Eniola Akinkuotu, Leke Baiyewu and Armstrong Bakam
Lawan, Malami and Gbajabiamila
The National Assembly has begun moves to thwart the actions of some members of the federal executive who are bent on removing Section 84(12) from the Electoral Act 2022.
The PUNCH on Thursday gathered that the nation’s apex legislature had started the process of appealing the judgment of a Federal High Court, Umuahia, Abia State, which removed Section 84(12) from the Electoral Act.
Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act bars all political appointees including ministers, commissioners and aides from contesting or voting in any party primary.
Some members of the executive, including the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, had opposed the section, saying it was undemocratic.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), a few months ago signed the electoral bill passed by the National Assembly into law with a caveat that Section 84(12) be deleted in order to deepen democracy in the country.
But the National Assembly in March threw out the President’s request and insisted that serving political appointees must resign before contesting elections.
Malami, who opposed the lawmakers’ decision, vowed that the Federal Government would explore other means including the court to ensure the provision that he claimed offended other sections of the Constitution was expunged from the amended Act.
On March 18, the FHC, Umahia ruled that the section was at variance with the constitution which provides that public officers contesting public office should only resign 30 days to an election. The court ordered the AGF to delete the section.
The National Assembly was, however, not joined in the suit.
Malami, who welcomed the judgment, promised to delete the section from the law in line with the judgment but the National Assembly rejected the judgment, vowing to appeal it.
A document sighted by The PUNCH on Thursday showed that human rights lawyer, Mr Kayode Ajulo, had been hired by the National Assembly to take up the matter and had filed an application before Justice Evelyn Anyadike of the FHC Umuahia seeking leave to be joined in the suit.
It was also gathered that he had commenced the process of filing a notice of appeal. Attempts to speak with Ajulo on Thursday proved abortive.
According to the court process, the suit seeking to appeal the judgement was done in line with Section 243(a) of the constitution.
Section 243(a) reads in part, “By Section 222 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Cap. 62 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990, only a party to civil proceedings can appeal to the Court of Appeal without any inhibition on his capacity to do so.
“Any other person who has an interest in a case but is not a party to the case, cannot appeal in the proceedings until he obtains the leave of either the High Court from which the case is being appealed or the Court of Appeal to which the appeal is to be brought.”
Confirming the development, a ranking member of the National Assembly told The PUNCH that the process for appeal had begun, adding that it could not be done directly because the National Assembly was not a party to the suit.
“Leave has been sought at the trial court to appeal as an interested party since we are still within time,” he said.
Buhari’s ministers await final verdict, put 2023 ambitions on hold
Meanwhile, The PUNCH learnt that some of the members of the federal cabinet including Malami, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; and the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, had delayed the announcements of their political ambitions even as sources revealed to The PUNCH that the controversy surrounding the electoral law was one of the reasons.
Amaechi, who was expected to have declared earlier in the week, shelved plans to do so even though his manifesto had already leaked and had been reported on Arise Television.
For Malami, a video of him addressing supporters in Kebbi State ahead of his planned governorship declaration also leaked.
The AGF in a statement, however, said he had not yet declared, adding that he would make it public when he made up his mind.
A statement signed by his Spokesman, Umar Gwandu, read in part, “At the appropriate time, they will hear from the horse’s mouth in the full glare of the media, stakeholders, like-minded, party faithful and teeming supporters.”
Sources also told The PUNCH that labour minister, Ngige, was also consulting as it would be foolish of him to declare for the Presidency prematurely at the risk of losing his position.
“Ngige told his supporters that he was still consulting and would announce his intentions after Easter. He has to be very sure before making any announcement knowing that he may have to give up his ministerial position,” a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress who wished to remain anonymous stated.
Lawan gives aides planning to contest an ultimatum to resign, Omo-Agege’s men comply
Amid the controversy, however, it was learnt that the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, had instructed all his appointees who had political ambitions to resign latest by April 11. This comes barely days after the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, asked his appointees to do the same.
A letter dated April 6, 2022, and signed by the Chief of Staff to the Senate President, Dr Banagana Aji, on behalf of the Senate President read in part, “Pursuant to Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act 2022, all legislative aides who are voting delegates or are to be voted for at the convention of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election are by this memo directed to submit their resignation letters.
“Such resignation letters addressed to the President of the Senate should be submitted to the office of the Chief of Staff no later than Monday, April 11, 2022. All relevant aides are hereby advised to ensure strict compliance to this memo, please.”
It was also reliably learnt on Thursday that mass resignations had hit the Office of the Deputy President of the Senate where appointees had been given up to Tuesday to resign their appointments to contest elections.
The ultimatum was issued in a memo by Dr Otive Igbuzor, the Chief of Staff to the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, dated March 30, 2022, and titled ‘Resignation of All Political Appointees.’
Sources told our correspondents that about 10 aides to Omo-Agege had resigned by Thursday.
A source in the office said, “Those who have submitted their resignations letters are about 10 as of the last count. Three resigned yesterday (Wednesday) and two more will resign today (Thursday). They are mostly state House of Assembly membership contenders. There are a few House of Representatives aspirants as well.”