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Ben Nwabueze flays Abuja court verdict on election sequence suit

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Benjamin Obiefuna Nwabueze

A constitutional lawyer and senior advocate of Nigeria, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, has criticised the recent decision of Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on election sequence case.

Justice Mohammed had in his ruling on April 25, 2018 in the suit brought by Accord Party (AP) challenging the validity of the Bill nullified it because it infringes or violates the power of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under paragraph 15 (a) of the Third Schedule to the Constitution to organise, undertake and supervise all elections.

But in a statement yesterday, Nwabueze said the decision was erroneous and amazing because the only means by which the National Assembly could infringe on or violate the powers of INEC is by “an Act of the National Assembly,” not by a mere Bill that has not become an Act.

The elder statesman stressed that by Section 318 (1) of the Constitution, “Act or Act of the National Assembly” means any law made by the National Assembly”, and by Section 58 (1) of the same Constitution, the “power of the National Assembly to make laws shall be exercised by bills passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives and, except as otherwise provided by sub-section (5) of this section, assented to by the President.”

According to him, the passing of a bill by the two chambers – by the laborious processes of first, second and third readings, and so on in each chamber – does not make it a law until the Bill is assented to by the President.

He further said that apart from an inconsistent Executive Act of government, the power of the court to nullify an exercise of power by an organ of government, by the National Assembly in particular, for violation or breach of the provisions of the Constitution under Section 1 (3) of the Constitution, applies only to a law; it does not apply to a bill that has not become law.

In a related vein, a Federal High Court in Enugu has fixed Tuesday, May 8, 2018, for hearing on the substantive suit filed by a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Anike Nwoga, seeking to stop the National Assembly from changing the sequence of the 2019 elections.

The presiding judge, Justice A.M. Liman, fixed date for the hearing after listening to the submissions of the parties in the suit.

Although the National Assembly (the 1st defendant) failed to appear in court during proceedings yesterday, the other defendants – INEC, President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney-General of the Federation (2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants) respectively – made appearances.

The plaintiff’s counsel, Mr. Godwin Onwusi, who told the court that the National Assembly has not appeared in court after receiving all that needed to be served on it, also urged the court to allow them do away with their application for interlocutory injunction and go ahead with the substantive matter because of the urgency.

Justice Liman, thereafter, said if the case is argued on the scheduled date, he might give his judgment next Friday.


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AbujaBen Nwabuezecourt
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