The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, says he won’t resign his ministerial appointment despite his 2023 presidential ambition because the 1999 Constitution overrides the Electoral Act.
The All Progressives Congress aspirant spoke on Thursday as a guest on Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ programme monitored by The PUNCH.
Asked if he had any fears about the controversial Section 84 of the Electoral Act, the former Anambra State governor said, “The (1999) constitution is the grundnorm, it is the biggest and heaviest of all the laws in Nigeria. And for you to be president, Section 137 has given you areas of qualifications and areas of disqualifications.”
“That constitution says you do so (resign) one month to election, for public officers. The issue now is that is a minister a public servant? Yes. Go to Section 5, you will see me listed there; ministers, commissioners, governors, Vice-President, President and heads of ministerial bodies.
“They listed all of us and gave certain things we should not do; you cannot take two jobs, you can’t; you can’t do business or trade, that area says you can only do farming as a public officer.”
The PUNCH had earlier reported that the controversial provision in the Electoral Act demands that political appointees should resign before their conventions in May and not vote as an appointee.
Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act 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.”
Apart from Ngige, there had been pressure on the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, to resign following his declaration to contest the position of the President, also on the platform of the APC.
But the pronouncement of the Federal High Court in Umuahia, Abia State, had nullified the contentious section of the amended Electoral Act.
Delivering judgment on the suit challenging the constitutionality of the provision, Justice Evelyn Anyadike had held that the section was “unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever.”
The judge held that the provision was in conflict with the constitution and “ought to be struck down as it cannot stand when it is in violation of the clear provisions of the constitution.”
The judge, therefore, ordered the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to “forthwith delete the said subsection 12 of Section 84 from the body of the Electoral Act, 2022.”
Though the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, has appealed the judgment, the appellate court has yet to make any pronouncement on the issue.
The Court of Appeal panel, led by Justice Rita Pemu, merely granted leave to the PDP to file an appeal against the high court judgment before adjourning the case till May 4.
Nevertheless, the Presidency said it would be wrong for either the ruling party or anyone to begin to interpret what the appellate court had not spoken on.
The APC National Publicity Secretary, Felix Morka, had also argued that the Electoral Act did not impose any timeline for ministers to resign.