as PDP insists govt appointees must resign positions to contest election
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA–The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Monday, restrained the National Assembly from tampering with the newly amended Electoral Act 2022.
The restraining order followed a motion ex-parte that was brought before the court by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The court, in the ruling that was delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, specifically barred all the Defendants in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/247/2022, from removing section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act or preventing it from being implemented for the purpose of the 2023 general elections.
Cited as Defendants in the suit are; the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Clerk of National Assembly, Senate Leader, House of Representatives Leader and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Others are; Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Deputy Senate Leader and Deputy Leader of the House of Representatives.
It will be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had before he signed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2022 into law, asked the National Assembly to expunge section 84 (12) of the Act, which he argued would disenfranchise serving political appointees.
The section particularly made it mandatory that political office holders must firstly resign from office before they could vie for any elective position.
It reads: “No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate or be voted for at the convention or congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.”
Meanwhile, PDP, in the substantive suit it filed through its team of lawyers led by Chief Ogwu Onoja, SAN, challenged the legality or otherwise of the National Assembly tinkering with the Electoral Act, after it had been signed into law by the President.
Plaintiff, PDP, in an affidavit of urgency attached to the motion ex-parte, said there was an urgent need for the court to bar the Defendants from taking any step to accede to President Buhari’s request, pending the determination of the suit.
After he heard the application, Justice Ekwo, granted it as prayed.
He equally ordered PDP to serve the order as well as all the relevant processes on all the Defendants, even as he fixed March 21 to hear the substantive suit.
The Plaintiff had in the ex-parte application, prayed the court for “an order of interim injunction restraining the Defendants from refusing to implement the duly signed Electoral Act or in any manner withholding the Electoral Act from being put to use, including the provisions of section 84 (12) of the said Act, pending the resolution of the suit”.
As well as, an order restraining the National Assembly from giving effect to President Buhari’s request to remove section 84 (12) from the Electoral Act or take any step that will make the provision inoperative, pending the resolution of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.
It argued that President Buhari, having assented to the Bill on February 25, 2022, cannot give any directive to the National Assembly to take immediate steps to remove the section or any section of the Act on any ground whatsoever.
Plaintiff wants the court to declare that Buhari’s power regarding law-making is limited to assenting to a bill of the National Assembly or withholding assent, and does not extend to giving conditional assent.
The PDP further wants the court to hold that Section 84 (12) is constitutional and liable to be enforced by INEC which is the 8th Defendant in the suit.
It prayed the court for a declaration that Section 84 (12) is not inconsistent with or contradicts Sections 40 and 42 of the Constitution and does not offend Constitutional provisions on disqualification of a person from election to office.
It applied for an order of mandatory injunction compelling INEC to put into immediate effect the Electoral Act, including the said Section 84 ( 12).