Nigeria: 72 Hours to APC Convention, Court Clears Coast for Statutory Delegates

The judgement comes less 72 hours to the national convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the Eagles Square in Abuja.

The Federal High Court in Kano, on Friday, held that statutory delegates can participate in primaries of political parties in accordance with the Nigerian constitution.

Statutory delegates are usually political office holders such as lawmakers, commissioners and ministers.

PREMIUM TIMES reports that the judgement comes less 72 hours to the national convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the Eagles Square in Abuja, where a presidential candidate for the party will emerge for next year’s polls.

The Federal High Court in Kano held that “Section 84(8) cannot be interpreted to have excluded statutory delegates from voting at the convention, congress.”

The judge, A.M. Liman, while delivering judgement in a suit filed by Masijde El-Jibrin Gogowa, a legislative aide to Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives; Habibu Sani and Bilyaminu Shinkafi, said Section 223 of the Nigerian constitution and the APC constitution “allow statutory Delegation (sic) to vote at convention, congress or meeting.”

In the suit filed on May 24, the plaintiffs listed the Senate President, APC National Chairman, Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as defendants.

While the Senate President challenged the propriety of the case, the APC National Chairman, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and INEC did not file any court documents concerning the suit.

“IT IS HEREBY ORDERED AS FOLLOWS:

That Section 84(8) cannot be -interpreted to have excluded statutory delegates from voting at the convention, congress or meeting by virtue of Section 223 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Article 20(iv)(c) of the All Progressive Congress (APC) Constitution, which allow Statutory Delegation to vote at convention, congress or meeting,” the judge said.

The APC has already approved elected delegates, three per local government area, to take part in the presidential primary. Since the judge did not order the party to allow the statutory delegates, it is not clear if the ruling party will amend its rules to now allow for statutory delegates.

The ruling party has also held its other primaries, state and legislative, without statutory delegates.

The PDP also held its primaries without statutory delegates.

Although the National Assembly passed an amendment to Section 84(8) so as to allow statutory delegates vote, President Muhammadu Buhari has, so far, refused to sign the amendment.

Background

Section 84(8) is not the only controversial part of the new Electoral Act.

There have been conflicting orders from courts of coordinate jurisdiction over the interpretation of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act 2022 and provisions of the constitution.

The Federal High Court in Abuja had in March barred President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly from tampering with the controversial clause in the Electoral Amendment Act.

The controversial clause in the Electoral Amendment Act 2022, provides that “No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate or be voted for at the convention or congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.”

The controversy generated by the new Electoral Act compelled Mr Buhari and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), to approach the Supreme Court, seeking an interpretation of the controversial clause in the Electoral Act.

Two of the defendants in the pending suit at the apex court – National Assembly and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – challenged the jurisdiction of Supreme Court to hear and determine the case.

On March 18, a Federal High Court in Umuahia, Abia State,in a suit filed by Nduka Edede, a lawyer and member of the Action Alliance (AA), ordered the AGF to immediately delete section 84 (12) on the grounds that it violates the provisions of the constitution.

However, in its ruling on May 11, a Court of Appeal panel headed by Hamma Barka held that Evelyn Anyadike, judge of the Umuahia court, did not have the necessary jurisdiction to make such an order because the plaintiff did not have the locus to file the case in the first place.

The appellate court, however, held that if the suit had been properly instituted, it would have ruled that the provision is unconstitutional because it violates Section 42 (1)(a) of the constitution and denies a class of Nigerians their right to participate in elections.

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