The governing All Progressives Congress (APC), which has the president as the apex leader, had directed ambitious appointees at federal and state levels to resign their offices a month to the party’s primaries.
While there has been noticeable compliance at the state level, appointees at the federal level, especially those serving in President Buhari’s cabinet, have refused to quit.
The president has been publicly silent over their decision to stay in office and pursue their ambitions, though he had strongly objected to possible disenfranchisement through legislations.
Three of his ministers, Rotimi Amaechi (Transport), Chris Ngige, (Labour and Employment) and Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba (state education), are aspiring to be president. Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has declared for Kebbi State governorship.
The governorship primaries hold 17 days from now.
With the presidential primaries scheduled for May 30 through May 31, the party’s guidelines, which compelled resignation a month before, has now been observed in the breach by the ministers by their refusal to step down at the weekend. Nwajiuba, however, dismissed the concern, saying, “The resignation of a minister or anybody who is in office is guided by the constitution to contest elections.
“My position is that the law of the country rests on the ground norm called the constitution. If you do not like the constitution, your work is to amend it. There is no subrogation of power that is required for you to include into a law what is not deemed as included in that law.”
He was referring to the provision of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which requires those in public service to retire 30 days before the election they seek to participate in.
Their refusal to step down has also contravened the contentious Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, which also demands resignation before participating in primaries.
While it appears the ministers have their last hope against possible disqualification in the Constitution, senior lawyers have told them they could be walking a very tight rope.
Leading lawyer, Femi Falana, told Nigerian Tribune that those aspiring ministers are not covered by the constitution because they do not belong to the class of public servants envisaged by the provision.
He said, “The appointees are not public servants. The provision in the Constitution applies only to those in public service. The ministers are not in this category and the Court of Appeal had stayed the judgment of the Umuahia court. So they are back to square one.”