Supreme Court

By Miftaudeen Raji 

The debate over the Nigerian Electoral Amendment Act has been in the public domain for some time but, the constitutional matter has generated more dust as political parties make last minute push towards the 2023 general elections. 

The legislative tussle reached its climax on Friday as the Supreme Court, struck out the suit President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, filed to void section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, 2022.

The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision by a seven-man panel of the Justices led by Justice Muhammad Dattijo, the apex court held that President Buhari was not a proper person to approach it with such suit, owing to the nature of reliefs that were sought.

Here are some keynote things to know about the Section 84(12) of Electoral Act 2022, which raised some much controversies in the public domain:

What does the Section 84 (12) say?

Specifically, Section 84 (12) of the Act states that, “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.”

Simply, this Section basically implies that a political appointees such as ministers, commissioners, special advisers, personal assistants, either at the federal or state level, are not allowed to be a voting delegate or be voted for in a political party primary. 

Thus, he/she cannot be a candidate for an election, because they are not allowed by the provision of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act to be a delegate or be voted for in the political party’s primaries.

However, the only way such an individual would be a candidate is if he/she resigns before the party’s primaries. Political parties are mandated by Section 29(1) of the Electoral Act to conduct their primaries and submit the list of candidates at least 180 days (i.e 6 months) before the date appointed for a general election. 

What does National Assembly say?

The House of Representatives, on Friday, said that the Supreme Court of Nigeria has reaffirmed the legislative supremacy of the National Assembly.

According to Spokesman of the House of Representatives, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, the Supreme Court ruling will stand the test of time, and will stand every test to check its credibility, viability, constitutionality and otherwise.

Why is President Buhari against it?

President Muhammadu Buhari had told a  to a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, why he kicked against section 84 (12) of the amended Electoral Act, 2022.

Buhari, in a statement explained that the contentious section of the Electoral Act, would disenfranchise political appointees and prevent them from engaging in the electoral process in the exercise of their inalienable rights in a participatory democracy.

What do constitutional lawyers say?

Counsel to the National Assembly, Dr. Kayode Ajulo, who had asked the Supreme Court to strike out the suit,  accused both President Buhari and Malami of abusing the judicial process.

Ajulo argued that President Buhari, having assented to the Electoral Act, he could not turn back to challenge its provisions in court.

The lawyer said, “The crux of our objection is that the plaintiffs as constituted do not have the legal right to invoke the original jurisdiction of this court as provided for in section 232 (1) of the Constitution.

What the NBA says

The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA on its part, brought an application to be allowed into the case as amicus curiae (friend of the court).

The legal body, said, in the interest of  Nigerian citizens, it prayed the Supreme Court to dismiss the suit in public interest.

“It is our submission that there is no conflict between section 84(12) and any other section of the Electoral Act, the 1999 Constitution, as amended, or the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right.

Counsel for the NBA, Mr. Charles Mekunye, SAN urged the court to take note of the ill the said section is meant to cure. He said, “The essence of the section is to provide a level playing field for all Nigerians, such that political appointees should not use their office to advance their personal interests.”

Take of Counsel to Buhari, Malami 

Meanwhile, Counsel for President Buhari and Malami, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, urged the court to allow the appeal and nullify the controversial section which he said would deny political appointees the right to participate in election.

In its lead judgement that was prepared and delivered y Justice Emmanuel Agim on Friday, the apex court, upheld arguments of the Defendants and accordingly struck out the suit.

Supreme Court on Buhari’s request 

The Supreme Court, in its ruling on Friday holds that the request by President Buhari to the National Assembly to delete Section 84(12) of Electoral Act amounts to an abuse of judicial process.

A win for democracy, judiciary, legislative body

The Supreme Court verdict has been described as a victory for the advancement of democracy and the nation’s rule of law. 

The Court has reaffirmed the legislative supremacy of the National Assembly, and have also done that in the spirit of doctrine of separation of powers, understanding that the efficiency of government will be driven by this democratic principle where every arm stays within the parameters of their mandate and to become the best in their assignment.

With the judgement, the supreme court has restored the confidence of Nigerians in participatory democracy with the integrity of this judgement, delivered without fear or favor, but with Nigeria and Nigerians at the center of it all.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.