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Appeal Court gives NASS go-ahead on Election Reordering bill

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The Court of Appeal on Wednesday gave go-ahead to the National Assembly in its bill seeking to re-order the sequence in which the 2019 general elections are to be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

In his reaction to the ruling, President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, praised  the judgement of the Court for upholding the powers of the National Assembly to make laws, including the bill amending election sequence.
The judgement dismissed the earlier verdict of the Federal High Court which stopped the National Assembly from overriding the assent of the President on the bill.
Saraki in a statement by his Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Yusuph Olaniyonu, in Abuja, stated that the judgement has further reinforced the belief of Nigerians that the judiciary remains the hope of the country in strengthening democracy, resolving conflicts between various arms and levels of government as well protecting the rights of individuals.He added that with the judgement, it is now clear that the National Assembly was right when it passed the bill stating the sequence of elections and that the legislature reversed its decision on the issue, after President Muhammadu Buhari refused assent to the bill, in the interest of peace and to forestall any legal obstacle on the way of the 2019 elections.
“I have always believed in the need to test our laws in court by seeking judicial interpretations on contentious issues. By doing so, we will be expanding the scope of our laws, sharpening the rough edges of legislation and assserting our faith in the judiciary as a fundamental arbiter”, the President of the Senate stated.
The appellate court in a judgment delivered in Abuja in an appeal filed by the National Assembly, invalidated the judgment of the Federal High Court which last April prohibited the National Assembly from legislating on sequence of election for the Commission.
In the unanimous judgment delivered by President of the Court, Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa, the Appeal Court held that the case of the Accord party which led to the judgment of the High Court was premature at the time it was filed.

The appellate court held that the decision of the High Court in entertaining the suit by the Accord Party amounted to a breach of the doctrine of separation of powers as enshrined in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
The court consequently nullified the judgment of the lower court.
Justice Bulkachuwa said that the suit of the Accord party on the legality of the powers of the National Assembly on election reordering was an academic exercise because the party has no power to have instituted the action in the first instance.
Specifically, the Court of Appeal President said that the Accord party failed to establish how its rights and obligations were adversely affected by the election reordering bill of the National Assembly higher than that of the general interest.
The appeal court further stated that a bill has no legal effect to expose it to been challenged in court on the basis of the violation of the constitution of the country until it has been passed by the two chambers of the National Assembly and assented to by the appropriate authority.
“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”, Justice Bulkachuwa said.
The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), had written a letter to the appeal court, 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 but the appeal court 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 appeal of the Accord Party, AGF and the Independent National Electoral Commission.
It would be recalled that the Accord Party through its counsel, 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 of the National Assembly 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 elections in the country are to be conducted.
The appeal against the High Court judgment filed by Joseph Daudu SAN has therefore led to the upturning of the lower court decision by the appellate court.

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