The ruling of Court of Appeal, Abuja Division affirming the provision of Section 84(12) of the amended Electoral Act 2022 has unsettled some Nigerian Ministers jostling for various political offices.
Delivering judgment on Wednesday, the three-member panel headed by Justice Hamma Barka held that the Federal High Court, Umuahia, had no jurisdiction to have entertained the case as the plaintiff, Nduka Edede, lacked the locus standi to have filed the suit in the first instance.
Section 84(12) of Nigeria’s Electoral Act 2022, cites that no political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate or be voted for at the Convention or Congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.
The affected ministers include Abubakar Malami (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation), Rotimi Amaechi (Minister of Transportation), Godswill Akpabio (Minister of Niger Delta Affairs) and Chris Ngige (Minister of Labour and Employment).
Others are Ogbonnaya Onu (Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation), Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba (Minister of State for Education), Uche Ogar (Minister of State Mines and Steel) and Pauline Tallen (Minister of Women Affairs).
The court added that Mister Edede did not establish any cause of action to have warranted him approaching the court on the issue because he did not establish that he was directly affected by the provision.
The Court of Appeal then struck out the suit filed by Edede, but referred the appeal against the Federal High Court judgement to the Supreme Court for interpretation.
According to it, the case is a constitutional matter which only the apex court can resolve.
Determining the appeal the appellate court, however, held that the provision is unconstitutional because it violates Section 42 (1a) of the Constitution and denied a class of Nigerian citizens their right to participate in an election.
In March 2022, Justice Evelyn Anyadike of the Federal High Court in Umuahia ordered the Attorney-General of the Federation to immediately delete Section 84 (12) of the amended Electoral Act.
She held that the section was unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null, void, and of no effect whatsoever and cannot stand. According to her, it is in violation of the clear provisions of the Constitution.
In the suit marked FHC/UM/CS/26/2022, Justice Anyadike said that Sections 66(1)(f), 107(1)(f), 137(1)(f), and 182(1)(f) of the 1999 Constitution already stipulated that government appointees vying for elective positions were only to resign at least 30 days to the date of the poll.
Justice Anyadike said that any law that mandated such appointees to resign or leave office at any time before that was unconstitutional, invalid, illegal null, and void to the extent of its inconsistency with the clear provisions of the Constitution.
Following the move, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria Femi Falana faulted the decision. He argued that “the learned trial judge fell into a great error”.
Before the ruling, the Senate rejected President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for the amendment of the controversial section.
The Senators kicked against it and voted no when put to voice votes by the Senate President Ahmad Lawan during plenary in March.
Meanwhile, President Buhari on Wednesday directed members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) running for elective offices to submit their letters of resignation.
This, the president did, in trying to ensure that members of his cabinet abide by the tenets of the constitution.
Bearing this in mind, President Buhari directed that FEC members with political ambitions must submit their resignation letters on or before Monday the 16th of May, 2022.
Based on their political declarations, here are those who are directly affected by the president’s latest directive:
Malami: He is eyeing the governorship slot of Kebbi State under APC.
Amaechi in April announced his interest to contest the presidential election in 2023.
Akpabio, who was a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, told a large crowd at the Ikot Ekpene Township Stadium is nursing Presidential ambition. He has resigned.
Ngige is nursing Presidential ambition too.
Onu is eyeing Presidential ticket under APC. He has resigned too.
Nwajiuba, who had tendered his letter of resignation, is eyeing Presidency under APC.
Ogar’s goal is to become the next governor of Abia State.
Tallen is gunning for a Senatorial seat in Plateau State, the South precisely.