…Says NASS has power to change polls
The National Assembly won a major victory, Wednesay, as the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal affirmed its power to rejig polls sequence.
In a unanimous ruling, the appellate court set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court which nullified the election re-ordering provision of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018.
The judgment dismissed the earlier verdict of the Federal High Court which stopped the National Assembly from overriding the assent of the president on the bill.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja had, in a judgment on April 25, upheld a suit by Accord Party (AP) that the National Assembly attempted to usurp the exclusive power of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by seeking to dictate the sequence of elections.
But the Court of Appeal held that the Federal High Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
NASS had in the appeal marked CA/A 485/2018, filed on June14, prayed the court to declare that it has the constitutional powers to amend the Electoral Act to re-order the election sequence already released by INEC.
In her lead judgment, President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, who headed a five-man panel, held that the suit was premature as a bill could not be challenged in the law court until it became an Act.
In upholding the appeal by the National Assembly, the appellate court further held that the AP, which instituted the suit, lacked the locus standi to file the action.
Justice Bulkathuwa held that since the bill did not affect its rights or the obligations of the party, the “general interest” available to the public did not confer the rights on it to challenge the bill.
Though the appellate court noted that section 4(8) of the 1999 Constitution imbued the judiciary with the powers to review the exercise of legislative functions and determine the constitutionality of acts of the NASS, it said such judicial powers does not negate the principle of separation of powers enshrined in sections 4,5 and 6 of the Constitution.
While upholding the appeal that was lodged by the NASS, the Justice Bulkachuwa-led panel stressed that a Bill does not become an Act of the NASS until it is assented to by the president pursuant to section 58 of the constitution.