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Electoral Act: Senate to debate court ruling on section 84(12)

The Senate will, on Wednesday, debate the ruling of a Federal High Court in Abia State, which nullified the controversial section 84 (12) of the…

The Senate will, on Wednesday, debate the ruling of a Federal High Court in Abia State, which nullified the controversial section 84 (12) of the amended Electoral Act.

This followed a point of order raised by Senator George Thompson Sekibo (PDP, Rivers), who drew the attention of his colleagues to the court ruling.

The section requires ministers, head of agencies and other political appointees to resign before participating in primaries, convention and other electoral activities.

But the Federal High Court sitting in Umuahia, Abia State, on Friday nullified Section 84(12), saying it was a violation of the provisions of the constitution.

Sekibo, while invoking Senate Order 10 and 11, said the electoral law emanated from the National Assembly, therefore the parliament should be joined as a party in the suit.

He, therefore, moved that the issue be discussed during plenary today to avoid setting a bad precedent on laws enacted by the federal parliament.

His motion was supported by Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu).

However, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta) who presided over the plenary, suggested that the debate on the issue be postponed to Wednesday since Senate President Ahmad Lawan and many other lawmakers were absent.

He said postponing the debate till tomorrow would give more senators the opportunity to contribute to the debate.

“I want a fuller house for this debate. It will give our colleagues the opportunity to make inputs,” he said.

President Muhammadu Buhari had sought the amendment of the act to delete section 84(12), which he said contravened the rights of political officeholders to vote or be voted for in political party conventions and congresses.

But the parliament rejected the president’s request to delete the section which states that, “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 nomination of black candidates for any election.”

The Federal High Court, in a judgement delivered by Justice Evelyn Anyadike, held that the  section was unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever, saying it ought to have been struck out.

Mr Nduka Edede, a lawyer and chieftain of the Action Alliance (AA) party had approached the court in the suit that had the Attorney General of the Federation as  the defendant.

The plaintiff had asked the court to determine whether Section 84(12), when read together with Sections 66(1)(f) 107(1)(f) (137(1)(f) and 182(1)(f) of the 1999 Constitution was not inconsistent.

The court agreed with the submissions and ordered that Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act was inconsistent with the rights of Nigerian citizens.

Anyadike held that the said sections already stipulated that appointees of government seeking to contest elections were only to resign, at least 30 days to the date of the election.

She held that any other law that mandated such appointees to resign or leave the office at any time before that was unconstitutional, invalid, illegal null and void, “to the extent of its inconsistency to the clear provisions of the constitution”.

The judge thereafter ordered the Attorney General of the Federation to forthwith delete the said subsection 12 of Section 84 from the body of the Electoral Act, 2022.

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