Senate to debate court ruling on Section 84 (12) of Electoral Act

Senate President Ahmed Lawan

The Senate, will, on Wednesday, debate the ruling of a Federal High Court sitting in Umuahia, Abia, which nullified the controversial Section 84 (12) of the amended Electoral Act.

This followed a point of order raised by Sen. George Sekibo (PDP-Rivers) during plenary on Tuesday.

The section requires ministers, head of agencies and other political appointees to resign before participating in primaries, convention and other electoral activities.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the court had on March 18, nullified Section 84(12) of the newly amended Electoral Act, saying it was a violation of the provisions of the Constitution.

The court, in a judgment delivered by Justice Evelyn Anyadike, held that the section “was unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever”.

Sekibo, while invoking Senate Orders 10 and 11 which is on privileges said the electoral law emanated from the National Assembly, therefore the parliament should be joined as a party in the suit.

“What the judge relied on is not interpretation of the Constitution. The Constitution defines for us who is a civil servant and who is a public servant.

“It does not include political appointees. Moreso, Section four gives us powers to make laws.

“If in the course of doing our job we find Section 84(12) as enshrined in the Electoral Act just assented to is for the good interest of the people, I don’t think somebody should go to court without joining the Senate or the House of Representatives where this law emanated from.

“So if you think it is faulty, you take us to court. We did not know, we were not told they just went there and got a judgement destroying our work over one year.”

He, therefore, moved that the issue be discussed during plenary today (Tuesday) to avoid setting a bad precedence on laws enacted by the federal parliament.

The motion was supported by Sen. Chukwuka Utazi (PDP-Enugu).

However, the Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege who presided over plenary, suggested that the debate on the issue be postponed to Wednesday since the Senate President Ahmad Lawan and many other lawmakers were absent.

NAN reports that the section says: “No political appointee 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”.

IJustice Anyadike further stated that Sections 66(1)(f), 107(1)(f), 137(1)(f) and 182(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 and that any other law that mandated such appointees to resign or leave office at any time before that was unconstitutional, invalid, illegal null and void to the extent of its inconsistency to the clear provisions of the Constitution.

While signing the Electoral Bill into law in February, President Muhammadu Buhari had asked the National Assembly to delete section 84 (12).

President Buhari had argued that “Section 84 (12) constitutes a disenfranchisement of serving political office holders from voting or being voted for at conventions or congresses of any political party, for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election in cases where it holds earlier than 30 days to the national election”.

However, the Senate refused to consider the president’s request and threw out the bill seeking the amendment of the section, with lawmakers stressing that an amendment would be going against the civil service norms and would be injurious to the well-being of the society.

On Wednesday, Justice Minister Abubakar Malami, SAN, said following the Senate’s refusal, the Federal Government will consider all other options available to it before a position will be taken.

Malami further explained that even though it is the responsibility of the lawmakers to legislate, if it becomes necessary, the government will exploit other options which will include either putting forward another request to the parliament for reconsideration, approaching the court, or accepting the law just as it is.

The Judge, thereafter, ordered the Attorney General of the Federation to forthwith delete the said Subsection 12 of Section 84 from the body of the Electoral Act, 2022. (NAN)

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