20 March 2022. Premium Times, Nigeria: The Federal High Court in Umuahia, Abia State, on Friday, significantly altered the recently amended Electoral Act 2022 by striking down its section 84(12).
The section was a new statutory innovation put in place to check the abuse of political offices during elections or selection of candidates at party primaries.
It prohibited political appointees at state and federal levels from voting or being voted for “at the convention or congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election”.
Many appointees of President Muhammadu Buhari saw the provision as a threat to their political ambition ahead of the 2023 general elections.
President Buhari protested against the provision after signing the bill into law. He requested, but failed to secure the support of the Senate to have the provision deleted.
A lawyer and top member of the Action Alliance (AA), one of Nigeria’s fringe political parties, had filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Umuahia to challenge the constitutionality of the said section 84(12) of the Electoral Act.
He sued the Attorney-General of the Federation as the only defendant.
Delivering judgement on Friday, the judge, Evelyn Ayandike, agreed with the plaintiff that the provision conflicted with Nigerian citizens’ rights guaranteed by the constitution.
She noted that the Nigerian constitution already has a provision that mandates appointees of government seeking to contest elections to resign at least 30 days to the date of the election.
Therefore, the judge ruled, any other law mandating such appointees to resign or leave office at any time before that “is unconstitutional, invalid, illegal null and void, to the extent of its inconsistency to the clear provisions of the Constitution.”
In a quick reaction to the judgement, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, promised to enforce the judgement which ordered him to have the section deleted from the Electoral Act.
The judgement has been criticized by lawyers and human rights activists.
Download a copy of the court order here