*Wea��ll overrule President on 10 Bills – Reps
By Ameh Ejekwonyilo and Gift Chapi Odekina
Barely 24 hours after President Muhammadu Buhari withheld assent to the amendment of the Electoral Act, the Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the National Assembly to refrain from taking any action on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018.
The suit was initiated by the Accord Party, which dragged the National Assembly, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to the court on the matter.
The party urged the court to determine whether INEC is not the only institution constitutionally vested with the powers to organise, undertake and supervise elections, including fixing the sequence of elections to various elective offices in the country.
Some legal experts said last night that Accord Party was incompetent to initiate the suit. They added that only the Supreme Court can entertain the matter.
The lawyers further stated that the only constitutionally recognised parties in the dispute are the Presidency and the National Assembly.
At the commencement of proceedings in the suit on Wednesday, the plaintiff (Accord Party’s) counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), urged the trial judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, to issue a “preservative order” that would restrain the National Assembly from taking any step that could jeopardise the res (subject matter) of the suit that is pending before the court.
But, the counsel to the National Assembly, Miss Chinelo Ogbozor, sought for an adjournment from the court to enable her respond to the plaintiff’s motion on notice.
In her strong opposition to the plaintiff’s request, Ogbozor urged the court to decline Accord Party’s oral application for a preservative order and argued that in acceding to such an application, the National Assembly would be denied fair hearing.
She further argued that her client was within time to respond to the plaintiff’s motion on notice which was served on NASS on March 12th, adding that the application was not ripe for hearing.
“By the rules of this court, motions can’t be taken before 48 clear hours of service. By Order 26 (5) of the rules of this court, we are entitled to seven days within which to respond to any motion. My Lord, our time is still running and we wish to respond to this application promptly.
“To that extent, we will be asking for time to respond to the motion,” Ogbozor submitted.
INEC’s lawyer, Mr. Tanimu Inuwa, told the court that the commission was not opposed to the plaintiff’s application.
Subsequently, in a bench ruling, Justice Mohammed held that it was imperative to protect the substance of the suit till the next adjourned date.
Justice Mohammed said: “I hereby make the following orders. It is hereby directed that the parties shall maintain status quo ante bellum at least between now and the next adjourned date, when the court will hear the plaintiff’s motion on notice for an order of interlocutory injunction.
“Hearing notice is hereby ordered to be issue to the 2nd defendant (AGF), following his absence and lack of representation. These orders are made pursuant to Section 6 (6) of the 1999 Constitution.
“The suit is adjourned till March 20th for the plaintiff’s motion on notice,” the judge held.
*National Assembly will override Buhari on 10 bills – Reps
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has said that the National Assembly had begun the process to override Buharia��s veto on 10 bills passed by the legislature.
Spokesperson of the House and the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas, told newsmen in Abuja on Wednesday that the House does not agree with Buhari on the Electoral Bills which he withheld assent.
Quoting Section 4 subsection 22 and Section 76 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Namdas said that the National Assembly has the power to amend the Electoral Act.
He said that although the House agreed with Buhari on two of the clauses which made him to decline assent to the bill, he added that the lawmakers would expunge them from the Electoral Act, go through the full circle of law-making and re-transmit to the President for assent.
Nmadas said: a�?We as a parliament have looked at the reasons given by the President on why he withheld his assent to the Electoral Bill. However, we agree with the President on the first and second clauses he gave, but we have also disagreed with the third clause where he claimed we have no powers to amend the Electoral Act.
a�?That is why we will look at the bill again, correct those errors the President pointed out and send it back to him, if he still withholds his assent, then, we will know what next to do,a�? he said.
On the 10 bills that the House is set to veto the President on, Nmadas listed them as the Nigeria Peace Corps Bill; the Bill for an Act to establish the Chartered Institute of Treasury Management; the Bill for an Act to establish the Nigerian Council for Social Works; the Bill for an Act to amend the Currency Conversion, Freezing Orders Act to give Discretionary Powers to the Judges of High Court to Order for Forfeiture of Assets of Affected Persons, and the Bill for an Act to establish the Police Procurement Fund.
Others are the Bill for an Act to amend the Environmental Health Officers Council Registration Act; the Bill for an Act to establish the Chartered Institute of Loan and Risk Management of Nigeria; the Bill for an Act to Establish the Chartered Institute of Public Management of Nigeria.
There are also the Bill for an Act to establish the Chartered Institute of Exports and Community Brokers of Nigeria, and the Bill for an Act to establish the Federal University, Wukari.
*Wea��ll overrule President on 10 Bills – Reps