AGF Accuses Legislature of Intimidating Judiciary

The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) has accused the legislature of intimidating the judiciary in the discharge of its judicial duties.
Malami who made this observation on Tuesday, when he commenced legal battle in the Electoral Amendment Bill suit took a swipe on the National Assembly, accusing it of threatening and intimidating the judiciary.
The AGF, who is the 2nd defendant in the suit, lamented what he described as constitutional colouration being attached to the suit, adding that it underscores why he was physically in court to respond to the suit.
Only last week, Justice Ahmed Mohammed had in a ruling restrained the National Assembly from vetoing President Mohammadu Buhari’s refusal to assent to the amended Electoral Bill, 2018.
The order was sequel to an oral application for interlocutory injunction argued by plaintiff’s (Accord Party) counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) .
Justice Mohammed in granting the preservative order specifically ordered the defendants to maintain status quo ante belum pending the next adjourned 20, March, 2018.
But the National Assembly at its proceedings last week, saw the court’s decision as infringement on its constitutional duty to make laws and moved to report the matter to the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Speaking at the proceedings yesterday, Malami, who earlier aligned with the position of his colleagues on the need to accord importance to the matter, accused the National Assembly of intimidating and threatening the judiciary.
He said, he was disturbed by the 1st defendant’s comment that the judiciary is in the eyes of the storm when it is actually the judiciary that is being threatened and intimidated by other arms of government.
“I have to state that threats and intimidation by one arm of government to another concerning this matter serves as unfortunate.
“We have a collective duty to support the entrenchment of the principle of separation of powers and in support of the judiciary in the discharge of its duty.
“The independence of the judiciary is a constitutional guaranteed and we must work hard to ensure that independence is sustained”, he said.
Earlier, plaintiff’s counsel, Olanipekun, told the court that owing to the importance and urgency of the suit, parties have agreed to move straight into the subject matter of the originating summons.
He then asked the court for a short adjournment to enable parties respond to his brief of argument filed on 19th March 2018.
He noted that since the plaintiff’s request for an order of court restraining the 1st defendant from taking any step that would affect the res of litigation was granted by the court, the issue has continued to generate interest.
“Unfortunately, this has been misinterpreted in different quarters, including the 1st defendant that the court made an order preventing the 1st defendant from carrying out its legislative duties”, he said.
The senior advocate was of the opinion that parties should be properly guided so that the subject matter of litigation would not be hijacked from the court.
Counsel to the 1st defendant, Joseph Daudu (SAN) , responding, stressed that the matter, which is already a thing of international discuss is capable of defining the well-being of the country’s democracy, adding that the suit has again placed the judiciary in the eyes of the storm .
He therefore urged the court to give the matter the seriousness and speed it deserves.
On his part, counsel to the 3rd defendant ( Independent National Electoral Commission), Femi Falana (SAN), however urged the court to ignore the issue of threat and other comments made outside the court in order to avoid being drawn into unnecessary controversy.
He also urged the court not to shut out the motion of the Action Peoples Party seeking to be joined in the matter so that the court would not be accused of intimidation.
Earlier, at the resumed hearing, one Okere Kingdom had announced appearance as counsel for the Action Peoples Party to be joined as fourth defendant.
His application was initially objected to by the plaintiff and other defendants, however, Justice Mohammed in a brief ruling held that the motion should be heard.
Kingdom, in arguing the motion said, his client as a registered political party would be affected one way or the order by the court’s decision.
The applicant, in a-17 paragraph affidavit claimed that the subject matter of litigation would affect its chances during elections.
But the plaintiff and 1st to 3rd defendants however urged the court to dismiss the application on the grounds that it was defective and not in compliance with the rules of the court.
Delivering a ruling, Justice Mohammed agreed with the aubmissions of both the plaintiff and 1st to 3rd defendants and consequently dismissed the application.
He held that the 1st defendant is competent in defending the suit and does not need to be joined by any party.
Justice Mohammed further ruled that the mere fact that the applicant is a political party does not qualify it to be joined in the suit.
He however, gave the other defendants two days to file their responses, while the plaintiff had Friday to reply.
The judge consequently adjourned till Monday 26 for hearing on the substantive suit.
It would be recalled that the Accord Party had dragged the National Assembly, AGF and INEC to court, after President Muhammadu Buhari refused to assent to the amended electoral bill, 2018.
The party had expressed fears that the legislature with regards to its legislative powers can veto the President’sbassent and pass the bill to law.
The plaintiff in an oral application moved by its counsel therefore asked the court for a preservative order to stop the legislature from vetoing the president pending the hearing and determination of its substantive suit m
Justice Mohammed who granted the preservative order specifically ordered the defendants to maintain status quo ante belum pending the next adjourned date fixed for Tuesday 20, March, 2018.
The judge ruled that there was need to preserve the res of the matter.

Author: News Editor

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