The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami; the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; and other political appointees believed to interested in elective offices will not be able to participate in the All Progressives Congress primaries expected to begin in May unless they resign.
This is the state of things following the rejection of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill by the Senate on Wednesday.
However, elected officers including governors, deputy governors, the Vice-President and members of the National Assembly and the state legislature will be allowed to contest and participate in the primaries.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, while signing the bill into law last month, 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 subsequently sent a bill to the National Assembly to that effect.
Section 84(10) of the Act specifically reads, “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.”
It 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.
Buhari had subsequently asked the National Assembly to amend the bill, arguing that it was at variance with the constitution.
But the Senate, on Wednesday, unanimously rejected the President’s amendment proposal.
The executive bill failed to pass when President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, put the motion for its adoption for second reading to a voice vote.
After the Majority Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, moved the motion for the bill to be read a second time, Senator Adamu Aliero had urged the Senate to step down amendment of the Electoral Act.
Raising a point of order, Aliero made reference to the provision of Rule 52(5) of the Standing Orders of the Senate.
Order 52(5) provides that, ‘Reference shall not be made to any matter on which a judicial decision is pending, in such a way as might in the opinion of the President of the Senate prejudice the interest of parties thereto.’
Aliero, therefore, advised the Senate to step down consideration of the bill pending the vacation of the ruling by a Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday.
The senator pointed out that going ahead with the process would be sub judice.
Lawan, while ruling on Aliero’s point of order, insisted that the move by the Senate to amend the Act was to exercise the constitutional duties of the legislature.
After Abdullahi led the debate on the bill, the Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe opposed the proposed deletion of Section 84(12) of the Act.
Abaribe said, “There are certain things that we see which we think we don’t even have to come here to debate. One of those things is the fact that in every democracy, all over the world, there are certain rules which we don’t need to be told about. One of those rules is the fact that you cannot be a referee and a player on the same field. It is either you’re a referee or a player.”
Also, Senator Smart Adeyemi opposed consideration of the bill saying, “Indeed, it is a settled matter in law that you cannot be a judge over you own case.”
Adeyemi added, “In any election, where people have the added advantage of holding executive power, either by proxy or directly or by appointment, for such people to have access and compete with others who came from the street, I think is an unjust society.
“Therefore, I disagree with all the arguments on the need to consider a decision that has already been settled.”
Efforts by the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, to sway the opinion of the lawmakers were unsuccessful as the senators voted overwhelmingly against the bill.
The development swiftly became a trending topic on social media as many Nigerians described it as “the beginning of the end” of Malami’s political ambition.
Attempts to get a response from the AGF’s Office proved abortive as his Media Adviser, Umar Gwandu, did not respond to an inquiry.
The National Assembly has been divided over the ruling by a Federal High Court, Abuja, stopping Buhari; Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation and the parliament from tampering with the Electoral Act 2022.
The Senate had insisted on going ahead to consider the request by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who asked the federal parliament to delete Section 84(14) of the new electoral law but the House of Representatives said it would obey the court.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, while addressing journalists on Tuesday, argued that the chamber would obey the Rule of Law principle.