Electoral Act: Amaechi, Ngige, others risk disqualification over failure to resign
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.
APC fails to refund aspirants one month after convention
Meanwhile, the APC has failed to refund the aspirants who stepped down at the national convention on March 26, 2022, The PUNCH has learnt.
This was despite a promise by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), that aspirants who step down for endorsed candidates would be refunded.
An aspirant for the position of Deputy National Chairman, Mr. Sunny Moniedafe, also confirmed to The PUNCH that he had not been refunded.
“I have not received a refund from the party. I am still waiting for my N10m which is only a tiny portion of the money I spent on the race,” Moniedafe stated.
A chairmanship aspirant who also wished to remain anonymous told The PUNCH that his N20m had not been returned.
“After the party forced us to step down, they still refused to refund the money. It is not that I cannot forgo the N20m but I want to distribute it to some of my supporters,” he said.
The governing All Progressives Congress has assured aspirants—who honoured its consensus.
However, it was learnt that an internal audit being carried out by the Transition Committee of the party might partly be responsible for the delay in refunds
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Tinubu sues for peace, condemns ethnic slurs, election violence
President-elect, Asíwájú Bola Tinubu, yesterday condemned what he described as “isolated” cases of infractions, ethnic slurs and violence that trailed the 2023 General Elections, declaring that elections were now over for the healing process to begin.
But the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in a swift reaction, dismissed Tinubu’s call for healing after a violent election as the height of hypocrisy.
These came as The Washington Post commended the general elections, stating that despite some obvious flaws in the process, the democratic system had held and was holding — far better, so far, than might have been expected.
This is even as the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Mohammed Sa’ad Abubakar III, and President-General, Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, asked those not happy about the outcome of the just-concluded general elections to seek redress in court and avoid the violent protest.
In what appeared a post-mortem of the polls, Tinubu said the polls, which were held across 28 states and the state legislative poll across the 36 states of the federation had brought the 2023 election cycle to a fitting close.
While he praised President Muhammadu Buhari, the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, and other stakeholders, Tinubu said consolidating democratic governance at the sub-national level will bring more development and improved quality of life to the masses.
‘Let’s rise above foibles of sentiments’
Condemning the violence and other negative trends that followed the conduct of the elections, the President-elect appealed to Nigerians to rise above the foibles of partisanship, ethnicity and religious sentiments and focus more on the “valued strings that bind us together as a people.”
He said; “I am saddened by the reported isolated infractions during the elections and its aftermath in some states. I strongly condemn it. Also, the report of arson after the announcement of governorship results in one state that did not represent who we truly are: peace-loving people.
“The physical and verbal assaults committed are unacceptable and antithetical to democratic ethos.
“Elections should be a celebration of our maturing democracy and freedom of choice and ought not to be moments of grief. I am particularly pained by cases of ethnic slurs, which are capable of creating needless mischaracterisation reported in some locations.
“My appeal is for us to rise above our differences, which, in reality, are fewer than the valued strings that bind us together as a people, irrespective of the circumstances of our births.
“As former governor of Lagos State, I can attest to the strength in our diversity and togetherness. As your President-elect, it is that spirit of inclusiveness we engendered in Lagos that I intend to bring into national governance so that together we can attain our full potential.
“I will give priority to expanding the civic space and safeguarding citizens’ freedom to exercise their rights within the bounds of the law.
“Indeed, the elections are over. The people have voted to elect their governors and state legislators that will serve them for the next four years. The time for leadership and governance is now upon us.
“In a democracy, the majority would have their way but that majority must not suppress the minority from having their say. As democrats, we have to safeguard free expression. Winners must be magnanimous and those who did not win should have a large heart for tolerance and respect for the greater interest of the nation.’’
He called on all elected officials to take urgent steps to unite the people and champion the healing process.
“We must take urgent steps to unite the people; those who voted for us and those who did not. We must champion the healing process by embracing the opponents and their supporters.
‘’As I have stated previously, the time for politicking is gone. This is time for nation-building, a task beyond one individual or a section of society. We need every hand from wherever it may come to be on deck,” said Tinubu.
Tinubu’s call for healing after unleashing violence, is hypocritical, says Atiku
Reacting to Tinubu’s call, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, dismissed it as the height of hypocrisy.
He, however, commended the United States government for condemning the violent and ethnically charged election in Lagos State.
