Hopes by the current National Assembly to alter some provisions of the 1999 constitution were on Thursday dashed by the Supreme Court: It ordered a stay of action on the process and adjourned further hearing in the matter to June 18.
The tenure of the litigants, both the federal executive and the legislature, ends on May 29.
In effect, by June 18 when the matter comes up, a new federal executive will have been sworn in, and will be headed by the President-elect, Major General Muhammadu Buhari. Also, a new National Assembly will have been proclaimed and will be headed by different legislators.
The apex court on Thursday ordered both the executive and the National Assembly to stop further action on the process pending the determination of the suit filed by the outgoing Goodluck Jonathan administration challenging the process adopted by the legislature.
Specifically, the Supreme Court ordered the parties to maintain the status quo ante bellum in all the matters relating to the suit filed by the Attorney-General of the Federation on behalf of President Jonathan on the amendments to the Nigerian Constitutional (Fourth Alteration Act 2015).
“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,” the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed ordered.
The suit arose after President Jonathan declined assent to the amended Constitution that was forwarded to him by the Assembly. He instead wrote the legislators, giving his reasons for withholding his assent.
He then approached the Supreme Court to annul the amendments, citing threats by the Assembly to override the President’s veto after 30 days as constitutionally provided.
When the matter came up on Thursday, Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN), counsel to the AGF told the court that the suit arose from the President’s grouse against the procedure employed by NASS in the amendment.
He said the legislators failed to comply with Section 8 and Section 9 of the constitution in carrying out the amendment, thereby, necessitating the President’s withdrawal of his assent.
But, the National Assembly was not represented in the court and Justice Mahmud Mohammed ordered that hearing notice be issued and served on the parties. He adjourned the matter till June 18, 2015.
He explained that the adjournment would 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.
It would also enable the NASS, which was not represented in court to appear before the court on June 18, the adjourned date.
He stressed that “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.”