The Supreme Court has dismissed a suit seeking to void section 84 (12) of the amended Electoral Act 2022.
President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) had filed a suit at the Supreme Court, seeking an interpretation of the controversial clause in the Electoral Amendment Act 2022.
In the suit filed on April 29, Buhari and Malami, listed the National Assembly as the sole defendant.
Section 84 (12) of the legislation holds that, “no political appointee at any level shall be a 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 section has raised debates since February when the President assented to the new Electoral Act.
President Buhari had asked the National Assembly to delete the contentious clause, a request the lawmakers declined.
In their suit marked SC/CV/504/2022 and filed on April 29, 2022, President Buhari and Malami sought an order of the apex court to strike out the section of the Electoral Act, which they argue was inconsistent with the nation’s constitution.
According to the court document, the plaintiffs contend that the Section 84(12) of the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2022 is inconsistent with the provisions of sections 42, 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192 and 196 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended), as well Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and People and Peoples Rights.
The plaintiffs further contended that the constitution already makes provisions for qualification and disqualification for the offices of the President and Vice President, Governor and Deputy Governor, Senate and House of Representatives, House of Assembly, Ministers, Commissioners and Special Advisers.
They urged the Supreme Court to make: “A declaration that the joint and or combined reading of the section 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192 and 196 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended), the provision of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022 which also ignores Section 84(3) of the same Act, is an additional qualifying and/or disqualifying factors for the National Assembly, House of Assembly, Gubernatorial and Presidential elections as enshrined in the said constitution, hence unconstitutional, unlawful, null and void”.
Ruling on the application on Friday, a seven-member panel of the apex court, headed by Justice Musa Dattijo Mohammed, was unanimous in holding that Buhari, having participated in the making of the law by assenting to it, could not turn around to fault its provisions.
It held that the President by the suit sought to approbate and reprobate at the same time and that such must not be allowed.
The court, which upheld the objections raised by the National Assembly and other defendants against the suit, declined to determine it on the merit but declared that the Supreme Court lacked the jurisdiction to hear it and that the suit was an abuse of court process.
Justice Emmanuel Agim, in the lead judgment, held that it was an attack on the democratic principle of Separation of Powers for the President to seek to direct/request the Legislature to make a particular law or alter any law.
“The President lacks the power to direct the National Assembly to amend or enact an act..it violates the principle of separation of powers. There is no part of the Constitution that makes the exercise of legislative powers subject to the directive of the President”, the court said.