Rivers Joins Section 84(12) Electoral Act Controversy as S’Court Adjourns Hearing till May 26
Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Supreme Court on Thursday joined Rivers State in the suit seeking its interpretation of the controversial Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
The apex court joined the state after its application for joinder was not opposed by other plaintiffs in the suit filed by President Muahammadu Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
The hearing was earlier slated for May 19 but has now been adjourned till May 26 to enable parties exchange processes.
Consequently, the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly and the state Attorney General (AG) were joined as second and third defendants in the suit.
The National Assembly is the first defendant.
According to the applicants, they would be affected one way or the other by the outcome of the case since the subject matter in the originating summons relates to the validity and constitutionality of the provisions of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act enacted by the National Assembly and applicable throughout the country, including Rivers State.
Specifically, the first applicant claimed that the outcome will affect the “legal rights of the Rivers State House of Assembly and impinge upon its legislative powers to make laws in addition to, but not inconsistent with Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act enacted by the National Assembly and applicable in Rivers State and will affect the scope of its authority to make laws as conferred on it by Section 7 and Item E. 12 of the concurrent legislative list of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended”.
The AG of Rivers, who is the chief law officer of the state, said he should be joined in the suit as the state is constitutionally bound to be governed democratically in accordance with the letters and spirit of the constitution.
Responding, Buhari’s counsel, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), said he is not opposed to the applicants joining the suit.
In the suit filed on April 29, 2022, marked: SC/CV/504/2022 by the president and the chief law officer of the country, where-in they are contending that the said section of the Electoral Act 2022 is in conflict with constitutional provisions, has the National Assembly as the sole defendant.
The plaintiffs noted that the constitution has made provisions for qualifications and disqualifications for the offices of the president and vice-president, governor and deputy-govemor, Senate and House of Representatives and House of Assembly, ministers, commissioners and special advisers.
Buhari and Malami added that the same constitution has equally, “the qualifying factors for election into the office of president, vice-president, governor, deputy govemor, Senate, House of Representatives, Houses of Assembly and ministers”.
They also prayed the apex court to declare that by the joint and or combined reading of Sections 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192 and 196 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the provision of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022 which also ignores Section 84(3) of the same Act, is an additional qualifying and/or disqualifying factors for the National Assembly, House of Assembly, gubernatorial and presidential elections as enshrined in the said constitution, hence unconstitutional, unlawful, null and void.
“A declaration that having regard to the clear provision of Section 1(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, read together with Section 4 of the same constitution, the legislative powers vested in the defendant do not permit or empower it to make any other law prescribing additional qualifying/disqualifying grounds for election to the National Assembly, House of Assembly, gubernatorial and presidential election outside the express constitutional qualification and disqualification provisions as already provided in each or all of Sections 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192 and 196 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), and without amendment to any of those sections is for reason of inconsistency, unconstitutional and therefore null and void.
“A declaration that Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022 disqualifying a political appointee from being a voting delegate or be voted for at a convention or congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election is discriminatory, inconsistent with and in violent breach of the provision of each or all of Sections 42, 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192 and 196 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), as well as Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and some is null and void by reason of its inconsistency.
“A declaration that by the introduction of the provisions of Section 84(12) into the Electoral Act, 2022, but in disregard of Section 84(3) of the some Act, the defendant has acted ultra vires the legislative powers vested in it under the provision of section 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and/or in violation or breach of the provisions of Sections 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192 and 196, thereby rendering Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, 2022 unconstitutional, null and void.”
They also pray for an order nullifying the provisions of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022 by application of the blue pencil rule, for being unconstitutional, illegal, null and void and having been made in excess of the legislative powers of the defendant as enshrined in Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).