BY INNOCENT ANABA
With less than a week to the inaugural sitting of the national conference, a civil society group has asked a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, to stop the planned confab, arguing that the Federal Government had no constitutional powers to convene such a gathering.
Defendants in the suit are the Attorney General of the Federation and Clerk of the National Assembly.
The plaintiff, Legal Defence and Assistance Project, LEDAP, is asking the court to declare that the proposed national conference was usurpation of the powers of the National Assembly under Section 4 of the Constitution.
Relying on the 2003 decision of the Supreme Court in Gani Fawehinmi vs Ibrahim Babangida SC.360/2001 in respect of the faulted Oputa Panel, the group argued that the Federal Government could not legally set up a national conference in a federation as Nigeria to deliberate on issues outside the exclusive legislative list of the constitution, as it could only do so through the National Assembly.
LEDAP is also asking the court to declare that the proposed National Conference by the Government of Nigeria was unconstitutional and violated the provisions of Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution, being an illegal usurpation of the constitutional powers of the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly.
It also wanted the court to declare that the allocation of N7 billion Appropriation Bill 2014 presented to the National Assembly by the Federal Government for the purpose of undertaking, carrying out, instituting and managing a National Conference was unconstitutional, illegal, wasteful, ultra vires, and contrary to the constitutional obligation of government to ensure optimal utilisation of national resources under Chapter 2 of the Constitution.
It also wanted the court to restrain the National Assembly from appropriating any funds for the purpose of holding a National Conference as proposed by the Federal Government.
The plaintiff also wants the court to declare that the constitutional and legal responsibility for considering, deciding and making resolutions in respect of matters relating to laws, the constitution, fiscal allocations and management, political structure, and order and good government of Nigeria rest exclusively with the National Assembly as established under section 4 of the Constitution and no other body or conference, and with the State assemblies with respect to matters within their respective legislative competence.
* A declaration that the Federal Government has no constitutional powers under Nigeria’s constitution to set up, institute, summon or establish a national conference to deliberate and or take decisions or make legislative or other recommendations on matters outside the Exclusive Legislative List in Part 2, Second Schedule to the Constitution, or on matters on the Concurrent Legislative List thereof except as the later relates to the Federal Capital Territory.
*A declaration that there is no law permitting or authorising the Federal Government to summon or set up a National Conference to deliberate on issues already covered by the constitution or other laws of the Federation or of the states or any other issue whatsoever.
*A declaration that the Tribunals of Inquiry Act, Cap. 447 that authorises the Federal Government to set up bodies or panels in respect of specific issues within its legislative competence does not mandate it to set up, institute, or otherwise manage a national conference as proposed by the Federal Government.