There was mild drama in an Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Tuesday, with proceedings ending without the substantive matter being heard or the order barring the National Assembly from overriding President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto of the electoral amendment bill, being lifted.
The court, presided by Ahmed Mohammed, had in its previous sitting stopped the National Assembly from proceeding with implementation of Section 58 of the Constitution which allows lawmakers to override the president in the process of signing a bill into law.
The National Assembly Conference Committee on Electoral Act (amendment) Bill had reordered the sequence of the 2019 general elections, putting the presidential election last, in a move some political watchers and Buhari supporters have deemed targeted at the president.
The restraining order followed an application by counsel to the Accord Party, Wole Olanipekun, who is asking the court to stop the lawmakers from tampering with the electoral act.
After issuing the restraining order, the court decided to proceed with the substantive application on Tuesday.
At the resumed hearing, however, an Abuja based lawyer, Okere Kingdom, informed the court of his decision to join in the matter.
In an attempt to persuade the court to entertain his appeal, Mr. Kingdom said he was filing the motion on behalf of “a political party” and thus reserved the right to be heard, since the decision of the court would adversely affect his party’s position in the forthcoming 2019 general elections.
Mr. Kingdom said the rules of the court allowed him to be joined, if he wished to do so.
He, therefore, asked the court to allow his application. The applicant also threatened to file a separate application, at the same court, should his request be refused.
The other parties to the matter, however, opposed the application in its entirety.
Mr. Olanipekun said the applicant has not undertaken to comply with the speed with which the parties plan to proceed with the case. He urged the court to refuse the application to ensure an accelerated hearing of the substantive suit.
Also present at the hearing was the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who urged the court to refuse the application for lacking in merit. Mr. Malami said the argument put forward by the applicant that he was representing a political party was not sufficient to allow him partake in the trial.
Speaking on behalf of INEC, its counsel, Femi Falana, urged the court to refuse the application on the grounds that the motion was “materially defective”.
After standing down the matter for about an hour, Justice Mohammed refused the application by Mr. Kingdom.
The court then adjourned the matter till March 26, without proceeding with hearing into the substantive matter.
With Tuesday’s court case, the injunction against the lawmakers still stands.
With the development, it appears the Senate will have to activate its reported decision of writing the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) on the matter, to argue that the court’s intervention was a case of an arm of government (Judiciary) preventing another arm (Legislature) from performing its duties.
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