On Wednesday, March 9, the Nigerian Senate rejected President Muhammadu Buhari’s request to re-amend the newly signed Electoral Act.
The Senate's daring move could cause a huge political upset for the Buhari administration as some of the president's appointees may have to decide whether to remain in his government or resign to pursue their other political interests.
While signing the electoral bill into law on Friday, February 25, President Buhari called on the National Assembly to amend Section 84 of the Electoral Act which bars political appointees from voting at any convention, congress or primary of any political party.
He argued that the Act was at variance with the constitution.
Section 84(10) of the Act specifically reads:
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“No political appointee at any level shall be a 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.”
The provision further states that where a political party fails to comply with the provisions of this Act in the conduct of its primaries, its candidate for election shall not be included in the election for the particular position in issue.
The political appointees the provision refers to include 43 ministers, special advisers, senior special assistants, special assistants and heads of government agencies holding sensitive positions that make it difficult for open declaration of their ambitions, according to Daily Trust.
Commissioners and other political appointees at the state level are also affected.
Following up with his earlier statement, President Buhari sent an executive bill to the National Assembly to amend the Act.
Senate rejects bill
In an unusual move on Wednesday, the Senate unanimously rejected the president’s amendment proposal. The executive bill failed to pass!
This has put some appointees of the president who are believed to be interested in elective offices in a tight corner.
As things stand, they will not be able to participate in the All Progressives Congress (APC) primaries unless they resign.
- Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation
- Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation
- Chris Ngige, minister of labour and employment
- Emeka Nwajiuba, minister of state for education
- Godswill Akpabio, minister of Niger Delta affairs
- Timipre Sylva, minister of state for petroleum resources
- Babatunde Fashola, minister for Works and Housing
- Hadi Sirika, minister of aviation
- Isa Pantami, minister for communications and digital economy
- Sunday Dare; youth and sports development
- Godwin Emefiele, governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)
Also, Nwajiuba is being projected by the Project Nigeria Group (PNG) for presidency while Ngige recently said he is consulting on running for president.
Akpabio has also received the backing of the Godswill Akpabio Uncommon Transformational Support Organisation (GAUTSO) to contest for president.
The Southern Mandate Group and Chibuike Amaechi Crusaders 2023 also want the transportation minister to succeed President Buhari.
The Works and Housing minister, Babatunde Fashola is also being mentioned as one the contenders for the presidential ticket of the APC.
Similarly, Sirika, Pantami and Dare are being mentioned as the governorship aspirants in Katsina, Gombe, Edo, and Oyo states respectively, Daily Trust stated.
Speaking on the development, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), expressed reservations about the provision.
TheCable quoted him as saying:
“It means that political appointees would be forced to resign their appointment before they can seek for election and become candidates.
“If the National Sssembly is saying that in the amended act, why are they themselves not also resigning as legislators before they seek to contest? Why are you limiting to ministers and commissioners?”
Court bars Senate from re-amending electoral act
Ruling in a suit before it, the court barred the Red Chamber from removing section 84 (12) of the act ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Among the defendants named in the suit were AGF Abubakar Malami, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, clerk to the National Assembly, Senate leader, House of Representatives leader, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).