Tinubu had, in a statement he personally signed yesterday, expressed sadness by what he described as “ infractions in some states as well as the divisive rhetoric that characterised the polls.”
In response, Atiku, who spoke through his Special Assistant on Public Communication, Mr Phrank Shaibu, in a statement, described Tinubu’s statement as an “after-thought and hypocritical garbage.”
He said it was curious that Tinubu was talking about reconciliation after his loyalists attacked Igbo voters in Lagos in order to give his party- the All Progressives Congress, APC, an advantage during the governorship election.
Shaibu said Tinubu had continued to protect transport hooligans, politicians and even traditional leaders in Lagos who were seen on video threatening non-indigenes.
Atiku said: “Tinubu’s latest statement is laced with hypocrisy and lies. For a whole month, traditional leaders, transport hooligans and politicians in his camp threatened non-indigenes but Tinubu kept mute.
“His lackey, MC Oluomo, who is a member of his presidential campaign council, was seen on video threatening Igbo people but Tinubu said nothing.
“His campaign spokesmen, Bayo Onanuga and Femi Fani-Kayode, went on social media to warn Igbo people against exercising their franchise but Tinubu looked the other way.
“Traditional rulers imposed curfews and went about slaughtering goats and placing them in front of polling units but Tinubu said nothing.
“A traditional leader and council chairman in Gbara community, Eti Osa local government summoned non-indigenes to a meeting where they threatened non-indigenes with eviction if they failed to vote for the APC but Tinubu said nothing.
“Those invited by the police ignored invitations because Tinubu is shielding them. On the day of election, many people who looked Igbo were beaten and prevented from voting but Tinubu kept mute.
“Now that his party has stolen the election, he has found his voice and is preaching reconciliation. He should tell that to the marines.
“If Tinubu is serious, he should ensure that all those found culpable are arrested and prosecuted. But we know he cannot do this because he is their godfather.”
He also described the statement by the US Embassy in Nigeria condemning the violence meted out to the Igbo as a welcome development.
He, however, said the US ought to have gone further by mentioning the names of those found culpable and exposing the identities of those it will hit with visa restrictions.
Atiku added: “We commend the US and the EU governments for condemning the violence and intimidation that marred the governorship election, especially in Lagos, where Tinubu’s henchmen held the state to ransom.
“But the US knows the identities of the perpetrators of violence and ought to have mentioned their names. MC Oluomo is an American citizen.
“The US must also go further by mentioning the names of others, including the traditional rulers in Lagos who were complicit.
“The US has in the past openly condemned Vladmir Putin of Russia and others found wanting in other countries.
“This is not the time for political correctness. Those who will be slammed with visa bans should be named and shamed.”
Atiku maintained that there could be no reconciliation without restitution, adding that anything short of this would not heal any wounds.
He further argued that Tinubu had shown from his electioneering that he had no plan to unite Nigeria but was only after one thing – power and the resources of Nigeria.
“Tinubu is only after power. Before he took over power, Lagos was known for its urbane and accommodating nature. The late Nnamdi Azikiwe built his political base and business empire in Lagos.
“Mbonu Ojike, born in Imo State, was the Deputy Mayor of Lagos in 1951. Many others from around the country and beyond built businesses and political careers in Lagos unmolested.
“But on Bola Tinubu’s watch, Lagos has become an intolerant state where non-indigenes are openly beaten on election day and threatened with eviction if they don’t vote for his party. Now he seeks reconciliation? What a joke!
“There will be no reconciliation until MC Oluomo and all his minions who took part in issuing threats and brutalising people are diligently prosecuted.”
Nigeria points way towards democracy in region – Washington Post
In a related development, The Washington Post has commended the February 25, Presidential and National Assembly election and the March 18 governorship and Houses of Assembly polls, stating that despite some obvious flaws in the process, the democratic system has held and is holding — far better, so far, than might have been expected.
In its editorial dated Monday, Marched 20, 2023, the publication described the election as a ‘messy affair’ but added that much good came out of it.
It stated that leading opposing candidates’ decision to challenge the outcome of the election in the court, instead of resorting to violence and absence of military interference, were pointers that Nigeria’s electoral process could stand as a reference point for other African countries where post-election violence and coup had become a pattern.
The publication stated: “It might be tempting for opponents of democratic governance to take Nigeria as a case study in why democracy can’t work in Africa. Actually, the opposite is true.
