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WHERE THE CONSTITUTION HAS COVERED THE FIELD

Dictum

Olayinka Ayoola, JSC, in the case of INEC v. Balarabe Musa (2003) 3 NWLR (Pt.806) 72, stated: “Where the Constitution has covered the field as to the law governing any conduct, the provision of the Constitution is the authoritative statement of the law on the subject. The Constitution would not have ‘covered the field’ where it had expressly reserved to the National Assembly or any other legislative body the power to expand on or add to its provisions in regard to the particular subject. Where the Constitution has provided exhaustively for any situation and on any subject, a legislative authority that claims to legislate in addition to what the Constitution had enacted must show that, and how, it has derived its legislative authority to do so from the Constitution itself. In this case, section 222 of the Constitution having set out the conditions upon which an association can function as a political party, the National Assembly could not validly by legislation alter those conditions by addition or subtraction and could not by legislation authorise INEC to do so, unless the Constitution itself has so permitted.”

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DOCTRINE OF COVERING THE FIELD VIS-À-VIS JURISDICTION IN LAND MATTER

Nwangwu v. Ukachukwu & Anor (2000) LPELR-6913(CA), where the Court of Appeal gave effect to the notion when it stated, “Any state legislation which seeks to confer jurisdiction on the State High Court as does the Anambra State High Court Law would be in conflict with the provision of S.41 of the Land Use Act. The legislation rather than give effect to S.41 of the Act, would extend the section. By the doctrine of covering the field, S.41 of the Land Use Act will be made to prevail over the provision of such a state legislation.”

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DOCTRINE OF COVERING THE FIELD AND CONSTITUTION

Saraki v. FRN (2016) LPELR-40013(SC), the Supreme Court stated, “Where the doctrine of covering the field is in vogue in the Constitution any other legislation on the same field whether by the Federal/State government must bow to the dictate of the Constitution. That other law/legislation, if not repugnant must be supplemental or subsidiary to the constitutional provision.”

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DOCTRINE OF COVERING THE FIELD IN RELATION TO THE CONSTITUTION AND A LEGISLATION

The “doctrine of covering the field” applies where there are inconsistencies in construction of statutes. One of the ways in which the doctrine will apply is when either the National Assembly or the House of Assembly of a State makes a law on a subject matter or item which the Constitution has adequately catered for thereby covering the field of that subject matter. In this situation, the law made by the Legislature, will to the extent of the inconsistency, be declared inconsistent and rendered null and void. See, A.G ABIA STATE v. A.G FEDERATION (2006) 16 NV LR (PT. 1005) 265 @ 371-372, INEC v. MUSA (2003) LPELR-24927 (SC).

— A.O. Obaseki-Adejumo, JCA. FRSC v Ehikaam (2023) – CA/AS/276/2019

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