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Court Upholds National Assembly’s Power On Party Nominations

Channels Television  
Updated May 2, 2013

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has upheld the powers of the National Assembly to legislate on how political parties should nominate candidates for elections.

The court was delivering judgment in a suit filed by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which was represented in court by its National Legal Adviser Dr Muiz Banire.

The ACN had sued the National Assembly and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). INEC was represented by Mr Adindu Ugwuzor.

In its judgment, the court held that the exercise of the National Assembly’s regulatory powers as contained in Section 228 of the 1999 Constitution gave rise to the enactment of the Electoral Act.

Section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) lays down the procedure for the conduct of primaries by political parties seeking to nominate candidates.

Presiding Justice Okechukwu Okeke refused to invalidate Section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

The court added that all the sections/provisions of the Electoral Act apply to all political parties in Nigeria equally and without any discrimination.

ACN had sought a declaration that the provisions of Section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) are inconsistent with the provisions of section 4 and 228 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Being inconsistent, it is therefore “ultra vires (beyond the powers of) the National Assembly, null and void to the extent of their inconsistency,” the party argued.

The party also prayed the court to declare the section unconstitutional and void for mandating the conduct of and the manner of conducting primary elections by political parties for elections into the offices of the President, Vice-President, Governor, National Assembly and State House of Assembly.

It sought a declaration that the procedure adopted by a political party for the conduct of primaries for nomination of its candidates in an election is outside the legislative domain of the National Assembly.

The party formulated four issues for determination, including whether the National Assembly has the power to legislate on the procedure for nomination of candidates by political parties, having regard to the supremacy of the Constitution and the clear enumeration of the lawmakers’ powers with respect to political parties.

In a supporting affidavit, the deponent, Aketu Eromosele, said: “I was informed by Alhaji Lai Mohamed, the National Publicity Secretary of the plaintiff while instructing our law firm on the 26th day of July, 2012 in our office…and I verily believe that the said Section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) has affected the right of the plaintiff to determine its political fortunes in accordance with its principles contained in its Constitution and other relevant documents.

“As a matter of fact, the members of the plaintiffs party feel aggrieved that they cannot further their common goal of freely choosing their ambassadors.”

But INEC, in its counter affidavit, argued that the Section 87 applies not only to ACN, but all other political parties in Nigeria, without any exemption.

It said the Act did not put the plaintiff in any position of disadvantage and is not in any way prejudicial to it.

“Section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 has not infringed on the right of the plaintiff at all but is intended to make it abide by democratic tenets and principles of equality and fairness,” INEC said.

Justice Okeke, in his verdict, held that the conduct of election into political offices is INEC’s exclusive duty.

“In doing so, there must be order,” the judge said, adding: “Section 87 is to ensure that there is a level-playing ground for all Nigerians. It is not targeted at the plaintiff only.

“There is no merit in this application and it is hereby dismissed. There shall be no order as to cost, the judge concluded”.