A Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, ordered election ribunals sitting across the federation to ignore provisions of section 140(2) and 141 of Electoral Act 2010, saying it was vague, unconstitutional and a deliberate attempt by the legislative arm of government to usurp powers of the judiciary.
Nullifying the two sections, the high court equally gave election tribunals nod to declare a candidate winner of any disputed election process brought before it, stressing that provisions of the aforementioned sections were inconsistent with both section 239 and 285 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
It would be recalled that the National Assembly, in amending the Electoral Act, divested from courts the power to declare any candidate the bonafide winner of a disputed poll, stipulating that appropriate action the court or tribunal could take in such situation was to nullify the election and order a fresh one.
Dissatisfied with the decision, Labour Party, LP, went to court to challenge its constitutionality. The plaintiff joined Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, as defendants in the suit.
However, the two defendants, who were represented in court by Mrs. Patience Osagiede Ofeyi and Ms Olufunke Aboyade, respectively, joined the plaintiff in asking the court to void those portions of the Electoral Act, contending that it ousted the jurisdiction of tribunals with respect to reliefs that could be granted in an election petition.
Delivering judgment on the matter, Presiding Justice Gabriel Kolawole, maintained that the National Assembly was bereft of legislative competence to dictate to the court decision it should take over a suit filed before it, just as he described section 140(2) and 141 of the Electoral Act, 2010, as an affront on the concept of separation of powers.
He held that the sections smacked off legislative tyranny, in the sense that it removed the constitutionally guaranteed powers of the court to declare a candidate winner of an election, stressing that section 134 and 179 of the same constitution imbued the judiciary with powers to declare the person with majority votes winner of an election process.
He noted that the National Assembly deliberately interfered with judicial affairs, saying the two sections were nothing but legislative judgment.
According to the judge, “Sections 140 (2) and 141 of the Electoral Act 2010 delimits power of the court to adjudicate dispute between parties in Election Petition. It, therefore, derogates powers enshrined in Sections 4  and 6 (1) of the Constitution.
“The decision a court can arrive at in any dispute is based on the peculiar facts and evidences presented before it, it is not what any parliament can technically determine. Once a tribunal is seized with a matter in line with provisions of section 239 and 385 of the constitution, it can no longer reside with the legislature to curtail or abridge the powers of that court.
“I, therefore, find Sections 140 (2) and 141 needless and an unnecessary intrusion, it is my view that election tribunals can operate effectively without these two provisions.
“Consequently, it is hereby declared inconsistent with the provisions of the 1999 constitution and, therefore, null and void. The various election tribunals shall not be bound by the provisions of Sections 140 (2) and 141, it is thus accordingly struck-down, same being unconstitutional.”
The plaintiff had in an originating summon it filed through its counsel, Chief Chuwkuma Ekomaru, SAN, prayed the high court to invoke its jurisdiction and declare that the provisions of the said portions of the Electoral Act were inconsistent with the provisions of sections 6(6a), 134, 179, 285 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
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