Electoral Act: Senate to appeal ruling allowing political appointees contest primaries

The Senate has resolved to appeal the judgement of Federal High Court, Umuahia, nullifying section 84(12) of the Electoral Act.

The resolution was reached after a debate at today’s plenary.

The resolution followed a motion titled: “Urgent need to appeal judgement of the Federal High Court Umuahia on suit no FHC/UM/CS/26/2022 on Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, 2022.”

The motion was sponsored by Senator George Thompson Sekibo (Rivers East) and co-sponsored by 79 other Senators.

Sekibo, in his presentation, drew the attention of his colleagues to the judgement of the Federal High Court in Umuahia, Abia State, in a suit marked FHC/MU/SC/26/2022.

The judgement faulted the provision of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act 2022 and declared it unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null void and of no effect.

Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act 2022 states as follows: “No political appointed at any level shall be 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.”

The lawmaker observed that the Judge in his ruling said that Section 81(12) of the Electoral Act 2022 was inconsistent with Sections 66(1)(f), 107(1) (), 137(1)(g) and 182(1)(c) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

He noted further that Section 4(1)(2) and (3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended vested the power of lawmaking for the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the National Assembly.

He argued that in furtherance to the powers vested in the National Assembly, the 1999 Constitution under the roles of the Executive in Item D that deals with political parties in Section 228(a)(b) and (c) confers more powers on the National Assembly, more particularly on political parties and effective management of the electoral process by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

He noted that the Electoral Act 2022 enacted by the National Assembly followed due process, adding that Section 84(12) of the Act exclusively refers to nomination conventions and congresses called for candidate selection and not participation in the general election which Sections 66(1)(f),137(1)(g) and 182(1)(g) referred to.

According to him, the interpretation of the meaning of the words ‘civil service’ and ‘public service’ in Section 318 was unambiguous, saying, “there’s a difference between the civil service or public service and political appointment.”

He added that “the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should show concern on the judgment especially when she was not given opportunity to represent herself in a matter such as this that emanates from her legitimate functions.”

Sekibo warned further that, “letting the judgment go without concern will become a precedence on which any person could go to court and obtain judgment to ridicule the good intentions of the National Assembly as an institution.”

The Senate, accordingly, resolved to appeal the judgment in suit FHC/MU/SC/26/2022 for the court to set aside the judgment, noting that same was reached without due consideration of the Constitutional interpretation in Section 318 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

The PUNCH had reported that Justice Evelyn Anyadike, in a judgment, held that the Section of the Act was “unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever”, adding that it cannot stand when it is in violation of the clear provisions of the Constitution.

Consequently, the court ordered the Attorney General of the Federation to “forthwith delete the said Subsection 12 of Section 84 from the body of the Electoral Act.”

Justice Anyadike in the Suit FHC/UM/CS/26/2022 held that Sections 66(1), 107(1)(f) of the 1999 Constitution already stipulated that appointees of government seeking to contest elections were only to resign at least 30 days to the date of the election.

According to her, any other law that mandates such appointees to resign or leave the office at any time before that was unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null and void to the extent of its inconsistency with the clear provisions of the Constitution.

Some of the President’s ministers who are said to be planning to run for different offices include the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, who is said to be eyeing the Kebbi State governorship seat; the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who is believed to be planning to contest the governorship of Katsina State; the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who is rumoured to be eyeing the Presidency.

Others who are said to have political ambitions include the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige; the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba; and a few others.

Punch

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