A Federal High Court, Abuja, has ordered Allied Peoples Movement (APM) to be joined in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s suit against National Assembly (NASS) over attempt to remove Section 84(12) of the newly signed amended Electoral Act, 2022.
Justice Inyang Ekwo made the order following a motion on notice marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/247/2022 dated and filed on March 17 by Emeka Ozoani, SAN, counsel for APM, and after lawyers to the PDP and the defence did not oppose the application.
Justice Ekwo, who directed APM to be joined as a defendant, adjourned the matter until April 4 for mention.
The APM, which filed the motion in accordance with the rules of the court and the law, sought an order of the court “joining the applicant/party seeking to be joined (APM) as a defendant to this suit for being a necessary, proper and/or desirable party to this suit.
“An order of the court directing the consequential amendment and service of the processes filed and to be served in this suit, including the originating processes and interlocutory applications, to reflect the status of and to be effected upon the applicant/party seeking to be joined (Allied Peoples’ Movement) for being a necessary, proper and/or desirable party to this suit.”
APM, in the affidavit in support of the motion deposed to by Emine Akpanukoh, a litigation secretary in the law firm of Lex Prospicit, said as defendant it was affected by the court order and therefore had interest to challenge the constitutionality or otherwise of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act. 2022 which is the subject of the present suit.
Akpanukoh, who said he had the authority of Yusuf Mamman Dantalle, National Chairman of the party, and his law office to do the deposition, said APM instituted the action to seek the interpretation of the provisions of the constitution viz-a-viz the constitutionality of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
He said the applicant seeking to be joined as a defendant is one of the political parties registered under the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and had been participating in all elections in the country since its registration.
He said the party had numerous members across the states with huge support and membership base.
Akpanukoh said in view of its considerable membership and support base, most of the APM candidates desirous of contesting for various elective positions in the 2023 general elections under its platform are presently political appointees or public office holders, who wish to resign, withdraw or retire from the said appointments three months to the date of the elections to enable them to be qualified to contest under the party.
According to him, the applicant seeking to be joined as a defendant is aware that the extant provisions of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, 2022 is in conflict and inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution.
He argued that if the prayers sought by PDP in the substantive suit are granted, APM would be gravely affected and prejudiced.
He further averred that APM’s members who are presently political appointees or public office holders would be permanently shut out of the electoral process and therefore will not be able to vote or be voted for in the party’s Convention and Congress for the 2023 general elections or any other election if granted.
“That the applicant seeking to be joined as a defendant is also aware that the constitutional rights or powers of the present defendants cannot be hampered or dictated by any person, institution or political party,” he added.
Akpanukoh said though APM only became aware of the suit through newspaper publications, the party had taken urgent steps to be joined in the suit to enable it put forward its position and ventilate its right and interest on the subject matter.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justice Ekwo had, on March 7, restrained the National Assembly from tampering with Section 84(12) of the newly amended Electoral Act 2022.
The restraining order followed a motion ex-parte that was brought before the court by James Onoja, SAN, counsel for PDP.
The PDP, in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/247/2022, had sued the President of the Federation, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Clerk of National Assembly, Senate Leader, House of Representatives Leader and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as 1st to 8th defendants, respectively.
Others include Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives, Deputy Senate Leader and Deputy Leader of the House of Representatives as 9th to 12th defendants in the matter.
NAN reports that Section 84(12) reads: “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 purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.”
The party had prayed the court to stop all the defendants from removing Section 84 (12) of the Act or preventing it from being implemented for the purpose of the 2023 general elections.
The PDP challenged the legality or otherwise of the National Assembly tinkering with the Electoral Act, after it had been signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The development followed President Buhari’s letter to both chambers of the National Assembly seeking amendment by way of deleting the provision.
The president urged the National Assembly to delete the provision, as it violated the Constitution and breached the rights of government appointees.
But the Senate, on March 9, rejected the request by the president seeking to delete the clause in the newly-signed electoral act.
However, amidst debate about the senate’s action, a Federal High Court sitting in Umuahia, on March18, ordered the AGF to delete Section 84(12) of the Act.
Justice Evelyn Anyadike, in a judgment, held that the section was “unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever and ought to be struck down as it cannot stand when it is in violation of the clear provisions of the Constitution.”
Justice Anyadike, in the suit held that Sections 66(1)(f), 107(1)(f), 137(1)(f), and 182(1)(f) of the 1999 Constitution already stipulated that appointees of government seeking to contest elections were only to resign, at least, 30 days to the date of the election.
He also 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 plaintiff, Nduka Edede, lawyer and chieftain of the Action Alliance (AA), a political party, had gone to the court to seek proper interpretation of Section 84(12) of the New Electoral Act, 2022.
Recall that Mr Edede, had dragged the AGF to court as sole 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, in the suit, agreed with the submissions, and ordered that Section 84(12) of the amended Electoral Act, 2022 was inconsistent with the rights of Nigerian citizens.
But the lawmakers in both chambers of the National Assembly had vowed to appeal the judgement of the court in Umuahia.
The Senate and the House of Representatives, on March 23, resolved to “appeal the judgment for the court to set the judgment aside.”
Citing Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the lawmakers said that the National Assembly is empowered by virtue of its provisions to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of Nigeria.
Besides, they argued that National Assembly ought to have been joined as defendant in the suit being a critical stakeholder, among others./NAN/SHARE THIS