Provision Of Sec 134(2) CFRN 1999 As Amended: A Question of Interpretation Vis a Vis 2023 Presidential Election -By Musa Dolapo Omiwole
Before delving into the substance of provision of section 134 (2) of CFRN 1999 as amended and it’s interpretation, it is pertinent to check the provisions of section 299 of CFRN 1999 as amended and the intention of the law makers. Sec 299 provided thus”
“The Provisions of this Constitution shall apply to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja as if it were one of the States of the Federation;”
The interpretation of this is to the effect that the FCT is equally a state for the purpose of determining the issue(s) like the interpretation of provision of sec 134(2) of the 1999 CFRN as amended
There are plethora of cases in respect of whether FCT is a state or not see OKEYODE V FCDA (2005) LPELR -41123(CA)
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In OKOYODE v. FCDA (Supra)
The issue was on Whether the Federal Capital Territory is a “State” by virtue of the provisions of Section 299 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.
“It seems to me that the first question in this matter that one should ask is whether the Federal Capital Territory is a “State” by virtue of the provisions of Section 299 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. Section 299 provides thus – “The provisions of this Constitution shall apply to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja as if it were one of the States of the Federation and accordingly- (a) all the legislative powers, the executive powers and the judicial powers vested in the House of Assembly, the Governor of a State and in the Courts of a State shall, respectively, vest in the National Assembly, the President of the Federation and in the Courts which by virtue of the foregoing provisions are Courts established for the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; (b) all the powers referred to in Paragraph (a) of this Section shall be exercised in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution, and c) the provisions of this Constitution pertaining to the matter aforesaid shall be read with such modification and adoptions as may be reasonably necessary to bring them into conformity with the provisions of this Section.” The above provision of the Constitution to my mind is very clear and unambiguous. It is trite that where a provision of statute is clear and unambiguous, only its natural meaning is to be given to its interpretation. Similarly A-G., Abia State v. A-G., Federation (2002) 17 WRN 1; (2002) 6 NWLR (Pt. 763) 264 at 485 – 486, Texaco Panama Inc. v. Shell P.D.C.N. Ltd. (2002) 14 WRN 121; (2002) 5 NWLR (Pt. 759) 209 at 227 – 228, Tasha v. U.B.N. Plc. (2003) 36 WRN 64; (2002) 3 NWLR (Pt. 753) page 99 at 106, O.A.U. Ile-Ife v. R. A. Oliyide and Sons Ltd. (2001) 7 NWLR (Pt. 712) page 456 at 473, Akpan v. Umali (2002) 23 WRN 52; (2002) 7 NWLR (Pt. 767) page 701 at 729.
Furthermore,without any iota of doubt, by virtue of Section 299 of the Constitution of the Federation, the Federal Capital Territory is in law a State. In others words the Federal Capital Territory should be treated as one of the States in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, more essentially like issues in the provisions of 134(2) Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
Having critically examined the provision of section 299 CFRN next is to examine and interpret the provision of section 134(2) which provides as follow:
that president shall be declared elected if:
- a) he has majority of votes cast at the election; and
- b) he has not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation and the FCT, Abuja.
Where the leading candidate does not eventually secure 25% of the total votes cast in FCT but secures minimum of 25% in 24 states of the Federation, the issue will be the interpretation of the words “and the FCT, Abuja” in section 134(2)(b); should the words be disjunctive or conjunctive. Clearly, the whole of section 134(2)(b) is unequivocal and where the words of a statute (including the Constitution) are unequivocal, the court’s duty is to give effect to those clear words; otherwise, the court will turn itself into a law-making institution, thereby, usurping the powers of the legislature.
See also the Supreme Court in Buhari v. Obasanjo (2005) NWLR Pt 910 ,the Supreme Court in its obiter while giving the lead Judge shed light, Their Lordships said.
“This provision appears clear to me. Where a candidate wins the highest number of votes cast in at least two thirds of the 36 States in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, he is deemed to be elected … I do not appreciate any ambiguity in the provision and even if there was one, this Court is bound to adopt a construction which is just, reasonable and sensible. (See Maxwell on the Interpretation of Statutes, 12th Edition, Chapter 10).”
Conclusively, In this case, the words are conjunctive for they are analogically linked to the words: “… the States in the Federation…”. The simple implication of this is that the FCT is to be treated as a State in the Federation, thereby, bringing the total States in the Federation to 37.
For example, where a testator in his will wrote “Give my children 50 million and my brothers “ it technically means 50 million should be given to his children and brother and not that 50 million is to be given to the children and another 50 million to the brothers.
In this instant case Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of All progressive congress scored a minimum of 25% of the total votes cast in 2/3 of all the “37 States” in the country, which translates to 25 States in the Federation. Thus, in my humble opinion he has validly won the election as he has satisfied the provision of the CFRN as amended in respect to 25% of 24 states out of 37 states.
Musa Dolapo Omiwole, CHIEF JUDGE, Kwara State University Students’ Union