The Federal High Court, Abuja, has fixed April 25 to deliver judgment in a suit filed by the Accord Party seeking an order of court, restraining the National Assembly from acting on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018.
It will be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had on March 13, refused to sign the bill into law, which sparked arguments as to whether or not, the National Assembly would use its powers to override the president’s decision.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed fixed the date after listening to arguments of both the plaintiff and the defendants.
Mr Joseph Daudu, (SAN), counsel to the National Assembly, the first defendant, in his preliminary objection argued that the court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the matter on the grounds that its jurisdiction was not properly invoked.
According to him, the court can only have jurisdiction over the matter if the bill has become an act.
“No matter how it is construed, the Electoral Act Amendment Bill as at the day the originating summons was filed, up till date, is a bill, it becomes an act upon the happenings of two eventualities.
“Where a president, acting under provisions of Section 58(4) assents to the bill, it then becomes an Act of the National Assembly.
“Where he refuses to assent, under Section 58(5), the bill is returned to the National Assembly for use of their powers of to override.
“At that point, it remains a bill because there is no guarantee that they will muster the required two thirds majority to veto it.”
Daudu argued that it was only where the National Assembly successfully used its power to over ride the President’s veto and transform the bill to an act that the jurisdiction of the court over it would be ignited.
He further argued that there was no certificate of registration before the court to show that the Accord Party was indeed a political party as it was claiming to be.
Arguing for the second defendant, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN) aligned himself with the submission of Mr Wole Olanipekun, (SAN), counsel to the Accord Party.
Mr Femi Falana, counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the third defendant, however, argued that the Accord Party was a political party duly registered by INEC.
He submitted that the party contested in the last election in the country and won seats in the parliament.
On his part, counsel to the Accord Party, Mr Wole Olanipekun, (SAN) maintained that legislative powers began when a bill was introduced in parliament and ended when it was transmitted to the president.
He said the court had the jurisdiction to hear the matter and urged the court to dismiss Daudu’s preliminary objection and grant the reliefs his client sought.
Justice Mohammed adjourned the matter until April 25, to deliver judgment.
The plaintiff, Accord Party, had approached the court with a motion seeking an order restraining the National Assembly from taking action or actions on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018.
The plaintiff is claiming, against the defendants, a declaration that INEC is the only body constitutionally vested with the powers to organise elections to the offices of the President and Vice President of Nigeria.
It also has powers to organise elections to the offices of governor and deputy governor of a state, membership of the senate, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly of each state including fixing or assigning dates for the said elections and the sequence of same.
“A declaration that the legislative powers vested in the National Assembly by the constitution do not empower or imbue it with the right, liberty or authority to pass or purport to pass any bill into Law.
“This is with regards to a bill which attempts to interfere with or undermine the independence of INEC as guaranteed by the content, spirit and tenor of the constitution.
“A declaration that the legislative powers vested in the National Assembly by the Constitution do not empower or imbue it with the right, liberty or authority to control or dictate to INEC the way and manner it should organise, undertake and supervise elections.”