Two prominent lawyers and rights crusaders have faulted a specific amendment to the provisions of the Electoral Bill that forbids citizens other than parties from challenging academic, birth, and other credentials a candidate may submit for an election.
Femi Falana and Ebun Olu Adegoruwa, both senior advocates, cite illegality of the amendment to Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act.
The amendment only allows ‘an aspirant who has reasonable grounds to believe that information given by his political party’s candidate to contest an election is false’. The initial provision had given ‘anyone’ who believes the same the chance to challenge the political candidate in court.
“That provision will be illegal because anybody can demand from INEC under the FoI Act the form submitted by anybody and once you have that, you can go to court”, said Falana, in a report by the PUNCH.
“That provision cannot remove my right to go to court. You can even report to the police or even prosecute the person by yourself. There is a provision for that in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act. This new amendment will not help them,” he added.
On his part, Olu Adegboruwa said, “I think there are many Supreme Court judgements that have stated that it is not only those who are vying for a particular office that can question the credentials of a candidate.
“So, it is already settled in law that the locus to challenge the qualification of any candidate whether academic or otherwise is open to anybody who has reason to believe that a candidate has not told the truth.
“I think it is too late for the National Assembly to masquerade those seeking office. That new provision will be challenged and I don’t think it can see the light of day,” he said.
President Muhammadu Buhari, in December, rejected the Amended Electoral Act, which the National Assembly forwarded for his assent.
The president hinged his opposition on the contentious direct primaries, which the lawmakers prescribed as the only mode of primaries for selecting party candidates.