The Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday dismissed a motion by the Action Peoples Party seeking to be joined as a defendant in the suit filed by the Accord Party to challenge the constitutionality of the ongoing amendment to the Electoral Act by the National Assembly.
The Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018 seeks to provide the order in which INEC must conduct the 2019 general elections, contrary to the sequence earlier announced by the electoral body.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed delivered his ruling on the APP’s motion shortly after hearing the plaintiff and the defendants, who all opposed the joinder application, on Tuesday.
Ruling, Justice Mohammed held that there was no basis to join the APP as a defendant when the National Assembly, which is the first defendant to the suit, could competently defend the suit.
Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) represented the plaintiff at the Tuesday proceedings.
The National Assembly, the first defendant to the suit, was represented by Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), while the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), represented himself as the second defendant, while Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), represented INEC as the third defendant.
The party seeking to be joined as the fourth defendant, the APP, was represented by its lawyer, Mr. Kingdom Okere, who argued that the APP, being a political party, “is a necessary party in the suit filed by the Accord Party.”
Okere argued that the Accord Party was by its suit, “seeking to restrain the National Assembly from performing its constitutional legislative duty of overriding the President for refusing to assent to the bill.”
He argued that the APP like every other registered political parties had the right to sponsor candidates in the 2019 general elections and would be affected by the outcome of the suit.
While contending that the court lacked the power to stop the National Assembly from carrying out its constitutional legislative duties, it added that the elections ordering sought to be achieved by the bill would guarantee free and fair elections.
Responding, the plaintiff’s lawyer, Olanipekun, argued that the APP’s motion was incompetent because it failed to comply with the provisions of Order 9(15)(2) of the Federal High Court Rules.
According to him, failure of the applicant’s lawyer to file its client’s statement of defence and other exhibits it intended to rely on if joined as a party was a breach of Order 9(15)(2) of the Federal High Court Rules, and so should be dismissed.
Daudu, the National Assembly’s lawyer, also argued that the motion by the APP was incompetent on the basis of non-compliance with Order 9(15)(2) of the Federal High Court Rules.
He added that being a political party did not alone give the applicant the right to be joined in the suit.
Malami, on his part argued that the application “in its own right is inherently defective.”
He said, “The depositions contained in the affidavit in support substantially offend the provisions of the Evidence Act.
“The affidavit is in some respect argumentative and in others conclusive and devoid of adequate particulars of the source of facts deposed to.”
Falana, while responding on behalf of INEC, urged the court to strike out the affidavit filed in support of the motion for being incompetent and subsequently dismiss the motion.
But ruling shortly after hearing all the parties, the judge upheld the objections of the respondents to the joinder application, but only did so on different grounds.
The judge’s decision was based solely on what he described as the principle of joinder long settled by the Supreme Court.
He rejected the argument of the applicant that all registered political parties were entitled to be joined as parties to the suit since the subject matter bordered on the 2019 general elections.
Answering the question, the judge noted that APP’s defence in the case would not be different from that of the National Assembly, by whose defence the case could be “completely” determined.
Dismissing the motion, Justice Mohammed said the APP might be desirous to join a suit but that being desirous “does not qualify it to be joined as a party.”
He then directed the National Assembly, the AGF and INEC, to within 48 hours respond to the plaintiff’s suit and gave the plaintiff till Friday to file further replies to the defendants if need be.
The judge adjourned till March 26.