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By Bukola Olasanmi
The Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday ordered the National Assembly to refrain from taking any action on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018, which President Muhammadu Buhari withheld his assent to.
The Accord Party had dragged the National Assembly, the Attorney General of the Federation and the Independent National Electoral Commission before the court, wherein it is urging 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.
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 would jeopardise the res (subject matter) of the suit that is already pending before the court for determination.
Earlier, counsel to the National assembly, Miss Chinelo Ogbozor had sought an adjournment from the court to enable her respond to the plaintiff’s motion on notice.
In strong opposition to the plaintiff’s request, Ogbozor, urged the court to decline Accord Party’s oral application for a preservative order, arguing that in acceding to such an application, the National Assembly would be denied of fair hearing.
She further argued that her client was within time to respond to the plaintiff’s motion on notice which was served on them on 12 March, saying that the application was not ripe for hearing.
“The motion is 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.
While INEC’s lawyer, Mr. Tanimu Inuwa, informed the court that the electoral umpire 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 th following orders.
“It is hereby directed that the parties shall maintain the 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 interlocutor injunction.
“Hearing notice is hereby ordered to be issue to th 2nd defendant (AGF) following his absence an lack of representation.
“These orders are made pursaunt to Section 6 (6) of the 1999 Constitution.
“The suit is adjourned till March 20 for the plaintiff’s motion on notice,” the judge held.
In the plaintiff’s originating summons, the court is 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 an supervise elections to the offices of th President, Vice President, the Governor and Deputy Governor of a state as well as federal and state legislators, among other declarations.