The Court of Appeal has ordered Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, and others to suspend the execution of the judgment of the Federal High Court which struck down section 84 (12) of the newly amended Electoral Act.
Mr. Malami had, shortly after the Federal High Court in Umuahia, Abia State, delivered the judgment on March 22, foreclosed possible appeals by vowing to promptly enforce the verdict.
But the Owerri Division of the Court of Appeal has now issued an order putting the execution of the High Court’s decision on hold, The Nation newspaper reports
According to the newspaper, a three-member panel of the appellate court led by Rita Pemu, made the order in a ruling granting a request by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to be joined as a party to the appeal challenging the March 18, 2022 judgement of the Federal High Court.
The appellate court, in its ruling, ordered parties to refrain from taking steps capable of frustrating pending appeal against the contested judgment.
“Upon reading the application herein filed on 23-3-2022 with an affidavit in support sworn to by John Eronini on the same date and after hearing DC Denwigwe SAN for the applicant and Chief Emeka Ozoani SAN for the 1st respondent, order is hereby granted as follows;
“Leave is hereby granted the applicant (PDP) to appeal as person interested in this appeal CA/OW/87/2022.
“Due to the exigencies of this appeal and its Constitutional colorization, there is need to hear this matter expeditiously.
Accordingly, the Appellant is hereby given up to Tuesday 12th of April, 2022 to file its notice of Appeal and the parties are to file their respective briefs of arguments within three days from the date of service of the notice and record of Appeal on the respondents.
“There shall be a further three days given to the appellant to file a reply.
“Parties should desist from taking any step to frustrate the hearing of the appeal.
“The matter is adjourned to the 4th of May, 2022, for the hearing of the appeal.
“Fresh hearing notice to be issued on the 2nd to the 12th respondents”.
Apart from the PDP, the National Assembly had also vowed to appeal against the verdict.
Another suit on the matter is still pending at the Federal High Court in Abuja. The judge, Inyang Ekwo, fixed April 28 for hearing in the case.
The division of the federal court in Umuahia, Abia State, had on March 18, nullified Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act — a decision that sits well with President Muhammadu Buhari’s earlier protest against the controversial legal provision.
The novel statutory provision had prohibited political appointees from voting as delegates in party conventions or congresses for the election or nomination of candidates.
In her verdict, the judge, Evelyn Anyadike, held that the section was “unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever” and ordered the AGF who was the sole defendant in the suit, to “forthwith delete the said Subsection 12 of Section 84 from the body of the Electoral Act, 2022.”
She anchored her decision on the grounds that the provision conflicted with the constitutional provision that already gives political appointees who intend to contest in an election to resign at least 30 days to the election.
She held that sections 66(1)(f), 107(1)(f), 137(1)(f) and 182(1)(f) of the 1999 Constitution already stipulated that government appointees seeking to contest elections are only to resign at least 30 days before the election.
Many lawyers have faulted this reasoning, arguing that political appointees are not part of the category of persons required by the constitution to resign at least 30 days to the election.
Mr Malami was picked as the sole defendant in the suit filed by Nduka Edede, a member of the Action Alliance (AA), a fringe political party in Nigeria.
The AGF has shown extra-ordinary interest in ensuring the striking down of the section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, which would have forced him out of office early for him to realise what is believed to be his ambition to contest the 2023 governorship election in Kebbi State, his home state.
▪︎ By The Nation