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 opened 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 for 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 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 APC wishing to contest the 2023 elections comply 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 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.”
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.