Only INEC Can Fix Election Timetable, Court Tells National Assembly

A Federal High Court in Abuja, Wednesday, nullified the amendment of Section 25 of the Electoral Act, as passed by the National Assembly.
The court stopped the National Assembly from re-ordering the sequence of the 2019 general electiin, adding only INEC can fix the election timetable.
The court said the National Assembly has no power to dictate to the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) on the order in which the 2019 general elections or any election should be conducted.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed, delivering a judgment in the suit filed by the Accord Party, challenging the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018, which President Muhammadu Buhari withheld his assent to, citing constitutional breaches as reason, also held that the electoral body has the sole responsibility to organise and conduct elections in the country.
The Accord Party filed the application after both chambers of the National Assembly attempted to implement Section 58 of the constitution which allows the legislature to override the decision of the President.
The party asked the the court to determine if INEC was not solely empowered to carry out its function of overseeing the election timetable in Nigeria.
The application by Accord Party was part of events that trailed the decision of the National Assembly to reorder the sequence of the 2019 general elections, putting the presidential election last.
Justice Mohammed ruled that only INEC had the powers to create an election template for the country.
He held that any attempt by the National Assembly to amend the Section 25, as done by the legislature, would first require an amendment of the constitution.
“It is the sole responsibility of the third defendant (INEC) to organise and conduct elections, including fixing of dates for the elections.
“The power of INEC to organise and conduct elections in this country cannot be taken away by the Electoral Act”, he said.
Justice Mohammed observed that at the time the Electoral Amendment Bill 2018 was passed by the National Assembly, INEC had already fixed the dates for the 2019 general elections and held that the National Assembly clearly acted in breach of the principle of separation of powers.
The Judge said: “After perusing submissions of counsel in this matter, I declare Section 25 of the Electoral Act 2018, which is the section that contravenes the provisions of the constitution, a nullity.
Earlier, Justice Mohammed over ruled the objections of the defendants to the Originating Summons of the Plaintiff and held that the Plaintiff has the locus standi to institute the legal action as its affidavit evidence shows that it is a registered political party in the country.
He also held that the Plaintiff’s case is not academic and also not an abuse of the process of the court.
“The Plaintiff’s suit seeking for the interpretation of certain provisions of the constitution cannot be said to be an abuse of the process of the court”, he said.
Accord Party had, through its counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) approached the court with a suit challenging the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018, which President Muhammadu Buhari withheld his assent to.
In the Plaintiffs originating summons, the court was urged to declare that the legislative powers vested in the National Assembly by the constitution do not empower it with the right or authority to dictate to INEC the way and manner it should organise, undertake and supervise elections to the offices of the President, Vice President, the Governor and Deputy Governor of a state as well as federal and state legislators, among other declarations.

Author: News Editor

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