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Lawyers differ on NASS, Supreme Court impasse

By Joseph Onyekwere
14 May 2015   |   2:37 am
A constitutional lawyer, Itsay Sagay SAN has said there is a principle of law that established that an arm of government should not interfere with the internal affairs of others.
 Itsay Sagay

Itsay Sagay

A constitutional lawyer, Itsay Sagay SAN has said there is a principle of law that established that an arm of government should not interfere with the internal affairs of others.

He explained that even though he is yet to understand the intricacies of the conflict between the Legislature and the Judiciary concerning constitutional amendments, he is of the view that members of the National Assembly are suspecting that the Supreme Court is interfering in their internal affairs.

According to him, the logical thing to do, where there could be reasons to suspect interference is to wait for the National Assembly to conclude with the amendment and for the Supreme Court to declare it invalid.

His words: “In my view, there is a principle that one arm of government should not interfere with the internal affairs of the others. I feel that they suspect that the Supreme Court is about to interfere into the internal operations of the National Assembly.

That is why they are rejecting the injunction, though those are my preliminary assumption. “There is such principle in constitutional law. What the National Assembly is saying is that nobody can stop them for what they do internally.

The implication is that the Supreme Court can only declare such an action invalid after they have completed it. They are saying, ‘you cannot stop us from making laws; its our internal affair.

What the Supreme Court can do is to say it is unconstitutional after they have completed their job. They are seeing it as a kind of trying to preempt them; they are saying that it is too early in the day for the Supreme Court to act on the matter.

” But a Lagos based rights activist and lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa thinks differently. He believes that the Supreme Court has the powers to stop the National Assembly from amending the constitution.

For him, such action does not amount to judicial interference in internal legislative matters, since the Supreme Court is empowered by law to adjudicate on any issue in conflict between the tiers of government.

“The Supreme Court has the powers, to stop the National Assembly, from proceeding with the amendment of the Constitution. Under and by virtue of section 6(6)(b) of the 1999 Constitution, the judiciary in general, and not just the Supreme Court, has a statutory responsibility to resolve disputes, between persons and persons, between persons and government and between the different arms of government.

“In this case, once the Executive arm has filed an action before the Supreme Court, declaring a dispute with the Legislative arm, on the issue of amendment of the Constitution, then jurisdiction has been conferred on the Supreme Court, to intervene, judicially and judiciously.



“While it is true that there is a doctrine of separation of powers, under a federal system of government, the exercise of its judicial duty, by the Supreme Court, to resolve a dispute between the Executive and the Legislative arms, constitutes an exception to that doctrine.

“In that regard therefore, the Supreme Court is perfectly entitled to exercise its disciplinary and statutory jurisdiction, to check the excesses, of both the Executive and Legislative arms, from any illegality, from any act of impunity, or arbitrariness.

Thus, the order of injunction by the Supreme Court, for the Executive and Legislative arms, to maintain the status quo, in respect of the amendment of the Constitution, is perfectly in order.

It is within the powers of the Supreme Court, under the Constitution, under the Supreme Court Act and under the Supreme Court Rules”, he declared.

He maintained that such action amounts to sheer blackmail, for the National Assembly to be castigating the Supreme Court in the exercise of its constitutional and statutory responsibilities.

As a result, he called on the Nigerian Bar Association to rise to defend the apex court. “It is the duty of the Nigerian Bar Association, to rise to this occasion and defend the Supreme Court”, he stressed.