Senate to write CJN on respect for separation of powers principle

By Henry Umoru

THE Senate resolved, yesterday, to write the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnogen, to caution his judges and ask them to respect the principle of separation of powers.

According to the Senate, Onnogen must caution his judicial officers of the need to defend the institutions and democracy.
The resolution of the Senate was sequel to a point of order raised by Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who drew the attention of the Senate to reports in the newspapers on the injunction obtained to stop the National Assembly from taking further actions on the amendment of the Electoral Act.
The Senate took the position at plenary, following the decision of an Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, which, Wednesday, restrained the National Assembly from taking any further action on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018, which President Muhammadu Buhari declined to assent to, pending the determination of a suit filed before it by Accord Party.

Senator Akpabio, who came under Orders 42 and 52 of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 as amended, said: “I read this report on the current situation of an injunction that was granted by the Federal High Court against the Senate or rather restraining the Senate from making further amendment into the issue of the electoral bill that was just recently vetoed by the President.

“The issue really is not the bill itself, it has to do with due process and parliamentary functions. I am worried about the separation of powers as enshrined in our constitution.
“Can the court really rule on an injunction, expatriate or otherwise, to stop the parliament from carrying out its constitutional duties? I have looked through the Nigerian constitution and in my view, I don’t think it is right for the court to interfere in the affairs of the parliament, particularly when we are in the process of making legislation. We cannot be stopped by an injunction.
“But, be that as it may, I believe strongly that we also do not have the power to arrest a court judgement while the proceedings are going on and because of separation of powers, it is my zeal that in order to forestall this kind of situation happening in the future, this Senate should view this matter very seriously.

“I would suggest that the Senate notifies and write a letter to the CJN informing him of the latest situation and remind him of the separation of powers as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution so that it would caution the judicial officers to avoid this kind of situation in the future.

In his remarks, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who presided over yesterday’s plenary, reiterated the need for every arm of government to function in accordance with the principle of separation of powers.

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