Appeal court upholds NASS legitimacy over election reordering

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From Fatima Bukar

The Court of Appeal on Wednesday restored the powers of the National Assembly to make laws in respect of the sequence of elections to be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In a judgment delivered in Abuja in the appeal filed by the National Assembly, the appellate court set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja which prohibited the National Assembly from legislating on sequence of election for the Commission.
In the unanimous judgment of the full court delivered by President of the Court (PCA), Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, the appellate court held that the case of the accord party which led to the judgment of the Federal High Court was premature at the time it was filed.
The Court of Appeal consequently nullified the judgment of the lower court. Justice Bulkachuwa further held that the suit filed by Accord Party, one of the registered political parties on the legality of the powers of the National Assembly on election reordering was an academic exercise on the grounds that the party lacked the locus stands  to file the action in the first instance.
According to the judgment, the decision of the trial court in entertaining the suit amounted to a breach of the Doctrine of Separation of Powers.
However, the President of the Court of Appeal held that the accord party failed to established how its rights and obligations were adversely affected by the election reordering bill other than that of the general interest.
The Court of Appeal further held that a bill has no legal effect to expose it to being challenged on the basis of the violation of the 1999 Constitution until it has been passed by the two chambers of the National Assembly and assented to by the appropriate authority. The PCA said, “The Constitution does not envisage that a suit would be filed to challenge a bill at the embryonic stage of legislation because it has no binding effect until it has been assented to”.
Although, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN) had written a letter to the Court of Appeal informing it that the controversial election reordering provision had been deleted by the National Assembly and thus the appeal overtaken by the deletion of the provision, the Court of Appeal disagreed that the matter was overtaken by event because the appeal case has life in itself.
Justice Bulkachuwa therefore upheld the powers of the National Assembly to legislate on election reordering and dismissed the suit of the Accord Party, AGF and the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The Daily Times recalls that the Accord Party through its lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) had dragged the National Assembly before the Federal High Court in Abuja, challenging the legality of the powers of the two chambers to legislate on election reordering for INEC.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed had in his judgment delivered on April 25, prohibited the National Assembly from legislating on election sequence for INEC.
The trial court held that INEC having been established by law, has powers to decide on sequence in which election in the country are to be conducted. But the National Assembly had through its lawyer, Mr Joseph Daudu (SAN), challenged the verdict of the lower court which was upheld by the appellate court on Wednesday.

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