Lawyers Say NASS Decision To Continue Constitution Amendment Violates Process

Fred Agbaje on Constitution amendment Two Nigerian lawyers on Wednesday condemned the decision of the National Assembly to continue with the amendment of the constitution despite an order by the Supreme Court to suspend the amendments that the Presidency had refused to approve.

The Senate had in their plenary on Tuesday expressed readiness to overturn President Goodluck Jonathan’s refusal to sign some of the amended parts of the constitution, which the Presidency said it stripped it of some powers.

The Executive Arm of government had on May 7 secured a court injunction from the Supreme Court to halt the amendment, but the National Assembly looks ready to violate the court order.

A constitutional Lawyer, Mr Fred Agbaje, told Channels Television on Wednesday that the constitution amendment presented to the President by the National Assembly to approve was a ‘dubious document’ that would have striped the presidency of major constitutional power that were vested in him.

He stressed the need for the National Assembly to abide by the rules guiding the amendment of the constitution.

“Section four of the constitution deals with legislative powers in the Federation.

“There is a clause in the law that gives the Judiciary Arm of government a supervisory role to ensure that everything done follows the provision of the constitution. It gives the judiciary the power to superintend or review the laws.

“The constitution is founded on the principle of separation of power. The judiciary comes in when any of the other arms of government attempt to go against the provision of the law,” he said.

The lawyer also pointed out that the court would not interfere with the power of the legislature to legislate, except when it was against the provisions of the constitution.

“In the cause of making the law and the law is violated, the court will come in.”

Mr Agbaje further suggested that the amendment of the constitution should involve Nigerians who power belonged to.

“It is a very serious thing to amend the constitution. In the previous five amendments, there are no contributions of the people.”

He stated that the decision of the Senate to overturn the order of the court was an affront and a threat to the Rule of Law.

“The National Assembly must legislate by example. There might be constitutional crisis if it is not properly handled.

“Once a matter is before the court, even if it is a customary court, all the parties involved should sheath their sword allow the court to decide.

According to him, the situation could lead to a constitutional crisis that could take some time before it would be resolved.

The lawyer suggested that both parties should discuss the areas of misunderstanding and resolve the matter.

Another lawyer, Emmanuel Anyaegbunam, linked the brewing crisis to structural issue, saying that the Supreme Court order should be obeyed by the National Assembly in line with the oath to obey and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“They should bear in mind that they are to make law to the peace, order and good governance of Nigeria. They should not go against that. It is the people’s will that is in the constitution.Emmanuel Anyaegbunam

“The constitution is a handiwork of the people and law making is a handiwork of the parliament.

“The people are shut off. There is no people’s referendum. The people were not involved in the amendment of the constitution because it had been done through parliamentary process.

“Nigerians subjected law making as an act of parliament. The Constitutional jurisprudent is now so poor that we are talking about veto,” Mr Anyaegbunam stated.

He further suggested that the establishment of a constitutional court in Nigeria should be considered.

Selective Law Implementation Not Good For Judicial System – Agbaje

Fred AgbajeA Nigerian Lawyer, Fred Agbaje, on Monday berated the Federal Government for the “selective implementation” of court judgments, noting that such a trend would impede the development of the judiciary and the rule of law.

Appearing as a guest on Sunrise Daily, Agbaje recalled a situation in June 2013, “when the same Federal High Court gave judgment in respect of Fresh Democratic Party” and nullified the de-registration of the Party.

“For one good year, INEC and Federal Government refused to obey that judgment,” he said, disclosing that a Motion For Stay and Notice of Appeal were received about two months ago.

According to him, the party did not sue for contempt because it knew what it would meet. He said that the party had been denied access to contest in the Anambra, Ekiti and Osun governorship elections, despite the court ruling.

“We didn’t know all along that they had their motives, only for us to get a motion asking that they are going to Court of Appeal, after depriving the beneficiary of that judgment the fruit of their hard-won victory, for one year. That is justice for you in this country”.

However, he lauded the judiciary, stating that “they’ve done well” and had played by the rule but that “only the politicians are refusing to tow the path of sanity”.

He encouraged legal practitioners to keep their heads up high, as “one misjudgment can cause havoc in the entire system and that’s why judges must be commended”.

He also commended Justice Adeniyi Ademola for his judgement on the Adamawa case, as well as the Federal Government of Nigeria for “the quick implementation” of the court ruling in favour of Ngilari, insisting that it was “a radical departure from the hitherto situation where a judgment had been given in black and white, but government agents started looking for loopholes not to obey it.

Referring to this case in Adamawa, Agbaje surmised that; “this selective implementation of judgment is not good for the development of the rule of law”. He also stated that he “might not be agreeable to that judgement”.

He noted that the peculiarity of every case determines that applicability of the principle of law and the interpretation to be given. “You cannot take hook, line and sinker the principle of law established in one case and use it as a statuette of general application for all other cases, without relating it to the facts before you.”

He argued that the former deputy governor, Bala Ngilari, and the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Umaru Fintiri, must never be allowed to benefit from their own wrongs, noting that the former deputy governor was well aware of his actions, when he submitted his resignation letter to the speaker.

He noted that the deputy governor did not “manifest the intention to resign”. “Did he actually intend to resign or was he just fooling the entire people of Adamawa state? He asked.

He further opined that the deputy governor should have refused to be intimidated to resign, but because he was afraid of being impeached along with the governor, he chose to “send them on a wild goose chase”.

