A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, fixed June 28 for report on the outcome of the Federal Government’s suit seeking an interpretation of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Amendment Act, 2022 before the Supreme Court.
Justice Inyang Ekwo adjourned the matter after counsel for the plaintiff (Peoples Democratic Party), Joseph Daudu, SAN, told the court that the hearing of his case would depend on the apex court decision on the suit before it.
Upon resumption of the matter, Daudu informed that though the case was adjourned for all parties to look at their processes, some applications were served on him by some of the respondents.
Justice Ekwo then asked the senior lawyer if he had done a review of his case going by the directive he gave on the last adjourned date.
Daudu said he discovered that the judgment of the Court of Appeal on Section 84(12), if applied, would make the work of the court easier because the appellant court agreed with his client on two points.
He, however, said that the Appeal Court judgment “is still merely persuasive since it is not the final court.”
According to him, it is only the Supreme Court that has the final say.
Daudu further said that if there would be a likelihood of decision on the suit filed by the president and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) on Thursday at the Supreme Court, the outcome would be either for the judgment to be binding on them or to allow the court hear their matter.
“So all is pointing to the direction to know what the Supreme Court will say,” he said.
The judge then said that since processes had been filed and no response had been done, that showed that no issue had been joined.
“That means this matter has to abate,” he said.
Justice Ekwo, who ordered all the parties in the suit to file relevant processes before the new date, adjourned the matter until June 28 for report.
Our correspondent reports that the court had, on May 16, asked the PDP to take a critical look at the development in its suit to know if it could still continue with the case.
Ekwo gave the advice after counsel for the PDP, Daudu, informed the court that based on the Court of Appeal judgment sitting in Abuja, the court could continue with the matter before it.
It was reported that the 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 court had also joined Allied People’s Movement (APM) as 13 defendant in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/247/2022.
The PDP had challenged the legality or otherwise of the National Assembly tinkering with Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, after it had been signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Amidst debate about the subject matter, a Federal High Court, Umuahia in Abia and presided over by Justice Evelyn Anyadike, on March 18, 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.
But the Court of Appeal in Abuja, on May 11, vacated the judgement of the Federal High Court in Umuahia, Abia State, which voided the provision of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of justices led by Justice Hamma Akawu Barka, held that the person that instituted the matter at the lower court, Mr Nduka Edede, lacked the locus standi to do so.
The appellate court, which invoked its constitutional powers to look at the substantive suit on its merit, however held that Section 84(12) was unconstitutional and in breach of Section 42 (1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), stressing that the section denied a class of Nigerian citizens their right to participate in election.
Our correspondent reports that the Federal Government had also on April 29 filed a suit at the Supreme Court, seeking an interpretation of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Amendment Act, 2022.
In the suit filed by the president and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), who are the plaintiffs, listed the National Assembly as the sole defendant.
They are seeking an order of the apex court to strike out the section of the Electoral Act, saying it is inconsistent with the nation’s Constitution.
The Supreme Court had also joined the Rivers Attorney-General and the Speaker of the state House of Assembly as defendants in the suit on May 19 and fixed Thursday for hearing.