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Senate Rejects Court Order Stopping Election Sequence Reorder, Writes CJN

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Senate yesterday kicked against the decision of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja which ordered that the National Assembly should stop from taking further legislative actions on the amendment of the Electoral Act Bill, 2018.

The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, presided by Justice Ahmed Mohammed, had on Wednesday ruled that NASS was restrained from further legislative action on amendment of the Electoral Act, pending the determination of a suit filed before it by the Accord Party.

The Court ordered all parties in the suit to maintain ‘status quo’ pending the next adjourned date.

This was coming as President Muhammadu Buhari withheld his assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, which seeks to re-order the sequence of polls in 2019.

Buhari, had on March 8, 2018 wrote separately to both chambers of the National Assembly and said the amendments by the lawmakers were in conflict with existing laws and cannot be given assent.

Senate had reorder the sequence of the elections, to commence with National Assembly, followed by governorship and State House of Assembly, and Presidential as last, against the sequence earlier rolled out by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

But yesterday, Senate instead of to obey the court ruling however kicked, stating categorically that amending the Electoral Act does not require court intervention.

The Upper Chamber insisted that every arm of government must function in accordance with the principle of separation of powers. It said the Court should hands off on the matter because till NASS finished legislation on the electoral amendment before it will become a law that the court can interpret when and if it feels that there are issues.

Consequently, the Senate resolved to write the Chief Justice of Nigeria to express concern on the fact that the court has no power to stop the proceedings of the Senate or whatsoever.

The Senate’s resolution followed a Point of Order by the Senate Minority Leader, of Senator Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom).

Relying on Order 45 of the Senate rules, Akpabio urged the Senate to write the Chief Justice of Nigeria to intimate him of the development and remind him of the principle of separation of powers.

According to him, “I have perused the constitution and I think I cannot see anywhere that the court has the power to stop the proceedings of the Senate. If this is allowed, it therefore means that in future the court can stop the National Assembly from appropriating and the country will have no budget for that year.

“Separation of powers is a core of democracy so there is need for the Chief Justice to caution legal officers on issuing such orders geared towards interfering with other arms of government,’’ Akpabio stated.

Concurring, Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan insisted that that amending the Electoral Act does not require court intervention.

“Institutions should rather do things that should enhance our democracy.

The issue at stake does not require court intervention because this is democracy at work.The court should hands off what we do in the National assembly, it is when we have finished and we have a law that the court feels that there are issues that they can interpret,’’ he stated.

While ruling on the matter, Senate President, Bukola Saraki maintained that it is explicit that every arm of government has to function in accordance with the principle of separation of powers.

“The issue is clear and the principle is clear; what is important is building democracy and building our institutions.We will come and go but the institutions will remain so it is imperative that everybody must work towards sustaining the institutions.

“We will express our concern to the Chief Justice of Nigeria,’’ Saraki noted.

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