The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Federal Government and the National Assembly to maintain status quo ante in the suit filed by the Attorney-General of the Federation on behalf of the President seeking to annul the amendments to the Nigerian Constitutional (Fourth Alteration Act 2015).
The President, it would be recalled, had declined to assent to the amendments after the National Assembly forwarded the document relating to the said amendments to him.
Jonathan had instead written back to NASS, giving his reasons for not appending his signature to the amendments.
NASS, in turn, threatened to override the President’s veto after 30 days as constitutionally provided.
The President, in a swift move, instituted a suit against NASS at the Supreme Court seeking to annul the amendments.
At Thursday’s proceedings presided over by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, the parties were ordered to maintain status quo till the hearing and determination of the suit.
The court held that its decision would give the counsel to the Federal Government, Mr Bayo Ojo (SAN), adequate time to prepare to address the court on salient constitutional issues raised in his originating processes.
The apex court also ordered that hearing notice be issued and served on the NASS, which was not represented in court, to enable it to appear before the court on June 18, the adjourned date.
Justice Mohammed said: “Meanwhile, the status quo ante should be maintained. No further action should be contemplated or taken by either party, till the hearing and determination of the case.
“We want to give adequate time to the plaintiff’s counsel to go back and look into the totality of the originating process and come back to address the court on salient issues surrounding SC Cap S16 LFN, 2004, and S232 CFRN.
“The states are also involved in the process leading to the constitutional amendment.’’
Earlier, Ojo told the court that the subject-matter of the suit was the President’s grouse against the procedure employed by NASS in the amendment to the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution.
He further argued that NASS failed to comply with Section 8 and Section 9 of the constitution in carrying out the amendment, thereby, necessitating the President’s withdrawal of his assent.
In a seven-page letter to the Senate President, David Mark, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, Jonathan had queried NASS’ decision to whittle down some executive powers of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“In view of the foregoing and absence of credible evidence that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Fourth Alteration) Act 2015 satisfied the strict requirements of Section 9(3) of the 1999 Constitution, it will be unconstitutional for me to assent to it,” the president’ letter read in part.
Giving reasons for his refusal to sign the document into law, Jonathan faulted the procedure adopted by NASS and some aspects of the amendments which give executive powers and duties to the legislature and the judiciary.
Ojo who filed the suit on behalf of the President and Attorney-General of the Federation, argued in his originating summons that the amendments passed by NASS did not comply with the mandatory four-fifth majority of NASS members to pass it as stipulated.
The Federal Government’s counsel also prayed the court to give an order nullifying and setting aside Sections 3, 4, 12, 14, 21, 23, 36, 39, 40, 43 and 44 of the Fourth Alteration Act, 2015 purportedly passed by NASS.
“The Fourth Alteration Act 2015 contains many proposed amendments inconsistent with the spirit of federalism, separation of powers, checks and balances,’’ he submitted.
Ojo further argued that the defendant was making moves, with the tacit consent of state legislators, to employ certain provisions of the Constitution to pass the purported Fourth Alteration Act, 2015 into Law.
He, therefore, urged the Supreme Court to, in the interest of justice, grant all prayers sought because “most of the provisions of the purported Fourth Alteration Act 2015 are contrary to public policy and good governance.’’