The Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA), has called on its legal practitioners and the public to exercise restraint after the Federal High Court in Umuahia ruled in favour of the removal of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act with immediate effect.
Section 84 (12) of the recently amended Electoral Act 2021 stated 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 act implied that a political office holder or public servant need resign from office three months before the commencement of party primaries before he or she can take part as delegates in primaries of political parties.
In a statement issued by the president, Mr Olumide Akpata, on Tuesday, stated that the association had been made aware of certain unsavoury remarks made
about the Judgment and the person of Hon. Justice Evelyn Anyadike, by some Nigerians, including members of the Bar.
“The NBA wishes to call on Nigerians and especially legal practitioners, to refrain from employing intemperate language to characterise Judgments and/or Judges of our Courts. The Rules of Professional Conduct and the ethics that regulate our profession enjoin us to treat our Courts and Judges with the utmost respect.”
“We must reiterate that there are legal and constitutional avenues to challenge unfavourable Judgments and lawyers and indeed the generality of Nigerians are therefore enjoined to explore these avenues rather than resorting to unwarranted and counterproductive attacks on Judges and the Judiciary,” Mr Akpata said.
He, however, insisted the various courts across the nation should follow due process in the execution of their duties to mitigate any form of breakdown of law and order which is certain to occur when the generality of Nigeria ultimately lose confidence in the court system.
“Consequently, the NBA will immediately apply for the certified copies of the Judgment, the process filed, and the record of proceedings in the case, from the Federal High Court, Umuahia and thereafter decide on the next appropriate steps,’ he said
“In the meantime, we once again call on Nigerians in general, and lawyers in particular, to exercise restraint and decorum in commenting on these significant legal developments.”
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria and human rights advocate, Femi Falana, had faulted the decision of a Federal High Court sitting in Umuahia to order the deletion of Section 84 (12) of the amended Electoral Act.
In a statement obtained by Channels Television on Saturday, Mr Falana argued that “the learned trial judge fell into a great error.”
Sections 66 (1) (f), 107(1) (f),137 (1) (f) and 182 (1) (f) of the Constitution relied upon by his lordship require persons employed in the public service of either the Federal Government or State Governments,” he said. “Specifically, each of the aforesaid sections provides that “No person shall be qualified for election into the Senate or House of Reps if:
(f) he is a person employed in the public service of the Federation or of any State and has not resigned, withdrawn or retired from such employment 30 days before the date of election.”
By virtue of section 318 of the Constitution, political appointees are not included in the list of persons employed in the public service. To that extent, section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act was annulled on a very faulty ground.
No doubt, the Judge would have dismissed the case if his attention had been drawn to the cases of DADA v. ADEYEYE (2005) 6 NWLR (Pt. 920) 1 at 19 ASOGWA v. CHUKWU (2003) 4 NWLR (Pt. 811) 540 OJONYE V. ONU & ORS (2018) LPELR-44223) where the appellate Courts have held that political appointees or political office holders are not public servants as provided for under the Constitution.