A governorship aspirant and two House of Representatives aspirants have dragged the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) before a Federal High Court in Abuja over threats to disqualify them in the 2023 general elections.
The aspirants are the immediate past Chief of Air Staff Ambassador Sodique Baba Abubakar, Sodique Lawal Abubakar and Bindir Umar Buba, who are all praying the court to stop APC and INEC from disqualifying them on the strength of their being political appointees.
They also urged the court to void section 84 (11) and (12) of the Electoral Act 2022 which directs political appointees to resign 30 days before party primaries.
The suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/641/2022, was instituted on their behalf by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Adeniyi Akintola.
The three plaintiffs are contending that section 84 (11) and (12) of the new Electoral Act was discriminatory against them and unconstitutional and therefore should not be permitted by the court to be used to disqualify them on account of their mere political appointments.
In their originating summons filed May 11, the plaintiffs prayed the court “to determine whether being Nigerians covered by sections 66, 177, 182 of the 1999 Constitution, they can be subjected to any other conditions, rules or guidelines for the purpose of election into the office of the Governor of Bauchi State and House of Representatives respectively by APC under section 221 of the Constitution other than the qualifications and criteria set out in sections 66, 177 and 182 of the Constitution.”
They also asked the court to determine whether being card carrying members of APC and political appointees, they can be prevented or barred from participating in its political Convention, Congress or Primaries merely because they are political appointees.
They further sought determination of whether the directive of APC based on section 184 (12) of the Electoral Act 2022 that political appointees must resign their positions 30 days before they can participate in its Convention, Congress or Primaries for the purpose of standing as political party candidates in the coming election was constitutional.
Besides, they also asked the court to determine whether section 84 (11) and (12) of the Electoral Act 2022 was not in conflict with section 84 (3) of the same Electoral Act and whether or not by virtue of section 1 (1) and (3) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, the Constitution was not Supreme and Superior to all other legislations and statutes, including the Electoral Act 2022.
Upon resolution of the issues in their favour, the plaintiffs asked the court to declare that the APC’s directive that political appointees should resign from their respective posts as a result of section 84 (11) and (12) of the Electoral Act 2022 was unconditional and therefore null and void.
They sought order declaring as unconstitutional, illegal and unlawful the APC’s directive that political appointees must resign from their positions before they can participate as voting delegates or be voted for in the convention or Primaries of the party.
Plaintiffs applied for an order of injunction restraining APC and INEC either by themselves or agents from preventing, hindering or stopping them from attending, participating in party congress, convention or primaries for the purpose of voting or being voted for as candidates in the forthcoming elections and in any congress, convention or primaries.
In their 26-paragraph affidavit in support of the suit, the 1st plaintiff, Sodique Abubakar claimed to be a political appointee and currently serving as Nigeria’s Ambassador to Republic of Chad.
Also, the 2nd plaintiff, Sodique Lawal Abubakar, claimed to be a Special Assistant in the Federal Capital Territory Administration FCTA while the 3rd defendant, Bindir Umar Buba asserted to be National Coordinator, Social Investment Program in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs.
They averred that they have obtained expression of interest forms to contest in the primaries of the APC for nomination as candidates in the coming election.
The plaintiffs further hinted that pursuant to signing of the Electoral Act into law, there had been threats that political appointees would be disqualified from contesting primaries of APC because of section 84 (11) and (12) of the Electoral Act 2022.
The affidavit deposed to by one Oluwafemi Abimbola, a legal practitioner on behalf of the plaintiffs, averred that sections 65, 66, 107, 131, 137,177 and 182 of the 1999 Constitution covered qualification requirements of aspirants to political posts in Nigeria.
They claimed that Article 2 of APC Constitution affirmed supremacy of Nigeria’s Constitution, but the same party breached the section with its directive of May 7th that all political appointees must resign 30 days before its primary election.
Plaintiffs stated that section 84 (11) and (12) were at the moment standing on their way to achieve their political ambitions and that unless, the APC and INEC were restrained, they would be prevented from participating in the primary for nomination as candidates.
As at the time of this report, no date has yet been fixed for hearing of the suit.
Buhari orders Emefiele, other appointees to go
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele and other top government officials seeking elective offices to resign.
Buhari’s directive was conveyed in a memo Wednesday by Secretary to Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha.
The memo followed the Federal Executive Council meeting on the same day, where the president instructed officials, including ministers, contesting in the forthcoming elections to step down before May 16.
The SGF’s letter was addressed to ministers, heads of agencies, parastatals and departments, with the CBN governor as 16th on the list.
“Mr President has observed and noted the expression of interest and intention by some members of the Federal Executive Council, Heads of Extra-ministerial Departments, Agencies, Parastalals of Government, Ambassadors and other Political Office holders to contest the upcoming Presidential, Gubernatorial, National and State Assemblies’ elections,” the letter said.
“Consequently, Mr. President has directed that the affected office holders aspiring to run for various offices in the 2023 General Elections, should tender their resignation on or before Monday, the 16 of May, 2022.
“For the avoidance of doubt, this directive affects all Ministers, Heads and Members of Extra-Ministerial Departments, Agencies and Parastatals of Government, Ambassadors as well as other political appointees who desire to contest for elective offices.
“For smooth running of the machinery of government and our foreign Missions, affected Ministers are to hand over to Ministers of State where they exist or to the Permanent Secretary, where there is no Minister of State. Ambassadors shall hand over to these Deputy Heads of Mission or the most Senior Foreign Service Officer in fine with established practices.
“Similarly, Heads of Extra-Ministerial Departments, Agencies and Parastatals are to hand over to the most senior Director/Officer as may be peculiar to the organization, in line with the service wide Circular No. SGF.50VS. H/C 2/268 of 4″ December, 2017,” the memo reads.
I’m catching my fun- CBN gov
But in the midst of the controversy around his presidential ambition, the CBN governor Thursday told Nigerians he was catching his fun.
He spoke to journalists Thursday after a closed door meeting with President Buhari.
Pressed to tell them what transpired at the meeting, Emefiele said he had no news for them now, but promised that there would be one soonest.
When told the world was waiting to hear from him, he said: “Let them have a heart attack. It’s good to have a heart attack. I am having a lot of fun.”
“There is no news now, but there will be news,” Emefiele further added.
Upon further probe, the CBN boss reiterated: “You heard me, I said there is no news but there will be news.”