Why lower court judgment on election sequence bill cannot stand: Appeal Court

Why lower court judgment on election sequence bill cannot stand: Appeal Court

Wednesday, August 1, 2018 10:18 pm


The Court of Appeal on Wednesday gave go-ahead to the National Assembly to re-order the sequence in which the 2019 general election would be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Delivering judgment, President of the court, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa held that the case filed by the Accord Party (AP) was premature.

The appellate court held that the decision of the Federal High Court, Abuja in entertaining the suit amounted to a breach of the doctrine of separation of powers as enshrined in the Constitution.

Bulkachuwa said the suits which challenged the legality of the powers of the Legislature on election re-ordering were an academic exercise.

According to her, the respondent (AP) has no power to have instituted the action in the first instance.

“The judgment of the lower court is consequently nullified as the Legislature has the right to carry out its legislative functions without any hindrances,’’ she said.

While upholding the appeal that was instituted by NASS, Bulkachuwa-led panel stressed that a Bill did not automatically become an Act of the NASS until it was assented to by the President.

The judge, however, held that the constitution gave the President the right to decline his assent to a Bill, following which such document would be returned to the NASS for further legislative action.

She said no court had the constitutional backing to truncate legislative process, adding that the decision of the lower court was full of error.

“A court of law has no jurisdiction to decide on a Bill still undergoing legislative process. Such decision becomes null and void since it is not yet a law or an Act of NASS.

“The court cannot grant an injunction to restrain the legislature from performing its legislative duties.

“It should, however, be sounded clear that the court has the jurisdiction to strike down any law or Act of the NASS when found to be in contravention of any Sections of the Constitution,” the Judge said.

The appellate court held that the suit by Accord Party was an action that was designed to obstruct the legislative powers of the NASS to make law.

It further observed that as at the time the suit was filed at the lower court, the assembly had yet to conclude its legislative duty as far as Amendment of the Electoral Act 2018 was concerned.

“The plaintiff’s locus standi in this case has not yet been disclosed. A claimant must have some justifiable interest that would suffer or show that he has an injury or damage to suffer.

“I am satisfied and I hold that this 1st Respondent’s action at the lower court was not justiceable.

“The suit was an academic exercise that did not raise any live and genuine issue in controversy for determination.

“The suit is frivolous and clearly an abuse of court process. I resolve the issue in favour of the Appellant.

“The judgment of the Federal High Court delivered on April 25 is hereby nullified.

“On the whole, this Appeal succeeds, it has merit. The judgment of the high court is hereby set-aside’’, the Judge said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that NASS filed the appeal on June 14, praying the court to declare that it has the constitutional powers to amend the Electoral Act.

The assembly had specifically urged the appellate court to hold that it had powers to re-order the election sequence already released by INEC.

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