Electoral Act: Presidency, OSGF Disagree Over Ministers’ Refusal To Resign

The Presidency and the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on Tuesday passed the buck over the refusal of ministers, ambassadors and aides to the President to resign ahead of the governorship and presidential primaries of the All Progressives Congress which commence on May 25.

This is just as the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, on Tuesday declared his intention to contest the presidential election. Just like the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who joined the presidential race last week, Ngige also refused to resign.

A senior official at the Presidential Villa told The PUNCH that the SGF, Boss Mustapha, ought to have issued a circular stating a deadline on when appointees of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), should resign.

The official noted that across the 36 states, the secretaries to the state governments are the ones issuing circulars and guidelines for appointees seeking elective office.

“It is not our job in the Presidential Villa to ask anyone to resign. It is the job of the SGF to do so. So, you should direct your inquiries to the SGF. Please do not write my name inside your paper because I don’t want to be drawn into this controversial issue,” the official said.

However, an aide to the SGF told The PUNCH that as an appointee of the President himself, it was not the job of Mustapha to issue such a directive unless he was ordered by the President to do so.

“I’m sure you know the job of a secretary. A secretary cannot issue any directive without the express approval of the President. So, unless the President orders that we issue a circular asking appointees running for office to resign, we cannot unilaterally do so. This is standard practice. Please this is strictly off record,” said a top aide to the SGF.

Buhari had while signing the electoral bill on February 25, 2022, expressed reservations over Section 84(12) of the Act which mandates all political appointees seeking elective office to resign ahead of any party primary they plan to participate in.

The President, while insisting that the provision was at variance with the constitution, specifically asked the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, to ensure that the section in question was deleted.

He subsequently wrote to the National Assembly requesting the amendment. The President’s request was, however, rejected.

A week later, however, a lawyer, Nduka Edede, who is a member of the Action Alliance, approached a Federal High Court in Umuahia seeking a declaration that the provision was illegal.

The only respondent to the suit was the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, while the National Assembly and others were not joined. However, Malami agreed with the plaintiff that the provision was illegal.

Justice Evelyn Anyadike subsequently ruled that the section was “unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever” and asked Malami to delete the section.

Section 84 (12): A’ Court gives PDP nod to appeal judgment

However, both the National Assembly and the Peoples Democratic Party have been granted permission to join as a person interested in an appeal against the High Court judgment which voided and struck down Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act.

The PDP was granted permission by the Owerri Division of the Court of Appeal to file its appeal as an interested person against the decision of the Federal High Court, Umuahia, on the order for removal of the Section from the Electoral law.

In an enrol order of the Court of Appeal obtained in Abuja by journalists on Tuesday and signed by the Presiding Justice of the court, Justice Rita Pemu, the leave granted the  PDP to file an appeal was occasioned by submissions of its counsel, Donald Denwigwe (SAN).

The appeal marked CA/OW/87/2022 has Chief Nduka Edede and the Attorney-General of the Federation as the 1st and 2nd respondents respectively.

The enrol order reads in part, “Upon reading the application herein filed on 23-3-2022 with an affidavit in support sworn to by John Eronini on the same date and after hearing DC Denwigwe (SAN) for the applicant and Chief Emeka Ozoani (SAN) for the 1st respondent, order is hereby granted as follows;

“Leave is hereby granted the applicant (PDP) to appeal as a person interested in this appeal CA/OW/87/2022.”

The matter was adjourned till May 4, 2022, for the hearing of the appeal.

The PDP had on its own dragged President Buhari before a Federal High Court in Abuja challenging moves to alter the amended Electoral Act.

Buhari was sued along with the AGF, Senate President, Speaker, House of Representatives, Clerk of the National Assembly, Senate Leader, House of Representatives Leader and the Independent National Electoral Commission.

The party also joined as defendants in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/247/2022 Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Deputy Senate Leader and Deputy House of Representatives Leader.

The main opposition party in the suit filed on its behalf by Chief James Ogwu Onoja, (SAN), had prayed the Federal High Court for an order of interim injunction restraining Buhari and other defendants from altering the duly signed Electoral Act or withholding the Electoral Act from being put to use, including the provisions of section 84 (12) of the said Act pending the resolution of the suit.

The main opposition party in the suit filed on its behalf by Chief James Ogwu Onoja, (SAN), had prayed the Federal High Court for an order of interim injunction restraining Buhari and other defendants from altering the duly signed Electoral Act or withholding the Electoral Act from being put to use, including the provisions of section 84 (12) of the said Act pending the resolution of the suit.

Marafa faction warns APC against repeating Zamfara mistake

Reacting to the controversy over the failure of appointees to resign ahead of the primaries, the Publicity Secretary of the Senator Kabiru Marafa-led APC faction, Bello Bakyasuwa, has strongly cautioned that, unless something is done, the APC is going to repeat the same mistake it did in 2019.

Speaking to The PUNCH on Tuesday, Bakyasuwa said, “Considering what is going on at the moment regarding the provision of Section 84 which mandated the political office holders to resign, the APC is really heading for the rock as it did in 2019

“I want to, however, advise the party to make sure that all those who are supposed to resign have done so before it is too late.”

Bakyasuwa maintained that it was not late to do so adding, “People should learn from what happened in 2019 and follow the normal process if they want APC to succeed.”

Ngige, Nnamani declare

In a related development, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige on Tuesday as well as former Senate President Ken Nnamani, officially declared their intentions to run for the position of President of Nigeria on the platform of the APC.

While addressing party supporters at his hometown in Alor, Idemili North Local Government Area, Anambra State, on Tuesday, Ngige said he would work with the resources available to him.

Ngige, who did not say whether he would resign his current position as minister, however categorically stated that the APC-led government of Buhari had not failed.

According to him, the President worked with the resources available to him.

He said, “Some people are saying that this administration has failed, a government that built Enugu-Onitsha Expressway, Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, restored Nigeria’s aviation industry, built railways and built many other landmark projects across the country cannot be called a failure.”

Also, Channels Television, at 7 pm on Tuesday, reported that Nnamani had declared for the presidency.

Ministers have over a month to resign, say sources

Attempts to get a response from Amaechi on why he had failed to resign proved abortive. However, an aide to the minister told The PUNCH that his principal still had ample time to resign.

The aide, who pleaded not to be named, said, “The Electoral Act says an appointee should resign before primaries. The law didn’t specify that it must be a week or a month. So, the primaries begin at the end of May. We are still in April. So, there is enough time for him to resign. You need to relax,” he said.