Court Nullifies Deregistration Of Political Parties By INEC

A federal high court in Abuja presided by Justice Gabriel Kolawole has nullified the deregistration of political parties by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The court also declared Section 78 (7) (ii) of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, which said parties must win seats in the state and national assembly election as null and void.

Justice Kolawole made the declaration in his judgment in a suit filed by Fresh Democratic Party (FDP) and its presidential candidate in the 2011 general elections, Reverend Christopher Okotie.

INEC in December 2012 deregistered 31 political parties, basing its action on the power conferred on it by the 1999 constitution (as amended) and the electoral act 2010 (as amended).

The plaintiffs, in the suit filed by their counsel Fred Agbaje, had asked for a declaration that Section 78 (7) (ii) of the Electoral Act, 2010 is unconstitutional, invalid, null and void to the extent that if offends the provisions of section 40 and sections 221-229 of the 1999 constitution.

The plaintiffs also asked the court to make a declaration that INEC cannot deregister the party except in accordance with the provisions of the 1999 constitution.

In his judgment, Justice Kolawole said, “the concept of deregistration of political parties is strange to the 1999 constitution.”

“The criteria by which the National Assembly delimited deregistration to failure to win seats in states and national assembly elections appears like nothing but legislative arbitrariness, since INEC has powers to conduct other elections.”

He further said “INEC would not have lost anything by issuing the 1st plaintiff (FDP) with a query to enhance the integrity of its decision.”

He added that “the statutory powers conferred on the INEC can be described as ministerial but when such power concerns deregistration of a political party it becomes a quasi-judicial power because after registration a political party becomes a legal entity and acquires a legal right; to take away such legal rights cannot be taken without according the political party a hearing.”

But Justice Kolawole did not grant the plaintiffs’ prayer that the court should order the defendants to pay them the sum of N10million as compensatory damages.

Justice Kolawole’s ruling is negating an earlier ruling by Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court Lagos, which in March 2013, held that INEC has the power to deregister political parties.

 

Court To Decide On Fresh Party Status July 29

A Federal High Court in Abuja will on July 29th decide if the Independent National Electoral Commission erred by de-registering the Fresh Democratic Party.

At the resumed hearing of the case, counsel to the Fresh Democratic Party, Mister Fred Agbaje argued that even though the electoral body has a supervisory and regulatory power over political parties in the country, the body went outsides its powers in delisting the party.

He told the court that the party is a legal entity with civil rights and obligations and as such the commission has no power to delist it.

In his response, counsel to the Electoral Commission, Mister Ibrahim Bawa, argued that by virtue of Section 2289 of the Constitution, INEC has the right to delist parties.

He asked the court to hold that the Fresh Democratic Party failed to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act, therefore the de-registration was in order.

Agbaje Says Emergency Rule Will Alter Existing Legal Order

Lawyer and public affairs analyst, Fred Agbaje has said that the imposition of state of emergency on some troubled northern states is comparable to a military coups d’état.

Mr Agbaje, who was a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise daily, said President Goodluck Jonathan did the right thing by not suspending constitutionally elected officials while declaring the emergency rule.

He however said in principle when the President declared a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, “the existing legal order must give way to the new one because the two cannot operate pari passu or concomitantly.”

Mr Agbaje said President Jonathan should have suspended the executive and legislative arms of government in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states while the state of emergency lasted.

He said though the Nigerian constitution does not empower the President to sack democratically elected officials, it also did not say that the president cannot remove these officials from office during a state of emergency.

Parade Of Suspects Before Trial Seen As An Abuse of Right

Lawyers condemn the public parade of suspects before trial. That’s the focus of this episode of law weekly with our judiciary correspondent, Shola Soyele.

Also in this edition, senior legal practitioner, Fred Agbaje believes that the police did no wrong in inviting the journalists from leadership newspapers over the publishing of the ‘presidential directive’ while the national coordinator of Legal Assistance and Development Project(LEDAP) says the invitation was aimed at muzzling up the press.

It Is Now Illegal For Jonathan To Sign 2013 Budget – Fred Agbaje

With the lapsed deadline of 30 days which President Goodluck Jonathan had as dictated by the Constitution to sign the 2013 Budget into the law, it has now become illegal for the President to do so.

This was the view of legal practitioner; Fred Agbaje, who made this known on our breakfast programme Sunrise Daily while discussing the lingering controversy over the passage of the 2013 Appropriation Bill.

Reacting to reported claim by the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance that the President will this week sign the 2013 Budget, Mr Agbaje stated that “any attempt or purported attempt by the President to sign that budget will be an exercise in constitutional futility which lacks legitimacy. ”

Section 58(4) of the 1999 Constitution dictates that if a 30 day period is passed after sending the budget to the President and the president fails to sign it, the budget must be returned to the National Assembly where a 2/3 votes of the national Assembly is required to pass the budget into law thereby, vetoing the President’s signature.

The lawyer decried the controversy that has trailed the budget which was passed and submitted to the executive since December 2012, blaming it on the lack of consultation and lobbying in the Nigerian democratic structure.

According to him, all the seeming misunderstanding would have been averted if the Presidency has adequately lobbied members of the National Assembly over its planned polices ahead over time.

This he claims is what obtains in other democratic structure across the world but rather, Nigerian politicians still paraded the military psyche of enforcing the desires on others, the disappointed lawyer explained.

PART 1

PART 2

PART 3

Bad leaders are our problem not the constitution – Agbaje

On the planned constitutional review, constitutional lawyer; Fred Agbaje was on as guest to discuss the planned constitutional review.