… HEADS FOR APPEAL, ASKS AGF TO HOLD ACTION
The House of Representatives on Wednesday resolved to write a letter of complaint to the National Judicial Council over the judgment of the Umuahia Division of the Federal High Court, which asked the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, to delete Section 84 (12) the Electoral Act, 2021.
It passed the resolution during its plenary in Abuja presided over by the Speaker, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila.
The resolution resulted from a matter of privilege brought to the floor by the member representing Jibia Federal Constituency of Katsina State, Rep. Sada Soli Jibia.
The lawmaker said the decision of the court was not only offensive but also an affront on the National Assembly, which had been empowered by the constitution to make laws for the good governance of the country.
He also argued that while Section 84 (12) of the Act was specific in making a provision on “political appointees”, the court mixed it up with another legal provision dealing “clearly with public servants” and civil servants in passing the controversial judgment.
“For the court to ask an appointee of the Executive to delete a law properly made by the Legislature is a clear infringement of the constitutional powers of the National Assembly and a breach of my privilege and the privilege of the entire House”, he stated.
In addition to the decision to draw the NJC’s attention to the intrusion of Justice Evelyn Anyadike (the presiding judge) in parliamentary matters, the House also said it would appeal the judgment immediately.
Furthermore, the House asked the AGF to hold action on any steps he planned to take on the matter pending the disposal of all appeal processes on the judgment.
House Minority Leader, Rep. Ndudi Godwin Elumelu, while lending his support to Rep Soli’s point, noted that Section 66 (1f) of the constitution, among others, which the judge used in passing the judgment, was unambiguous in stating how a public servant seeking to contest an election should resign from office.
Elumelu insisted that Section 84 (12) was a completely new provision referring to “political appointees.”
Speaking in the same vein, the Chief Whip, Rep. Mohammed Tahir Monguno, observed that by neither joining nor serving the National Assembly the court processes in the suit, the case dug its own grave early and advised,
“The proper step for us to take is to appeal the judgment and apply that we should be joined.”
House Leader, Rep. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, called on well-meaning Nigerians to condemn the judgment of the court, adding, “Whatever wisdom the court used to counter a law well passed by this institution, we must rise against it.
“We must rise and condemn it. We have to appeal the judgment. We should not allow the judiciary to unnecessarily indict the National Assembly.”
Speaker Gbajabiamila told the House he was surprised when he read in the papers and watched on television the news of the court judgment.
The speaker, who said he would not allow the House to be ridiculed considering, the time members committed to working on the Electoral Act, added that proceeding on appeal was the definite option.
“The Act was meant to expand the frontiers of participation in the democratic process and provide a level-playing field for all aspirants. Same thing we tried to do with the direct primaries clause.”
He said he was also worried that the legislature was not joined or served the court processes, while the judgment was not only delivered in faraway Umuahia, but that the plaintiff did not show proof of what injury he suffered by the provision of Section 84 (12).
Gbajabiamila spoke more, “The fact that the supposed plaintiff had no injury to be cured baffled me. It’s trite law that you must prove injury before you have a locus in a case.
“Even more damning was the fact that the power of the legislature was usurped in this matter. Only the Parliament can amend its law.
“So, we will appeal the judgment and have it set aside for the sake of posterity and for the records.”