The National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) expects serving ministers in the Federal Executive Council (FEC) of President Muhammadu Buhari to resign their appointments ahead of the party’s presidential convention and other primaries for elective offices in deference to the Electoral Act 2022.
The National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Felix Morka, made this declaration on Friday in a telephone interview with newsmen.
Investigation revealed that a meeting of the National Executive Committee, (NEC) of the ruling party has been fixed for Wednesday in Abuja where timetable for the presidential convention, National Assembly and governorship primaries would be released.
By virtue of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, appointees of government seeking elective offices are expected to resign from their positions. Section 84 (12) says: “No political appointee at any level shall be 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”.
Former governor of Rivers State and Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, formally declared interest in the presidential ticket of the APC last weekend, in Port Harcourt.
The governorship aspiration of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to succeed the incumbent governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, is an open secret.
Aside from Amaechi and Malami, others in Buhari’s cabinet smarting to make a formal declaration in the race to succeed their principal include Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige; Minister of State for Education, Chukuwemeka Nwajiuba and Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio.
Morka maintained that the leadership of the party was hopeful that anyone holding appointive positions on the APC platform would submit himself to the provisions of the Electoral Act and dislodge himself from his current position before contesting for elective offices.
He said: “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 Electoral Act, however, does not stipulate the time frame by which individuals should resign their appointment prior to the primary. The party will simply follow the Electoral Act.
“Any member of the party who is on 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.”
The contentious provisions of the Electoral Act have since pitted the AGF against the National Assembly. While giving the anticipated presidential assent to the bill in February, President Muhammadu Buhari had urged the National Assembly to delete Section 84 (12) as he insisted that it was in conflict with certain provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
Buhari said the controversial clause imposed “blanket restrictions” on political appointees from taking leadership positions in their political parties.
He maintained that such restrictions disenfranchise political officeholders from exercising their rights to vote or be voted for.
He said: “Hence, it will be stretching things beyond the constitutional limit to import extraneous restriction into the constitution on account of practical application of Section 84(12) of the bill where political parties’ conventions and congresses were to hold earlier than 30 days to the election.”
His request for amendment of the clause was, however, rejected by the Senate.
Both chambers of the National Assembly had equally given notice that they would appeal the March 18 judgment of the Federal High Court in Umuahia, Abia State, which voided Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act. Justice Evelyn Anyadike, in her judgment, had held that the Section of the Act was “unconstitutional.”
The judge pointed out that sections 66(1) and 107(1) (f) of the 1999 Constitution already stipulated that appointees of government seeking to contest elections were only to resign at least 30 days to the date of the election.
According to her, any other law that mandates such appointees to resign or leave the office at any time before that is “illegal.”
She consequently directed the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to delete the section from the Act because it violates the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
Malami, in a swift reaction, foreclosed any appeal against the judgment. The minister, who spoke through his aide, Umar Gwandu, declared that the government would enforce the verdict by gazetting the Electoral Act with the contentious provision deleted.
Meanwhile, the party as announced an emergency meeting of its NEC.
According to a statement by Morka, the gathering of the highest statutory organ of the party will hold on Wednesday at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.
The statement reads in part: “Pursuant to Article 25.2.ii of the constitution of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the National Working Committee (NWC) hereby invites members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of our great party to a meeting to consider the party’s timetable/ schedule of activities for primaries for the nomination of candidates for the 2023 general elections and other relevant businesses of the party.
“All members of the NEC are by this invitation to take notice of the meeting in accordance with Article 12.3 of the APC Constitution.”