The Presidency and the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on Tuesday passed the buck over the refusal of ministers, ambassadors and aides to the President to resign ahead of the governorship and presidential primaries of the All Progressives Congress which commence on May 25.
This is just as the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, on Tuesday declared his intention to contest the presidential election. Just like the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who joined the presidential race last week, Ngige also refused to resign.
A senior official at the Presidential Villa told The PUNCH that the SGF, Boss Mustapha, ought to have issued a circular stating a deadline on when appointees of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), should resign.
The official noted that across the 36 states, the secretaries to the state governments are the ones issuing circulars and guidelines for appointees seeking elective office.
“It is not our job in the Presidential Villa to ask anyone to resign. It is the job of the SGF to do so. So, you should direct your inquiries to the SGF. Please do not write my name inside your paper because I don’t want to be drawn into this controversial issue,” the official said
However, an aide to the SGF told The PUNCH that as an appointee of the President himself, it was not the job of Mustapha to issue such a directive unless he was ordered by the President to do so.
“I’m sure you know the job of a secretary. A secretary cannot issue any directive without the express approval of the President. So, unless the President orders that we issue a circular asking appointees running for office to resign, we cannot unilaterally do so. This is standard practice. Please this is strictly off record,” said a top aide to the SGF.
Buhari had while signing the electoral bill on February 25, 2022, expressed reservations over Section 84(12) of the Act which mandates all political appointees seeking elective office to resign ahead of any party primary they plan to participate in.
The President, while insisting that the provision was at variance with the constitution, specifically asked the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, to ensure that the section in question was deleted.
He subsequently wrote to the National Assembly requesting the amendment. The President’s request was, however, rejected.
A week later, however, 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.
The only respondent to the suit was the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, while the National Assembly and others were not joined. However, Malami agreed with the plaintiff 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.