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Nigeria court rules president must approve constitutional amendments

A judge for Nigeria's Federal High Court [official website] in Lagos ruled Monday that an amendment to the 1999 Nigerian Constitution [text] made by the National Assembly (NASS) [official website] cannot become operational law without the assent of the president. Justice Okechukwu Okeke ruled [Daily Independent report] that the NASS's refusal to forward the amendment to President Goodluck Jonathan [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] for approval violated Section 58 of the Constitution. The court determined that the proposed amendment would remain inchoate until presented to the president. The amendment, known as the Constitution (First Amendment) Act 2010 [text, PDF], concerns the election process and was approved by the NASS and a two-thirds majority of the State Houses of Assembly. The challenge was brought to the court by Olisa Agbakoba, former president of the Nigerian Bar Association [official website]. The NASS lawyers asked to court to throw out the lawsuit, stating that only the attorney general has the authority to this type of challenge. Representatives for the NASS plan to appeal the ruling.

The Constitution (First Amendment) Act 2010 was passed in June. It repeals the Independent National Electoral Commission Act 2006 in order to re-instate the Nigerian Independent National Election Commission (INEC) [official website]. The INEC regulates the conduct of federal, state and local council elections and similar matters. Also in June, the legislature passed [JURIST report] revisions to the Constitution that would clarify the exercise of executive authority in absence of the president. The constitutional revisions would also change federal election law. It would remove a provision of the constitution that disallowed people who had been charged with fraud from standing for election and would require candidates for federal office to have a degree beyond secondary education. The 2011 presidential election will be the first since the death of former president Umaru Yar'Adua [BBC obituary] in May. Former vice president Jonathan assumed the presidency in February after parliament voted [JURIST report] for him to step in for the ailing Yar'Adua.

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