28th April, 2022
By Taiye Agbaje
Justice Minister Abubakar Malami, SAN, said only the Court of Appeal can restore Section 84(12) into the Electoral Act, 2022.
Malami told Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court (FHC), Abuja, in a counter affidavit filed on his behalf by his counsel, Oladipupo Okpeseyi, SAN.
The counter affidavit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/247/2022, was deposed to by Abimbola Akintola, a legal practitioner.
Section 84(12) of the Act reads: “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 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had sued the President, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Clerk of National Assembly.
It also sued Senate Leader, House of Representatives Leader and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as 1st to 8th defendants respectively.
Others include Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives, Deputy Senate Leader and Deputy Leader of the House of Representatives as 9th to 12th defendants in the matter.
The PDP had challenged the legality or otherwise of the National Assembly tinkering with the Electoral Act, after it had been signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Amidst debate about the subject matter, a Federal High Court sitting in Umuahia and presided over by Justice Evelyn Anyadike, on March18, ordered the AGF to delete Section 84(12) of the Act.
Anyadike, in the judgment, held that the section was “unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever and ought to be struck down as it cannot stand when it is in violation of the clear provisions of the Constitution.”
Anyadike held 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.
Reacting,, the AGF said that both the National Assembly and PDP had since appealed the judgment.
He said “it is only the Court of Appeal that can restore the section into the Electoral Act and not any high court.”
He said the PDP suit had become academic and constituted abuse of court process on the strength of the pending Court of Appeal matter.
The AGF, therefore, prayed the court to dismiss the PDP suit.
He argued that PDP should not be allowed to take over the functions of the National Assembly since it had no power to amend or enact law.
Malami, who averred that PDP had nothing to suffer if the contentious section is deleted, said that removing the section would deepen the practice of democracy and stop discrimination against public servants and public office holders.
When the matter came up on Thursday, counsel to the parties in the suit informed that processes had been filed and served on one another.
Justice Ekwo adjourned the matter until May 16 for hearing.