Electoral Amendment Bill: Senate Engages CJN On Court Ruling

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  • Insists on separation of powers      

BY SEGUN ADEBAYO, ABUJA – Stunned by the Federal High Court, Abuja ruling that temporarily halted the National Assembly from overriding President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018, the  Senate on Wednesday resolved to engage the Chief Justice of the Federation (CJN) Mr Justice Samuel Walter Onnoghen over the matter.

The upper legislative chamber’s decision to approach the CJN on its reservations against the court order indicates contestation over the amendment, particularly the sequence for 2019 general elections may be long drawn between the Presidency and the lawmakers.

Following the court restraining order sought in the suit by Accord Party, the Senate specifically urged the CJN to counsel judges on the need to respect the principle of separation of powers while defending the judiciary as an institution and promoting democracy in the country. 

Contributing to the Senate’s resolution, Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, moved a motion through Point of Order 42 and 52 of its Standing Rule at Thursday’s plenary, noting that the court order amounted to “an abuse of the principle of separation of powers”.

Senator Akpabio (PDP), representing Akwa Ibom North-West, prayed the Senate to write the CJN on the matter, which was unanimously granted.

According to him, no court has the power to stop the parliament from performing its constitutional duties, adding; “I have perused the constitution and I discovered that there is nowhere the court was given the power to intervene in the powers of National Assembly.”

Senator Akpabio further stated that; “I therefore pray that we notify the Chief Justice of Nigeria through writing on the need for the judiciary to respect the principles of separation of power.”

He said if the NASS does not move to check such development now, “a time will come when court will through any order to stop us from passing the budget or performing other constitutional duties. This (National Assembly) is the core of democracy and there is principle of the separation of powers which must be respected.”

In his submission, the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe North) said the court must restrain itself from intervening on the constitutional duties of National Assembly, maintaining that “there is separation of powers and interdependence of various arms of government”.

Cautioning against acts capable of undermining the principle of separation of powers, Senator Lawan said; “evolution of our democracy is presently at stake.”

In his remarks, the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki said all arms of government must work to sustain institutional independence and nation’s democracy.

He stated that; “The issues are very clear. What is important for us is to sustain the institutions and our democracy. We are all here today to do our part and one day, we will leave here, but we must strengthen the institution.”

In his ruling on the Accord Party suit, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, had invoked section 6(6) of the 1999 constitution, as amended, which he noted empowers the court to protect the Res (subject matter) of the substantive suit pending before it.

He therefore directed all the parties to maintain status quo antebellum, “at least between now and the next adjourned date”.

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