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2023 Race: How Buhari Ordered Amaechi, Malami, 7 Other Ministers To Quit To Save Governance, Use Of Public Funds



Details have emerged why President Muhammadu Buhari, after weeks of dilly-dallying, on Wednesday ordered all ministers who have indicated interest to contest election to resign on or before Monday, May 16, 2022, after an exclusive report published by Daily Trust with headline, “Ahead of APC primaries: Campaign, governance compete for attention.”The report revealed how ministers have relegated governance to the background in their quest to woo delegates ahead of the ruling party’s primaries.  It also revealed that the ministers were using state resources for their campaigns.
With the president’s directive, nine ministers have the option of either resigning or dropping their ambitions. Already, two ministers; Emeka Nwajiuba (Education) and Godswill Akpabio (Niger Delta), have tendered their resignation in compliance with the president’s directive.
Other ministers who have indicated interest in the presidency include Rotimi Amaechi (Transportation), Chris Ngige (Labour and Employment), Ogbonnaya Onu (Science and Technology) and Timipre Sylva (Petroleum Resources).
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and the Minister of State, Mines and Steel Development, Uche Ogar are gunning for the governorship of their states, Kebbi and Abia, respectively.On her part, the Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, had declared her ambition to contest for a senatorial seat in Plateau State.Aside from the ministers, some heads of federal government agencies including the Director- General of the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting (NSPM), Abbas Masanawa, Director-General of Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDAN), Dikko Umar Radda, among others, are contesting for positions.
The appointees of the president have been relying on the judgement of the Federal High Court, Umuahia, Abia State, which nullified section 84 (12) of the 2022 Electoral Act that barred them from participating in primaries or conventions while serving as ministers.
However, the Court of Appeal, yesterday, set aside that judgement but declared Section 84 (12) unconstitutional.
Buhari’s order
Buhari’s quit notice to the ministers was conveyed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, on Wednesday, while briefing reporters on the outcome of the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by the president.
He said only Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as an elected official was exempted. The minister said he did not have the mandate to talk about the fate of other political appointees who are also vying for elective positions but are not members of the cabinet.
Mohammed said: “The mandate I have from the president is to announce that all members of the Federal Executive Council contesting for elective office must resign their ministerial cabinet appointments on or before Monday the 16th of May, 2022.”Asked if the directive would affect the vice president vying for the post of the president, he said; “The vice president was elected, he was not appointed.
”The minister, while speaking on the fate of other political appointees like the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, who might also be running for the post of president, said the directive might be extended to non-cabinet members.
Explaining further, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said the president directed all the ministers seeking the presidential seat to emulate the minister of state, education, who bought the forms and subsequently resigned from his position as a minister.
However, Daily Trust reports that the resignation of the education minister only came to the fore after the FEC meeting even though he paid for the presidential forms many days ago.
Also, unlike what the information minister said about the time frame given to the ministers to quit, the presidential spokesman said the resignation was with immediate effect.
Asked to explain whether the directive was given in compliance with the new Electoral Act, which case was before the court or because of its effects on the performance of ministers in governance, he said: “All you said is alright. First of all, whoever is contesting for the position of president and is an appointee in government, then it is not only distracting his attention but shifting attention to his candidature. And there is a new electoral law by the National Assembly, which is still under discussion and was signed by the president.
Ngige, Onu, others weigh options
Daily Trust gathered last night that the seven other ministers are weighing options as to whether to resign to pursue their ambition or drop it and continue with their ministerial appointments.
Ngige said he will meet with the president and consult with his constituents before deciding on what to do.One of Onu’s aides told Daily Trust that the minister was currently consulting his supporters and close associates on whether to resign his appointment and continue pursuing his presidential bid or to continue as minister.
“He (the minister) didn’t return to the office after the FEC meeting today. Some thought he had resigned, but we later learned he was holding a meeting with some of his supporters and close associates on his next steps,” the aide, who pleaded anonymity, told one of our reporters.
It was learnt that Tallen may likely resign as her constituents have beckoned on her to contest for the Plateau South Senatorial District. If she resigns, she would have to battle for the APC ticket with the Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, who has picked the APC forms for the seat.
Buhari’s directive necessary to save governance – Rafsanjani
Speaking on the latest development, the Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Chairman of the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), said the president’s decision was necessary to save governance.
“It is worthy of note to mention that this action puts to bed worries of complicity in the impunity with which some political appointees have expressed their political interests ahead of the upcoming general elections in total disregard for the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 and the sensibilities of Nigerians whose collective resources have been diverted to satisfy personal political ambitions.
“These illegalities have been well condemned by the public and the president’s decision at this time is indeed a welcome one and reflects responsiveness to the yearnings of the citizenry,” he said.
The Appeal court’s intervention
The Court of Appeal in Owerri has set aside the judgement of a Federal High Court, which nullified section 84 (12) of the Electoral act 2022. However, the appellate court also declared the same section unconstitutional. Justice Hamma Akawu Barka in the judgement, which was delivered in Abuja on Wednesday held that the original applicant, Nduka Edede, lacked the locus standi to institute the suit.
According to the appellate court, Edede failed to establish any cause of action that warranted him to approach the court on the issue, noting that the plaintiff was unable to prove how he was directly affected by that section of the newly amended Electoral Act.
The appellate court held that the situation robbed the high court of the jurisdiction to hear the matter.
However, in the judgement, Justice Barka declared that Section 84(12) was unconstitutional as it denies some classes of citizens the right to participate in an election.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had filed the appeal numbered; CA/OW/87/2022 challenging the judgment of the Federal High Court in Umuahia, which nullified Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act on the grounds that it was unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, the appellate court advised parties with the requisite interest in the matter to seek further interpretation.
It will be recalled that a Federal High Court in Umuahia had on March 18, struck down section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, 2022 and ordered the Attorney General of the Federation to delete it for being unconstitutional and inconsistent with sections 66(1)(f), 107(1)(f),137(1)(f) and 182(1)(f) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), which stipulates that appointee of government seeking to contest elections were only to resign at least 30 days to the date of the election.
Malami mum
Although the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) had on the same March 18 announced the plans to comply with the order through a speedy deletion and gazetting of the offending provision, he was yet to respond to the latest judgment.
He did not respond to inquiries sent through his media aide, Dr Umar Gwandu.
Supreme Court has final say – Lawyers
Lawyers told the Daily Trust yesterday that although the Court of Appeal proclaimed Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act unconstitutional, that amounted to only an opinion, which would be addressed by the Supreme Court.
Reacting, Paul Ananaba (SAN) said the Court of Appeal lacked the jurisdiction to determine the matter on the merit having determined that the Federal High Court in Umuahia lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
However, Sebastine Hon (SAN) said the Court of Appeal is not wrong in giving an opinion on the substantive matter as an intermediary court once an issue of jurisdiction comes before it and the substantive suit.
For his part, Solomon Umoh (SAN) maintained that the matter is a clear case for the Supreme Court to determine.
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