the electoral umpire not to postpone the elections.
He expressed worry that those pushing for assent may unwittingly derail the electoral calendar if INEC should adjust its programmes to accommodate the personnel, budget and other logistics in the guise of abiding with the provisions of the new law.
He picked hole in the provision of sections 84-87 which he claimed could weaken the powers of political party executives on party primaries and choices of candidates.
“My concern is how to avoid unnecessary litigations and protect the sanctity of the electoral process,” he noted.
Regardless of the suit, the Presidency has urged Nigerians to disregard rumours suggesting that President Buhari will not sign the controversial Electoral Bill.
According to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, Buhari was still operating within the time frame allowed by the Constitution to either sign the bill or withhold his assent.
By the provision of the constitution, the president is to either sign or write the National Assembly within 30 days of a piece of legislation being transmitted to him, conveying his reasons to withhold his assent.
Buhari had three times rejected the bill, the last time being August 30, when he returned it to the National Assembly.
The lawmakers amended the areas the president raised objections to and sent it back to him for his assent on November 7.
“The president is still within the time stipulated to take his decision. There is no basis for any speculation, whether he will sign or not sign. He is still within time the law allows,” the presidential aide said.
However, the suit by the four political parties dated December 3, is praying the court to determine whether the president (1st defendant) can proceed to assent to the Electoral Bill 2018 forwarded to him by the National Assembly to be used for the conduct of the 2019 general election when there is no more adequate time for the manifestation of the proposed act.
They also asked the court to determine whether assenting to the Electoral Amendment Bill 2018, now will not truncate the 4th respondent (INEC) from ensuring proper conduct at 2019 general election considering the fact that the notice of election was initiated in line with the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
They asked the court to determine the following reliefs: A declaration that the assenting of the bill will truncate the 2019 General Election.
An order of this court stopping the first Defendant from assenting to the Electoral Amendment bill 2018.
In the affidavit in support of the suit deposed to by Kabir, the plaintiffs said the Electoral Act 2010 as Amended was done sequence to the 2015 general election adding that the purpose was to among other things provide adequate time for the 4th respondent to issue notice of election, receive nomination of candidates from political parties and ensure the proper conduct of political parties.
According to the plaintiffs, the Act has been used by the 4th respondent to conduct the 2015 general Election into various political offices in Nigeria.
He further said that the Act has been used to issue notice for the 2019 General Election.
He said in the affidavit in support of the originating summon:
*That I also know as a fact. that electoral Act 2010 as amended has been adopted/used by all the registered political parties to conduct their primary election into all the political elective offices in preparation for the 2019 general election coming up in February. 2019.
*That I know as a fact that the process leading to the conduct of the 2019 general elections was initiated and substantially consummated on the basis of 2010 Electoral Act.