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National Assembly to appeal judgment allowing political appointees to contest elections

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The National Assembly may have begun the move to enforce Section 84(12) of the Electoral (Amended) Act 2022 which bars appointed members of the executive arm of government from contesting or voting in any party primary.

If enforced, many Ministers, state Commissioners and other non-elected aides at all level of government will not be able to pursue their ambition of contesting for election.

Section 84(12) of that Act reads: “No political appointee at any level shall be 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 PUNCH reports moves by some Senators to mobilise their colleagues to appeal the judgment of Justice Evelyn Anyadike of Federal High Court, Umuahia, Abia State, which removed Section 84(12) from the Electoral Act.

Some members of the Executive, including the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, had opposed the section, saying it was undemocratic.

While signing the amended Act on 25th February, President Muhammadu Buhari requested that Section 84(12) be deleted in order to deepen democracy in the country. He followed that with an amended bill to the National Assembly.

But the National Assembly threw out the President’s request last month and insisted that serving political appointees must resign before contesting elections.

Malami, who opposed the lawmakers’ decision, vowed that the Federal Government would explore other means including the court to ensure the provision that he claimed offended other sections of the Constitution was expunged from the amended Act.

In her ruling on 18th March, Justice Anyadike said that the section was at variance with the Constitution which provides that public officers contesting public office should resign 30 days to an election. The court ordered the AGF to delete that section.

The National Assembly was, however, not joined in the suit.

Malami, who welcomed the judgment, promised to delete the section from the law in line with the judgment but the National Assembly rejected the judgment, vowing to appeal it.

A human rights lawyer, Mr Kayode Ajulo has reportedly been hired by the National Assembly to handle the matter and had filed an application before Justice Anyadike seeking leave to be joined in the suit.

It was also gathered that he had commenced the process of filing a notice of appeal.

A ranking member of the National Assembly told The PUNCH that the process for appeal had begun, adding that it could not be done directly because the National Assembly was not a party to the suit.

‘Leave has been sought at the trial court to appeal as an interested party since we are still within time’, he said.

While Ministers with focus on offices in the 2023 general elections hold back on their ambition, the implementation of the controversial Section 84(12) is being implemented elsewhere. The Senate President and his deputy, for instance, have asked their aides who are interested in elective offices to resign by 11th April.

Many aides of the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege are believed to have turned in their resignation letters in compliance with a memorandum by his Chief of Staff, Dr Otive Igbuzor.

In Cross Rivers State, the aides of Governor Ben Ayade have also been asked to resign if they are interest in elective offices in 2023.

In a statement, the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress requested all aides that fell into the category captured by the Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act to resign latest by this Friday.

In Bauchi State, Governor Bala Mohammed on Wednesday gave political appointees and public servants in his administration two days to resign if they had an interest in contesting any position in the 2023 general elections.

Commissioners wishing to contest elections were also asked to hand over their offices to the Permanent Secretaries of their respective ministries, while other political office holders should accordingly hand over government property in their possessions to the Permanent Secretary, General Services, Office of the Head of Civil Service.

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