Electoral Act: Amaechi, Ngige, others risk disqualification over failure to resign

Amaechi and Ngige

There are strong indications that the All Progressives Congress may disqualify political appointees contesting the 2023 elections who have not resigned their appointments. The PUNCH, on Monday, gathered that the party would not risk being disqualified by fielding political appointees in contravention of Section 84 (12).

Political appointees who have signified their interest to contest the presidency on the platform of the APC included the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and his counterpart for Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who joined the race on Tuesday last week.

There were reports that the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), was interested in the Kebbi State governorship ticket of the party while some serving ambassadors are also said to be nursing political ambitions too.

Section 84 (12) of the new Electoral Act mandates all political appointees seeking elective office to resign ahead of any party primary they plan to participate in.

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had, while signing the electoral bill on February 25, expressed reservations over Section 84(12) and asked the National Assembly to delete it.

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

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.

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.

The AGF was the only respondent to the suit, while the National Assembly and others were not joined. However, Malami agreed with the plaintiff that the provision was illegal.

The National Assembly and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party had however appealed the judgment.

Both the PDP and the National Assembly had been granted permission to join as a person interested in an appeal against the High Court judgment which voided and struck out Section 84 (12).

The appeal filed by the PDP at the Owerri Division of the Court of Appeal had been slated for hearing on May 4.

A top member of the APC National Working Committee, who confided in one of our correspondents on Monday, said two options were open to the party.

According to him, the ruling party is awaiting the judgment of the Court of Appeal and even the Supreme Court on the controversial clause.

He stated, “If the court upholds Section 84, the affected minister will be disqualified. But if the court deletes the section, they can contest without resigning. However, my advice to them is to resign, if they don’t want to be disqualified.”

Another party leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated, “What the party is doing is this: they are waiting for the court to make a pronouncement on the pending case regarding the resignation of present political office holders seeking elective office in 2023 before acting.

“The Court of Appeal is expected to rule on the matter next month. If the court says they can retain their present positions and contest an elective post in 2023, then the party will allow them, but should the court ask them to resign, then they will have to resign. If the court has not delivered its judgment before the primaries, we will disqualify the ministers if they fail to resign,” the source concluded.

The APC National Publicity Secretary, Felix Morka, had a few weeks ago said the party would ensure that all political appointees in the APC wishing to contest the 2023 elections complied with Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act.

He stated, “The position of the party is consistent with the Electoral Act. We are allowing our affected members who may have the intention of contesting the primaries to comply with the Electoral Act as provided.

“The party will simply follow the Electoral Act. Any member of the party who is in an appointive position, we will expect such an individual to resign before our primaries. We are hopeful that they will comply at the right time and we are going to ensure that anyone seeking our ticket will not breach the Electoral Act.”

When contacted on Monday,  the APC spokesman said,  “My position is out there, I’m not speaking on the subject again.”

When asked if his party would sell forms to the aspirants who have yet to resign, the APC spokesman said, “I’m not able to take those questions.”

When contacted, an aide of Amaechi, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the minister still had time. “The minister still has time. The convention holds on May 30,” he said.

An aide of Ngige, when contacted, referred The PUNCH to what the minister said a few weeks ago. Ngige, in an interview on Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ programme monitored by The PUNCH on April 21, said he would not resign.

Asked if he had any fears about the controversial Section 84 of the Electoral Act, the former Anambra State governor said, “The (1999) constitution is the grundnorm, it is the biggest and heaviest of all the laws in Nigeria. And for you to be president, Section 137 has given you areas of qualifications and areas of disqualifications.”

“That constitution says you do so (resign) one month to election, for public officers. The issue now is that is a minister a public servant? Yes. Go to Section 5, you will see me listed there; ministers, commissioners, governors, Vice-President, President, and heads of ministerial bodies.

“They listed all of us and gave certain things we should not do; you cannot take two jobs, you can’t; you can’t do business or trade, that area says you can only do farming as a public officer.”

Meanwhile, the APC on Monday stormed the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission with a branded truck conveying cartons of papers containing the register of all its members.

The move comes barely five days to the deadline as provided by Section 77 of the Electoral Act which provides that a political party must submit its membership register at least 30 days before its primaries.

With the party’s Presidential primary expected to hold on May 30, the party had until April 29 to submit its register.

It was learnt that APC officials submitted the membership register to the Election and Party Monitoring Department.

An INEC official, who confirmed the development to The PUNCH on Monday, stated, “The APC brought a truck to the commission and they offloaded cartons of papers containing their membership register. They claim to have 40 million members.”

In a related development, The PUNCH learnt that the ruling party would begin the sale of forms on Tuesday (today).

The governorship, Presidential and federal legislative forms are expected to be sold at the national secretariat while the forms for the House of Assembly would be sold in the states.

The nomination form for Presidential aspirants would be sold for N70m while expression of interest forms would go for N30m. House of Assembly expression of interest forms would go for N500,000 while nomination form goes for N1.5m.

The nomination form for the Federal House of Representatives would sell for N9m while the expression of interest form goes for N1m, making N10m in total. Those running for Senate would purchase their expression of interest forms at N3m and nomination forms at N17m, a total of N20m.

Governorship aspirants must pay N10m for the expression of interest forms and N40m for the nomination forms, making N50m in total.

The party is expected to stop the sale of forms on May 6 while the deadline for submission of forms is May 10, 2022.

Screening of aspirants for the State House of Assembly and the governorship aspirants will be conducted on May 12, 2022, while the screening for aspirants to the House of Representatives and the Senate will be carried out on May 10, 2022. And for the presidential aspirants, that will come on Saturday, May 14, 2022.

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