From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court has fixed May 24 for definite hearing in a suit instituted against President Muhammadu Buhari by the Peoples Democratic Party PDP on the controversial section 84 (11) and (12) of the Electoral Act 2022.
Justice Inyang Eden Ekwo fixed the date on Monday to enable Buhari and PDP address him on the effect of the Court of Appeal judgment in Abuja which declared the contentious section 84 (12) as unconstitutional, null and void.
This is coming as President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, have filed a suit at the Supreme Court, seeking an interpretation of the controversial clause in the Electoral Amendment Act 2022.
In the suit marked SC/CV/504/2022 and filed on April 29, President Buhari and Malami are seeking an order of the apex court to strike out the section of the Electoral Act, which they argue was inconsistent with the nation’s constitution.
According to the court document, the plaintiffs contend that the 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 of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended), as well Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and People and Peoples Rights.
But at the Federal High Court, Justice Eko on his own, raised the issue on the ground that the PDP’S suit bothers on the same section of the law in which a higher court had made pronouncement that would bind on lower court.
Although Joseph Daudu (SAN) made spirited attempts to differentiate between the two matters and why the Judge should proceed to hear the PDP’S suit.
However, Oladipupo Okpeseyi SAN, disagreed with the PDP lawyer insisting that there was no difference between the Umuahia suit and that of PDP because the two are on the same section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act.
Following the disagreement, the Judge held that all parties in matter shall address him on May 24 on whether to abide by the Court of Appeal decision or proceed with the one before him.
The section 84 ( 12) of the Electoral Act orders all political appointees to resign from their positions 30 days to the conduct of the primary election that would produce candidates for elective offices in the 2023 general elections.
Meanwhile, before the Supreme Court, Buhari and Malami have argued that the 1999 constitution already provides qualification and disqualification for the offices of the President and Vice President, Governor and Deputy Governor, Senate and House of Representatives, House of Assembly, Ministers, Commissioners and Special Advisers
The plaintiffs are therefore seeking the following declarations: “A declaration that the joint and or combined reading of the section 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192 and 196 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended), 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 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, read together with section 4 of the same Constitution, the legislative powers vested in the Defendants 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 reason of inconsistency, unconstitutional and therefore null and void.
A declaration that section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, 2022 disqualifying political appointees from being voting delegates or be voted for at a convention or Congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election is discriminatory, inconsistent and in violent breach of the provision of each of the Sections, 42, 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192 and 196 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended), as well Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and People and Peoples Rights and same is null and void by reason of its inconsistency.