By Ebere Agozie, Abuja.
The Supreme Court on Friday struck out a suit filed by President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, seeking the revocation of the provisions of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act 2022.
The suit was filed on April 29 before the apex court through a group of private lawyers, including Lateef Fagbemi (SAN).
A seven-member panel of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Musa Dattijo-Muhammad, unanimously struck out the suit, describing it as an abuse of court process.
Justice Aokmaye Agim, who delivered the lead judgement, held that the president, having earlier assented to Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act 2022, could not turn around to approach the court to strike it down.
“There is no provision in the Constitution that vests the president the power to challenge the constitutionality or desirability of a legislation, after he has assented or denied his assent. In this case, the president gave his assent,” he ruled.
Agim stressed that the request by Buhari to the National Assembly to delete the provision amounted to a constitutional violation.
“The president has no power to request or compel the National Assembly to amend any part of the Act of the National Assembly, in which he has participated in its making.
“This suit cannot be entertained by this court under Section 1(1) (a) of the Additional Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court Act.”
Other members of the panel consented to the lead judgement. They include Dattijo-Muhammad, John Okoro, Amina Augie, Lawal Garba and Ibrahim Saulawa.
The National Assembly is listed as the sole defendant in the suit.
Buhari and Malami had argued that Section 84 (12) of the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2022 was inconsistent with the provisions of Sections 42, 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192 and 196 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended), as well as Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and People and Peoples Rights.
They then sought an order of the court to strike out the section of the Act, which they said was inconsistent with the nation’s constitution.
The clause 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.”
In March, both chambers of the National Assembly rejected the President’s request to amend the clause in the Electoral Act.
Subsequently, the Attorney-General said that the Federal Government would consider all other options available before taking a position on the matter.
In the suit marked SC/CV/504/2022, Buhari and Malami sought an order of the court to strike out the section of the Act, which they said was inconsistent with the nation’s constitution.
The National Assembly, however, asked the Supreme Court of Nigeria to strike out the suit instituted by Buhari and Malami over Section 84 (12) of the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2022.
President Buhari had, on Feb. 25, signed the electoral bill into law, though with a caveat that the section should be deleted so as to deepen democracy in the country.
But the National Assembly in March threw out the President’s request and insisted that serving political appointees must resign before contesting elections.
Malami, who also opposed the lawmakers’ decision, vowed that the Federal Government would explore other means, including the court, to ensure the provision, which he claimed offended other sections of the constitution, was expunged from the amended Act.