About one week after the Senate rejected the President’s request to amend the recently signed Electoral Act, 2022, the Federal Government has said it will explore all available options on the law.
Before assenting to the amended Electoral Act on Friday, February 25, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), asked the National Assembly to delete Section 84(12), which bars political appointees from participating in party conventions and congresses for the election of party officials and electoral candidates.
The section states, “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 President noted that it had introduced qualification and disqualification criteria that were ultra vires to the constitution by importing blanket restriction and disqualification to serving political office holders of which they were constitutionally accorded protection.
While rejecting the section, Buhari said, “The practical application of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Bill, 2022 will, if assented to, by operation of law, subject serving political office holders to inhibitions and restrictions referred to under sections 40 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“It is imperative to note that the only constitutional expectation placed on serving political office holders that qualify, by extension as public officers within the context of the constitution, is resignation, withdrawal or retirement at least 30 days before the date of the election.”
Speaking to State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Wednesday, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said the government had three options available, which are asking the National Assembly for reconsideration, approaching the court or accepting the law as it was.
Malami revealed that while it was the responsibility of the lawmakers to make laws, the Federal Government would exploit all the available options if necessary.
He, however, said the government had yet to decide on the way forward on the issue.
The AGF stated, “The government has a lot of options to consider and exploit. One of the options is to demand the National Assembly to reconsider the section of the law. The other option is to look at it within the context and spirit of the law and see what it can do. And all these portions are on the table.
“No position has been conclusively taken on the part of the government. The government is reviewing; the government is looking and the government will come up with a position at the appropriate time if the need for further action is required. If there is no further need for such an action, the government will take it as presented.
“But no position has been taken by the government as of today with particular regard to what needs to be done on the part of the executive arising from the provisions of the Electoral Act in respect to which issues of conflict with the constitution were raised.”
Explaining the extradition request by the United States government for the embattled Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, the AGF noted that the request was still being processed.
He complained that media reports had created widespread misunderstanding of the issue and urged the media to always clarify the facts to avoid confusion
He added that Kyari’s case with the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency was local and unrelated to that of the US.
Malami explained, “There is no confusion. But there is a great misconception or perhaps either mischievous or otherwise on the path of certain journalists that have not taken their time to study a solution, understand it and act accordingly.
“Well, you see there is the aspect associated with the case of Abba Kyari that is being handled at the international level, particularly the US. And the US, arising from the case of Hushpuppi, sent in an extradition request. I think you should get that clear.
“They sent in a request for extradition related to Abba Kyari. And the way and manner these things are done with particular regards to the extradition, the office of the attorney-general, upon receipt of an international extradition request, usually presents the same before the judiciary for consideration.
“So, the conclusion as to whether a person should be extradited or not is a function, or perhaps multilateral function inclusive of the international committee that makes a request, the office of the attorney-general diversity request and the judiciary, to which the request is presented for review, analysis and decision. So, that is the case presented on account of the request of the international community, the US associated with Abba Kyari. That one is a distinct, separate and clear case.”
Malami explained that while the extradition request was being considered, another case surfaced, which had to do with the NDLEA, which he termed a “local case devoid of international dimension.”
He added, “And that brings about the operation, application and enforcement of the Nigerian law. And then, apparently arising from that, he was charged in a different field altogether unrelated to the case at the international level. So, what you have are two distinctly separate and independent cases, one international in dimension the other one local.
“So, your idea of conflict does not arise. But the idea of misconception is the creation on the part of journalists, perhaps reporting cases out of context without caring to understand the true provisions, dimensions and characters of the case. What I am saying is that there is nothing like confusion, there is nothing like conflict, there are two distinct and separate cases.”