By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, yesterday, reserved judgment on the appeal seeking to re-order the proposed sequence for the 2019 general elections.
A full panel of the appellate court headed by its President, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, adjourned the matter for judgment, after it heard the appeal lodged by National Assembly.
The NASS had in the appeal, marked CA/A/485/2018, filed on June 14, prayed the court to declare that it has the constitutional powers to amend the Electoral Act to re-order the election sequence already released by Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
In its 17 grounds of appeal, the NASS urged the appellate court to set aside the April 25 judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which held that it lacked the powers to re-order the proposed sequence for the next general elections.
It argued that the high court was bereft of the vires to assume jurisdiction and void a bill that was still undergoing the legislative process of becoming a law.
It will be recalled that the high court had in a verdict that was delivered by Justice Ahmed Mohammed, adduced reasons why the election timetable that was released by INEC could not be altered by the legislature.
Justice Mohammed held that INEC was the only body constitutionally empowered to organise, undertake and supervise elections in the country, adding that such responsibility included fixing dates for polls.
The judgment followed a suit lodged before the court by Accord Party.
The high court noted that moves to amend the Electoral Act commenced after INEC had released its timetable for elections, stressing that action of the NASS was in breach of paragraph 15a of the 3rd Schedule to the 1999 constitution, as amended.
However, the NASS in its appeal, contended that the trial judge erred in law when he assumed jurisdiction to entertain and determine the suit without observing or applying the principles and doctrine of separation of powers.
According to the NASS, “the trial judge wrongly failed to appreciate that, until the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018 was passed into an Act by the exercise of the legislative power of the National Assembly to over-ride the veto or withholding of assent to the Bill by the President, the same remained inchoate and not capable of vesting a justiciable civil right or obligation on any person, including the plaintiff.”
It maintained that the lower court wrongly interpreted the provisions of Section 4(8) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), so as to reach the conclusion that the Federal High Court was vested with jurisdiction to impugn a Bill perceived to be unconstitutional.
Meantime, the Attorney General of the Federation, INEC and Accord Party, through their respective lawyers, urged the appellate court to dismiss the appeal, which they argued had turned academic.