Justice Ahmed Mohamed of a Federal High Court, Abuja, has fixed April 25, to deliver judgment in a suit filed by the Accord Party against the National Assembly, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), and Independent National Electoral Commission (INE) to challenge the re-ordering of the 2019 elections in the Electoral Act.
The court had on March 14, barred the National Assembly from taking any action aimed at overriding the refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018, into Law.
The ruling was sequel to an oral application made in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/232/2018, filed by the Accord Party against the National Assembly
In the ruling, the court ordered parties to “maintain status quo ante bellum” pending the determination of the motion on notice.
The party had approached the court with a motion seeking an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the National Assembly from taking any further action or actions on the Bill titled Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018, particularly, to convene to pass the said Bill into Law, by two-thirds majority of its two chambers, pending the final determination of the substantive originating summon.
The court, however, fixed yesterday for definite hearing of the suit.
During the hearing off the case, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, who appeared for the plaintiff, adopted all the processes and relied on them in urging the court to answer all the nine questions posed by the plaintiff in its originating summon in its favour and grant all the 11 reliefs being sought before the court.
He submitted that the “legal action isn’t being contested at all by any of the defendants”.
Olanipekun referred the court to the counter affidavit of the 1st defendant deposed to by Arume Alli, and urged court to strike out paragraphs 5, 7, 9,11, 12 and 13.
“They offend Section 115 of the Evidence Act. What the plaintiff has submitted is not novel, it’s a constitutional issue, not political, not academical, not theoretical,” Olanipekun submitted.
He among other issues contended that the written responses of the 1st defendant only sought to oppose the issues raised by the plaintiff in an omnibus manner rather than attack the constitutional issues and reliefs raised by the originating summons.
Joseph Daudu, SAN, who represented the NASS, in his argument submitted that the suit seeks to pray the court to interfere with the internal affairs of the National Assembly.
Among the respondents, National Assembly is the only party that filed preliminary objection to the suit.
Challenging the jurisdiction of the court to grant reliefs sought by the plaintiff, which he said lacked the locus standi to institute the action, Daudu maintained that the suit was premature and inchoate since the National Assembly has not passed the Bill into law.
He insisted that a Bill in the Assembly is but an amorphous document that is non-existent in law and that the court could only decide on Acts from the National Assembly and not mere bills which are subject to lobbing and antics of the members of the Assembly.
Malam Abubakar Malami, SAN, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice argued contrary to Daudu’s claim, that the court has jurisdiction to entertain the said matter.
The AGF cited Sections 4(8) of the 1999 constitution as amended, which gives courts the right to adjudicate in matters relating to the legislative powers of the National Assembly.
More so, he aligned himself with the submission of Olanipekun in urging the court to grant the prayers of the plaintiff.
“My lord, the 2nd defendant has filed friendly process to the case of the plaintiff. I call the process friendly in the sense that we did not file any objection to the originating summons.
“Arising further with the case and position of the plaintiff, we most humbly adopt their submissions in totality. We oppose the preliminary objection filed by the 1st defendant (National Assembly).
“For the purpose of determining whether the jurisdiction of this court can be properly invoked or otherwise, I submit that what is before your lordship for consideration, is a legislative conduct that is constitutionally recognised.