Section 84: Supreme Court prohibits political appointments, dismisses Buhari’s appeal

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Supreme Court joins Rivers Speaker, AG in suit by Buhari, Malami

Section 84: Supreme Court prohibits political appointments, dismisses Buhari’s appeal

The Supreme Court on Friday, dismissed President Muhammadu Buhari and Attorney-General Abubakar Malami’s challenge to nullify section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, 2022.

The supreme court, in a unanimous ruling by a seven-man panel chaired by Justice Muhammad Dattijo, ruled it lacked jurisdiction to hear the claim, calling it an abuse of the judicial process.

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It decided that President Buhari was not a suitable plaintiff due to the reliefs sought.

In SC/CV/504/2022, Buhari and Malami argued that section 84(12) of the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2022, was inconsistent with sections 42, 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192, and 196 of the constitution and Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

The Plaintiffs, among other things, sought “a declaration that the joint and or combined reading of Section 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192 and 196 of the Constitution, the provision of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022 which also ignores Section 84(3) of the same Act, is an additional qualifying and/or disqualifying factors for the National Assembly, House of Assembly, Gubernatorial and Presidential elections as enshrined in the said constitution, hence unconstitutional, unlawful, null and void”.

“A declaration that section 1(3) of the Constitution read together with section 4 of the same Constitution do not permit or empower the defendant to make any other law prescribing additional qualifying/disqualifying grounds for election to the national assembly, house of assembly, gubernatorial and presidential election outside the express constitutional qualification and disqualification provisions.

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“An order nullifying Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022 by application of the blue-pencil rule for being unconstitutional, illegal, null and invalid and having been made in excess of the legislative powers of the defendant as established in section 4 of the constitution (as amended)”

The National Assembly was originally named as the sole Respondent in the action, but Rivers State later applied and was joined as an interested party.

In a preliminary objection to the suit, Rivers state argued that section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, 2022, was “neither a detraction from section 84(3) of the same Act nor from sections 42(1), 65, 66, 107, 131, 137, 177, 182 and 192 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and there is no abuse of the Constitution by the defendant in enacting the provisions.”

It contended that President Buhari “had indisputably accomplished his constitutional responsibility” by endorsing the Electoral Bill.

The state’s attorney, Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, contended that the complaint should have been filed in a High Court because President Buhari did not contest the Legislature’s incursion on his executive authority.

The National Assembly’s lawyer, Dr. Kayode Ajulo, petitioned the Supreme Court to dismiss the complaint, accusing Buhari and Malami of misusing the judicial process.

He stated that President Buhari couldn’t dispute the Electoral Act after signing it.

“The essence of our objection is that the plaintiffs as constituted do not have the legal right to use section 232 (1) of the Constitution.

“It can only be triggered if the President and National Assembly have a legal conflict.

“This can be discussed elsewhere. Not here.

“The President is suing himself as he signed the Electoral Act in question.

“The litigation should have been brought in their names, and we wouldn’t be here.

“They tried to utilise the President’s name to invoke the court’s original jurisdiction,” Ajulo said.

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NBA submitted an amicus curiae application (friend of the court).

The legal association, which said it represented Nigerians, asked the Supreme Court to reject the complaint in the public interest.

“We argue that section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, the 1999 Constitution, as amended, or the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights are not in conflict.

“Your lordships should note the problem the section addresses. The clause aims to establish a level playing field for all Nigerians, so political appointees cannot pursue their own interests, NBA lawyer Charles Mekunye, SAN, argued.

Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, counsel for Buhari and Malami, urged the court to approve the appeal and negate the disputed clause, which would deny political appointees the ability to vote.

In Friday’s lead judgement, Justice Emmanuel Agim upheld the defendants’ arguments and dismissed the complaint.

That is the latest on Section 84: Supreme Court prohibits political appointments, dismisses Buhari’s appeal

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