Electoral Act: I did not order Senate to remove Section 84 (12) – Buhari tells Federal High Court

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President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday told a Federal High Court in Abuja that he did not order the Senate to remove the contentious section 84 (12) from the amended Electoral Act 2022.

Contrary to the claims of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP in a suit instituted against him and 12 others on the Electoral Act, Buhari said that he only expressed reservations and concerns in respect of the aspect of the Electoral Act.

The president’s position was contained in a counter affidavit filed at the Federal High Court at the instance of the Attorney General of the Federation AGF and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.

In the joint counter affidavit by Buhari and Malami to debunk PDP’S claims in the suit, the AGF explained that Buhari on February 25, 2022 gave proper, full and unconditional assent to the amended Electoral Act.

The counter affidavit by the President and Malami was filed on their authority by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN, Oladipupo Okpeseyi and deposed to by Abimbola Akintola, a legal practitioner.

Buhari and Malami averred that the claims of PDP in its suit against them on the Electoral Act are totally false and replete with gross untruths aimed at misleading the court to give judgment against them.

The counter affidavit read in part “The assent of the 1st defendant (Buhari) to the Electoral Bill given on February 25, 2022 was proper, full and unconditional.

The 1st defendant (Buhari) assented to the Electoral Bill 2022 on February 25 but did not give conditions or directives to the National Assembly in the manner erroneously deposed to by the plaintiff (PDP).

At no time did the 1st defendant (Buhari) give any directive to the management or leadership of the National Assembly as regards the removal of section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act 2022; from the Act.

Prior to assenting to the Electoral Bill 2022, the 1st defendant (Buhari) merely expressed his observations and concerns about the constraints of section 84 (12) of the Bill on serving public office holders and political appointees but gave his assent to avoid further delay as time was of essence.

That the 1st defendant (Buhari) merely expressed his views not only to the National Assembly but to the entire nation as regards the inconsistency of section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act with other provisions of the Constitution.

On March 8, 2022, 1st defendant (Buhari) officially wrote the Senate President and House of Representatives Speaker to express his concerns about section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act and formally requested for amendment to be effected on the section so as to eliminate areas of infarction with the Constitution.

I’m aware that the National Assembly neither accepted nor acted on the opinion or suggestion of Buhari.

In this instance, 1st and 2nd defendant, (Buhari and Malami) truly and firmly believe that section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act disenfranchises and discriminates against Nigerians in public service or public office holders who are political appointees and prevent them from engaging in the electoral process in exercise of their inalienable rights in a participatory democracy.

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That Buhari and Malami have never taken it upon themselves to declare section 84 (12) or any provisions of the Electoral Act unconstitutional as such is beyond their constitutional power”.

Besides, Buhari and Malami claimed that a Federal High Court in Abia State had in March through a judgement by Justice Evelyn Anyadike struck down the section and ordered that it be deleted forthwith for being inconsistent with the Constitution.

The two defendants said that both the National Assembly and PDP have since appealed the judgment adding that it is only the Court of Appeal that can restore the section into the Electoral Act and not any high court.

Insisting that the PDP suit has become academic and constituted abuse of court process on the strength of the pending Court of Appeal matter, Buhari and Malami asked the court to dismiss the PDP suit.

They argued that PDP should not be allowed to take over the functions of the National Assembly since it has no power to amend or enact law.

Buhari and Malami also averred that PDP has nothing to suffer if the contentious section is deleted adding that removing the section will deepen the practice of democracy and stop discrimination against public servants and public office holders.

Justice Inyang Eden Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja had on March 7 stopped Buhari, AGF and Senate President from tampering with the newly amended Electoral Act 2022.

The judge in a ruling on an ex-parte application by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, agreed that the Electoral Act having been assented to by Buhari has become a valid law and cannot be tampered with without following due process of law.

Justice Ekwo agreed with Chief James Ogwu Onoja SAN, counsel to PDP, that the proper place to challenge the validity of any existing law or the Electoral Act is a court of competent jurisdiction.

Specifically, the court had restrained all the defendants in the suit from removing section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act or preventing It from being implemented for the purpose of the 2023 general elections.

Meanwhile, hearing in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/ 247/2022 has been fixed for May 16 by Justice Ekwo.

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