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2019: Federal High Court in Enugu to give judgment on election sequence suit

…NASS made no representation nor file any document

Whereas the National Assembly is said to be waiting for the constitutional 90 day to veto the denied Presidential Assent on the Electoral Act Amendments Bill that specifically seeks to alter the election sequence, the Federal High Court in Enugu has reserved judgment for May 18, 2018 on the substantive suit filed by a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Enugu State, Chief Anike Nwoga.

The suit is challenging the constitutional powers of the National Assembly to alter the election sequence as decided by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Already President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), had informed the court that they were not opposed to the suit challenging the attempt by the National Assembly to re-order the sequence of the 2019 elections through amendment of the Electoral Act.

The Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary of Federal Ministry of Justice, Dayo Akpata, made the position of both parties known at the hearing of the suit brought before the court by Nwoga.

Even though the suit has the National Assembly and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the first and second defendants while President Buhari and AGF are third and fourth respondents respectively, Business Hilights South East Bureau Chief observed that the federal lawmakers failed to make any representation to the suit.

Addressing the court presided over by Justice A.M. Liman, the Attorney General of the Federation represented by Chief Akpata explained that by virtue of Section 4 Subsection 8 of the Nigerian constitution, the court has jurisdiction to entertain the matter, adding that the exercise of legislative powers of the National must be subject to review by the court.

Citing relevant cases including Habib vs. AGF, AGF vs. ANPP and Attorney General of Bendel State vs. Attorney General of the Federation, Akpata argued that if in the exercise of legislative powers conferred on the National Assembly by the constitution, there was a defect, as to say that “a bill is not passed according to the law, the bill is null and void.”

He maintained that the Supreme Court could legislate on this issue, which constitutes a limitation to legislative powers.

On whether the plaintiff (Nwoga) has the locus standi to institute the suit, Akpata made it clear that every citizen of the country has the right of access to justice when there was a breach of the constitution. He also drew attention of the court to the fact that the affidavit filed by the plaintiff has not been controverted.

Buttressing his argument with the case of CBN vs. Oladele Amao, he said a declaration could be made even where a matter has been rendered dead, if the issue in question has to do with the constitution. Akpata added that the recent decision of the Abuja Federal High Court also looked at the same issues.

Earlier in his prayers, counsel to the plaintiff, Godwin Onwusi, urged the court to grant the five reliefs sought by his client.

These include to determine whether the National Assembly has the powers to compel INEC to conduct election in a particular sequence and even if they could, whether they could by law change the timetable already released by the electoral body before the passage of the bill.

The plaintiff counsel argued that case laws show that the National Assembly do not have such powers, as the powers given to INEC to supervise, conduct and organize elections is not subject to control by either the executive or the legislative arms of government.

However, counsel to INEC, the second respondent, Chineme Onuoma, said the commission was neither opposed nor in support of the suit.