Supreme Court Halts Constitution Amendments

The Supreme Court, yesterday, ordered the Federal Government and the National Assembly to maintain status quo in the suit filed by the Attorney-General of the Federation over constitutional amendments.
At the apex court’s sitting presided over by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, the parties were ordered to maintain status quo till the hearing of the suit on June 18.
This, the court said, was to give the counsel to the Federal Government, Mr. Bayo Ojo (SAN) adequate time to prepare to address the court on salient constitutional issues raised in his originating processes.
The CJN also ordered that hearing notice be issued and served on the NASS (respondent), which was not represented in court, to enable it to appear before the court on the adjourned date.
The CJN said: “Meanwhile, the status quo ante should be maintained. No further action should be contemplated or taken by either party, till the hearing and determination of the case.
“We want to give adequate time to the plaintiff’s counsel to go back and look into the totality of the originating process and come back to address the court on salient issues surrounding SC Cap S16 LFN, 2004, and S232 CFRN.
“The states are also involved in the process leading to the constitutional amendment’’.
It would be recalled that President Jonathan had withheld his assent to the amendments to some sections of the 1999 Constitution and instituted a suit against NASS at the Supreme Court to annul the amendments.
Earlier, Ojo told the court that the subject-matter of the suit was the President’s grouse against the procedure employed by NASS in the amendment to the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution.
The President’s counsel said that NASS ought to have complied with Section 8 and Section 9 of the constitution in carrying out the amendment, which necessitated the President withdrawing his assent.
Jonathan had in a seven-page letter to the Senate President, David Mark, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal queried NASS’ decision to whittle down some executive powers of Nigeria’s President.
The President had faulted some aspects of the amendments which give executive powers and duties to the legislature and the judiciary, being reasons for his refusal to sign the document into law.
“In view of the foregoing and absence of credible evidence that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Fourth Alteration) Act 2015 satisfied the strict requirements of Section 9(3) of the 1999 Constitution, it will be unconstitutional for me to assent to it”, the President said.
Ojo, in the suit filed on behalf of the President and Attorney-General of the Federation, however, argued that the amendment passed by NASS did not have the mandatory requirement of four-fifth majority of NASS.
The government also requested the Supreme Court to give an order nullifying and setting aside Sections 3, 4, 12, 14, 21, 23, 36, 39, 40, 43 and 44 of the Fourth Alteration Act, 2015 purportedly passed by the legislature.
Ojo argued that the defendant was making moves, with the tacit consent of state legislators, to employ certain provisions of the Constitution to pass the purported Fourth Alteration Act, 2015 into Law.
According to the plaintiff’s counsel, the Fourth Alteration Act 2015 contains many proposed amendments inconsistent with the spirit of federalism, separation of powers, checks and balances.
‎He argued that it would be in the interest of justice to grant all prayers sought because most of the provisions of the purported Fourth Alteration Act 2015 are contrary to public policy and good governance.
The National Assembly had before the filing of the suit by the Federal Government and yesterday’s order for the maintenance of status quo, said after 30 days, it would override the veto of the President.