‘’In Nigeria, even with its chaotic and flawed process, the system has held and is holding — far better, so far, than might have been expected. True, Nigeria’s presidential election on February 25 was a messy affair.
‘’Some polling places didn’t open on time. A new electronic voting system to upload results from the 176,000 scattered polling places to a central website seemed to collapse. There were reports of scattered violence in a few places, with ballot boxes stolen at gunpoint. Turnout was disappointing, at 28.6 per cent.
“The candidate of the current ruling party, Bola Tinubu, was declared the winner with 36 per cent of the vote on March 1. But because of the problems, the result is being challenged by his two closest rivals, Atiku Abubakar, who won 29 per cent and Peter Obi, who got 25 per cent.
‘’Mr. Abubakar, Mr. Obi and their supporters claim the election chaos means the voting was rigged in favor of the ruling party, but they have yet to produce concrete evidence of malfeasance. They are demanding the election be rerun. That doesn’t mean the vote should be discounted. In fact, much good came from it.
“It is encouraging, first, that the losing candidates are pursuing their claims through the courts. They have until March 31 to present their petitions to Nigeria’s appeal court tribunal, which would be expected to issue a written decision within 180 days.
‘’While the rhetoric has been heated, remarkably there have been no reports of post-election violence, intimidation or threats. No one has blocked highways, as happened in Brazil after Jair Bolsonaro lost his re-election bid. Opposition party supporters have not attempted an insurrection.
Nigeria’s military stayed out
“Second, Nigeria’s military has stayed out of the fray. This was not a given, since Nigeria’s generals ruled the country after a series of coups for most of the 1980s and ’90s. In Africa and elsewhere, a supposedly flawed election has been a handy excuse for militaries to annul election results and seize power for themselves.
‘’It happened in Myanmar in early 2021, for example, despite no evidence of any fraud. If Nigeria’s generals remain on the sidelines this time, it could be taken as evidence that Africa’s most populous country, and its largest economy, has moved past its coup-prone history.
“Third, this proved to be Nigeria’s most competitive election since democracy was restored in 1999. Each of the three top candidates — Mr Tinubu, Mr Abubakar and Mr Obi — won 12 of the country’s 36 states, a surprisingly even split. And Mr Obi, who was projected to win in some polls, could claim a stunning victory in Lagos state, Mr Tinubu’s home turf.
‘’Mr. Obi’s campaign was powered by young, better-educated urban voters savvy with social media, but he was unable to make inroads in more rural and traditional areas. But at 61, he is nearly a decade younger than Mr Tinubu, 70, and can be expected to be in politics for years to come.
“Nigeria’s neighbours and its major trading partners, including the United States, have all accepted the result, which most international observers said was largely free and fair, despite problems.
‘’But a delicate period lies ahead. If President-elect, Tinubu, is eventually confirmed as the winner, he will need Nigerians to fully accept that he was the legitimate victor. This means the losing candidates should have their day in court and be able to present any evidence that election-day problems affected the final result.
“Officials have asserted that technical glitches, not sabotage, were the issue and have cited poor internet connections and heavy traffic that slowed the system. But to restore trust, they need to demonstrate this with transparency.
‘’All election day irregularities need to be thoroughly examined. And the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, needs to assess what went wrong and fix it.
“A round of elections on Saturday for 28 governorships and state assemblies seemed to be much better managed and passed without major snafus, despite some scattered reports of violence.
‘’Even a flawed election in Nigeria can set a standard in a part of Africa where staging a coup is more common than canvassing for votes. Among Nigeria’s neighbors, Chad’s military leader, Mahamat Idriss Déby, who seized power when his father was killed in 2021, has repeatedly delayed elections and halted a return to democracy.
“Military leaders in Mali, which saw coups in 2020 and 2021, have delayed elections until 2024. Guinea’s first democratic leader was toppled in 2021. Niger has been rocked by coup attempts.
‘’Benin’s President, Patrice Talon, has clung to power and stacked the parliament, which must approve presidential candidates, with his supporters. In Cameroon, President Paul Biya has ruled since 1982.
‘’An election in Nigeria won’t turn Africa into a democratic utopia. But it can point the way to a different path.”
Those aggrieved should go to court —Sultan
Meanwhile, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Mohammed Sa’ad Abubakar III, and President General, of Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, have asked those unhappy about the outcome of the just concluded general elections to go to court.
