The Supreme Court has granted the request by the Rivers Attorney General and Speaker to be made defendants in the suit by President Muhammmadu Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), seeking to void Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act 2022.
In a ruling on Thursday, a seven-member panel, led by Justice Musa Dattijo Mohammed, granted the application for joinder filed by Rivers’ officials, which was not opposed by plaintiffs’ lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) and lawyer to the National Assembly (earlier listed as the sole defendant), Kayode Ajulo.
Fagbemi had planned to oppose the application, but changed his mind on realising it could delay the hearing of the substantive suit.
The Court ordered parties to file and exchange all necessary processes on or before Wednesday next week and adjourned till Thursday for hearing.
Lawyer to the Rivers AG and Speaker (now the 2nd and 3rd defendants) Emmanuel Ukala (SAN) said his clients believed they needed to be made parties in the case because they would be affected one way or the other by the outcome.
The Rivers AG and Speaker stated, in their supporting affidavit, that the of the suit relates to the issue of validity and constitutionality of the provisions of section 84(12) of the Electoral Act 2022 enacted by the National Assembly of Nigeria and applicate throughout the federation of Nigeria including the Rivers State of Nigeria.
“The Rivers State House of Assembly, which sought to be joined as the 2nd defendant, as represented by its Speaker the Legislative Assembly for Rivers State of Nigeria recognized under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended and vested with the Iegislative competence to enact make laws for the order and good government of Rivers State of Nigeria including laws for elections to a local government council, but which laws must not be inconsistent with any law made by the National Assembly, like the Electoral Act 2022.
“Any decision rendered by this court in respect of the subject matter of this suit will certainly affect the legal rights of the Rivers State House of Assembly and impinge upon its legislative powers to make laws in addition ta but not inconsistent with section 84(12) of the Electoral Act 2022 enacted by the National Assembly and applicable in Rivers State and will affect the scope of its authority to make laws as conferred on it by Section 7 and item E. 12 of the Concurrent Legislative List of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
“ Attorney General of Rivers State sought to be joined as the 3rd defendant in this suit is the Chief Law Officer of Rivers State vested with the responsibility of representing the Rivers State of Nigeria in legal matters including in the coordination, implementation and enforcement of the laws of the state for the order and good government of the Rivers State of Nigeria.
“ State is constitutionally bound to be governed democratically in accordance with the letters and spirit of the Constitution.
“The applicants/parties seeking to be joined are persons or entities bound by the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and the Electoral Act 2022 and therefore proper or necessary parties entitled to be joined as defendants to this suit so as to be heard in the exercise of their constitutional right of fair hearing in respect of the subject matter of this suit whose outcome is likely to affect their legal rights and obligations.”
The National Assembly has urged the court to decline jurisdiction over the case on the grounds that it was wrongly instituted.
In a notice of preliminary objection filed by its lawyer, Kayode Ajulo, the federal legislative house are contending that the “court lacks the requisite jurisdiction to hear and determine this suit,” adding that the case was filed in “flagrant violation of Section 1(1)(A) of the Supreme Court Act.”
It argued that the suit as presently constituted neither discloses nor raises the existence of any dispute which may warrant the original jurisdiction of this court as mandated by provisions of the Supreme Court Act 2002.
It further argued that “the 1st plaintiff (Mr Buhari), having conclusively discharged his duty under the constitution and as such there is no basis to attempt to undo that which he has done in exercise of his powers.”
“The original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court cannot be invoked to amend the provision of any law validly made by the National Assembly in the exercise of the legislative powers granted it by the constitution.”