*Constitution permits aspirants to resign only 30 days to poll — Nwajiuba
*Section 84 (12) of Electoral Act has been struck down by court — Ngige
By Clifford Ndujihe, Henry Ojelu, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Joseph Erunke, Omeiza Ajayi & Dirisu Yakubu
Two ministers, yesterday, downplayed calls on political appointees to resign to enable them take part in primaries of political parties, next month, saying the calls were unconstitutional, in spite of the provision of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act 2022) as amended.
The Electorakl Act provision is still subject of litigation at the Appeal Court
Minister of State for Education, Mr. Emeka Nwajiuba, who declared his intention to contest for the office of the president in the 2023 general election; and Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who is also running for the presidency, pooh-poohed the calls, yesterday.
While Nwajiuba said that the 1999 Constitution (as amended) permitted aspirants to resign 30 days to the election, Ngige said Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act 2022 had been struck down by the court.
They spoke as attempts by the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, to get appointees eyeing electoral positions to quit their appointments on or before April 30 were aborted.
I won’t resign — Nwajiuba
Nwajiuba ruled out the possibility of resigning his position ahead of of the APC presidential primaries billed for May 30 to June 1, 2022.
The presidential poll is fixed for February 25, 2023.
The minister declared his stand yesterday evening in Abuja when he received the APC Presidential Nomination and Expression of Interest Forms, from a group Project Nigeria, which purchased the forms for him
Nwajiuba said he accepted to run in order to build on the solid foundations laid by the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration.
Responding to questions on his fate as a minister following his open declaration to vie for elective office, Nwajiuba said he would only resign 30 days to the presidential election as stipulated by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The resignation of a minister or anybody who is in office is guided by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We are required to contest election if we want. We are required to resign 30 days before any election we choose to contest. That is the position of the law. Every other person can have an opinion.
“My position is that the law of the country rests on the grundnorm called Constitution. If you do not like the Constitution, your work is to amend it. There is no subrogation of power that is required for you to include into a law what is not in that law.”
Earlier, Nwajiuba after receiving the forms thanked the group for donating their hard-earned money for him to vie for the presidential election, saying he has accepted the call to run for the office to replace President Buhari.
“I now solemnly accept to run for us all, and bear our party’s flag into the elections and become our next president.
“I do this recognising that in the last seven years, President Buhari has performed extraordinary feats in ensuring that our progressive ideas have been established; physical infrastructure of every type and inclusive policies reaching out to our poor and less privileged. As we strive to uplift Nigeria and Nigerians into a developed state,” he said.
The minister used the occasion to call on the Academic Staff Union Of Universities, ASUU, to call off its on-going strike, saying they did not need to embark on strike for their demands to be attended to by the authorities.
He urged the union to return to the classrooms so that students can go back to the classroom as the Federal Government looks into their demands, adding that it is the duty of government to give life to the 2009 agreement signed with the union to make sure that the universities that the Federal Government owns were properly funded even as he said “government’s funding is very limited.”
Section 84 (12) of Electoral Act has been struck down by court — Ngige
On his part, Senator Chris Ngige, who denied knowledge of any order from the ruling party ordering political appointees interested in contesting elections next year to resign their appointments, said that even if there is any order to that effect, it has not been conveyed to him and that there is a subsisting judgment from competent court of jurisdiction striking down the electoral act provision.
Speaking to Vanguard in Abuja yesterday, Ngige, who was a former governor of Anambra State, said that since Section 84 (12) has been challenged in court and judgment entered into, the judgment should be obeyed until it is vacated by the court.
“But like I always say, I’ll be guided by the letters and spirit of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. You are pushing me into something that is not necessary to discuss, because that aspect of the law enacted by the National Assembly, via the Electoral Act, that section 84 (12) has been struck down by a court of law and the case is on appeal.
“And for now, no matter how bad the judgment is, that’s the maximum jurisprudence no matter how bad a judgment of court is, it should be obeyed, until upturned or stayed. But there is no stay, that particular pronouncement has not been upturned, and the party is on appeal.
“So the judgment is still subsisting, that aspect of the law was injurious to some persons and should not have been there.
“I also know that the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria in certain sections, section 107, 137 and 88, prescribe disqualification clauses for people who are going for election and that prescription is supreme, because it’s in the constitution and the constitution is the grund norm of all laws.”
But reminded that there is a guideline in the APC for those occupying political positions and interested in the forthcoming elections to resign, he said: “No, it’s not there. It is not in the works at all. But I will consult with the party and find out.”
APC’s aborted resignation notice
APC had earlier yesterday given a three-day deadline to cabinet ministers and other executive appointees at both the state and federal levels to resign their appointments if they intend to participate in its forthcoming round of primary elections.
Section 3(i) of the APC Guidelines for the Nomination of Candidates for the 2023 General Elections states: “No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate or be voted for the purpose of the nomination of candidates.
“Any political office holder interested in contesting for an elective office shall leave office 30 days prior to the date of election or party primary for the office sought.”
The party has scheduled to hold its special presidential convention from Monday, May 30 to Wednesday, June 1. By implication, the appointees had till Saturday, April 30 to leave their offices.
Vanguard gathered that as reports of the three-day quit notice hit the air waves, some critical stakeholders piled pressure on leaders of the party, which necessitated a reversal. Sources said party leaders learned that the party had no power to ask the appointees to resign at least 30 days to the primary election.
A top party official who spoke to Vanguard on condition of anonymity said: “The Electoral Act states that such appointees must resign before the primary election in which they want to participate either as delegates or contestants.
“It did not say they must resign at least 30 days before the exercise. So, the party has realized its error and the portion of the guidelines specifying 30 days will be deleted.”
Besides, the source said the matter is in court and even the 1999 Constitution requires affected people to resign 30 days to the election, not primaries of political parties.
The sections requiring “a person employed in the civil or public service of the Federation or of any State, to resign, withdraw or retire from the employment at least 30 days before the date of the election” are Section 137 (1) (g) for presidential election; Section 66 (1) (f) for House of Representatives; Section 182 (1) (g) for governorship; and Section 107 (1) (f) for state House of Assembly.
Judgement against Section 84 (12) of Electoral Act
The Abia State division of the Federal High Court sitting in Umuahia had on March 18, 2022, ordered the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, Abubakar Malami to delete Section 84 (12) of the amended Electoral Act without delay.
Justice Evelyn Anyadike ordered Malami to delete the section of the Electoral Amendment Act “forthwith” because it’s unconstitutional.
In her judgment, Justice Anyadike held that the section was “unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever and ought to be struck down as it cannot stand when it is in violation of the clear provisions of the Constitution.”
Few weeks after the judgment, the Owerri Division of the Court of Appeal ordered Malami, and other parties in the suit to suspend the execution of the judgment of the Federal High Court, which struck down Section 84 (12) of the newly amended Electoral Act.
A three-member panel of the appellate court led by Justice Rita Pemu, made the order in a ruling granting a request by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to be joined as a party to the appeal challenging the judgment of the lower court.
The appellate court, in its ruling, ordered parties to refrain from taking steps capable of frustrating the pending appeal against the contested judgment.
The matter was adjourned to May 4, 2022, for the hearing of the appeal.