Recall that complaints have continued to trail the presidential/National Assembly and governorship/State Assembly elections, prompting calls from prominent Nigerians on those aggrieved about the outcome to seek redress, rather than adopting a violent approach.
The Sultan, who spoke at a Ramadan symposium with the theme: “Ramadan, the Month of Blessings”, organised in collaboration with the Jama’atul Nasril Islam, JNI, Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, and the Islamic Education Trust, IET, yesterday, also urged Nigerians to embrace peace and ensure peaceful coexistence after the general elections.
He said: “We should embrace peace with our brothers and sisters, not allow politics to destroy our relationships. Any politician, who feels aggrieved should seek redress in court.
“Politics and elections are all over and the blessed month of Ramadan is approaching, we should then seek forgiveness from one another.
“This is in order to be among the ones Allah will bless with multiple rewards in the sacred month.’’
The sultan further advised Nigerians to eschew differences and shun violent tendencies as the elections were over and God had chosen leaders for the country.’’
How I curbed vote-buying — Buhari
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, narrated how he told the electorate to collect money from candidates that offered money to them to buy their votes in the February 25 and March 18 elections but vote according to their conscience.
He also said given the chance of a free and fair election as well as non-interference as witnessed in the elections, Nigerians had proved to be capable of deciding who led them without anyone telling them what to do.
The president, who expressed satisfaction with the remarkable passion towards democracy exhibited by Nigerians through the choices they made in the presidential, National Assembly and the subsequent governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections, said Nigeria’s democracy had truly matured.
In a statement, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, quoted Buhari as saying: “People are realising their power. Given the chance of a free and fair vote, nobody can tell them what to do. I am unhappy that some candidates lost in the election.
“But I am inspired by the fact that voters were able to make their own decision, to decide who won and who lost. With the currency change, there was no money to spread around but even then, I told voters to take the money and vote according to their consciences.”
The president, who spoke at a farewell meeting with the outgoing United States Ambassador, Mary Beth Leonard, at the State House in Abuja, said he was completely satisfied with his role in the election process.
He commended the outgoing ambassador for the enormous achievements recorded in Nigeria-US relations in the three-and-half years she had been here.
In an answer to a question posed by Ambassador Leonard, President Buhari said he planned to be a “big landlord” back at home, working on his farms and tending his more than 300 animals, adding: “I am eager to go.”
In her remarks, the American Ambassador said she was happy with the progress made in Nigeria-US relations in the three–and–half years, specifically citing the recent institution of a five-year visa regime between the two countries; active collaboration in security and the supply of military hardware including warplanes and the soon-to-come fighter helicopters; and also cooperation in the health sector to fight HIV and COVID response, giving assurances that US will continue to assist in the strengthening of Nigeria’s health sector.
Ambassador Leonard expressed her gratitude and that of the US government for the continuing role of the President in ensuring regional security and strengthening democracy as a system of government, citing his strong response against the recent surge of coups-d’état in West Africa as worthy of commendation.
Election petition: Tinubu about to be cleared of all allegations – Keyamo
The Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, has reacted to the petition filed by the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, calling for the annulment of the February 25 Presidential Election won by the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu.
Obi had previously challenged the outcome of the election and had also sought the court requesting to have access to all the sensitive materials Independent National Electoral Commission deployed for the election.
On Tuesday, the LP candidate filed another suit at the election tribunal challenging the declaration of Tinubu by INEC who he said “was not duly elected by the majority of the lawful votes cast at the time of the election.”
The former Anambra State governor claimed there was rigging in 11 states including Rivers, Lagos, Taraba, Benue, Adamawa, Imo, Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna, and Plateau, adding that he would demonstrate this in the declaration of results based on the uploaded results.
Reacting to his petition in a post via his verified handle on Wednesday, Keyamo said that all the deceit, lies and disinformation about simple and clear issues would be busted in the court.
He wrote, “I am excited about the issues raised in those Election Petitions. All the deceit & lies & disinformation & misinformation about otherwise very simple and clear issues are about to be busted by our Law Lords. Whoever continues to argue after that should relocate to another planet.
“Nigerians will finally see a huge difference between calm, dispassionate adjudication of issues and all the hoopla caused by garrulous spokespersons shaking and falling on stage, ignorant TV hosts turned debaters, misinformed documentaries, illiterate tweeps and some dancing Hijabi mamas.”
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