• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Electoral Act: Moves to expunge section 84(12) suffer setback

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The moves by the Federal Government and other political actors to expunge Section 84(12) of the newly amended Electoral Act 2022 which disallows political appointees from contesting as delegates or candidates for elections at party primaries has suffered a setback.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday indicated to appeal the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Umuahia which asked the attorney-general of the federation to delete the section from the Electoral Act Amendment bill recently signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari

Justice Evelyn Anyadike, had in the judgment last Friday, held that the section of the act was unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever and ordered the attorney- general of the federation and minister of justice, Abubakar Malami, to “forthwith delete the said sub-section 12 of Section 84 from the body of the Electoral Act.”

But, the lawmakers while debating the judgment on Wednesday when Sada Soli (APC, Katsina) brought it under matters of privilege challenged the verdict of the court, describing it as encroaching on the principle of separation of powers.

Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the House in his contribution said despite the fact that President Buhari was expected to take legal advice; he would not allow the institution (House of Representatives) which he heads to be ridiculed.

Read also: Electoral Act 2022: Technical implications, emerging risks and forensic possibilities

Gbajabiamila said: “I read this judgment on the pages of newspapers. The first thing I did was to call the legal department and my office to find out if we were ever served with the processes and they said we were not served. This House could not have been served because we were not made a party to the suit.

“Our attempt with this 84(12) section was to deepen democracy, unfortunately, it was taken to court, not minding that there was mischief the National Assembly sought to cure. Assuming the law is ambiguous, when you are interpreting it then you go to the mischief rule to get the full clarity of what was intended.

“More curious is the fact that the judgment was obtained in far away Umuahia, Abia State, when I know court directions should be filed where the defendants are residents.

“We have to appeal this judgment and have it set aside for the sake of posterity and for the records. So I appeal to the attorney-general to tarry and not go into the functions of the National Assembly because apparently, he intends to carry out the order of the court. He should stop and desist for now until this matter is settled and we should write a formal complaint to NJC.”

Soli while moving the motion said the judgment given with respect to section 84 (12) of the electoral act, the intention of the legislature was to address the issue of political appointees which was never in anywhere in the constitution.

“This is to give a level playing ground to all participants. That was the wisdom of the legislature. The court can’t interpret what the legislators didn’t intend. Our intention was to address the issue of political appointees. Mr President was advised in his communication to this House with respect to section 84(12) requesting the parliament to delete that section. I’m sure that advice is given by the attorney- general.

“The advice in that letter to the parliament by the President was to delete. The court is giving an executive appointee the power to encroach on the principles of separation of powers. This is a clear-cut infringement on the collective good of all parliamentarians to make laws. Our privilege has been breached,” he said.