Nigeria: 2023 - Following Buhari's Directive, Three Ministers Quit, Malami, Amaechi, Others Hanging On

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Buhari at the Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday gave his appointees interested in the 2023 elections until Monday to resign

Three days to the deadline of the directive issued by President Muhammadu Buhari to political appointees seeking to participate in the 2023 elections to resign, three ministers have complied, but others are still hanging on.

The Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba; the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, and the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonna Onu, have resigned their appointments.

The president issued the directive at the Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday. It was disclosed to journalists by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed.

Mr Mohammed only referred to cabinet members. However, a circular by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation later clarified that all appointees of the president are affected.

"For the avoidance of doubt, this circular affects all Ministers, Heads and Members of Extra-Minsterial Departments, Agencies and Parastatats of Government, Ambassadors as well as other political appointees who desire to contest for elective offices.

"For smooth running of the machinery of government and our foreign Missions affected Minsters are to hand over to Ministers of State where they exist or to the Permanent Secretary where there is no Minister of State Ambassadors shall hand over to their deputy Heads of Mission or the most Senor Foreign Service Officer in line with established practices."

Background

Mr Buhari signed Electoral Act 2022 in February but urged lawmakers to expunge section 84(12) of the Act.

The Section provides that "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."

Sub-section 13 adds: "Where a political party fails to comply with the provision of this act in the conduct of its primaries, its candidate shall not be included in the election for that particular position in issue."

After the National Assembly rejected the request by President Buhari to delete the section, Nduka Edede, a member of Action Alliance (AA), one of Nigeria's fringe political parties, filed a suit challenge the constitutionality of the provision of the section.

Curiously, the suit had Mr Malami as the only defendant.

In her judgement, the judge, Evelyn Ayandike, agreed with the plaintiff that the provision conflicted with Nigerian citizens' rights guaranteed by the constitution

Following the judgement, Mr Malami vowed to execute it expeditiously by deleting the section from the Act.

Mr Malami has not hidden his irritation with the provisions of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act. One of his aides, Umar Gwandu, appeared on several television programmes to argue in support of the removal of the section from the law.

It is believed that Mr Malami gave the president the legal advice to ask the National Assembly to expunge the section from the Act. The fact that he was the only person joined in the suit also raised some eyebrows.

The words of Mr Malami prompted the National Assembly to appeal the controversial judgement.

In its judgement, the Court of Appeal, Owerri Division, faulted the lower court and voided its decision.

A three-member panel of the appellate court, led by Rita Pemu, also restrained Mr Malami from executing the judgement of the Federal High Court, Umuahia.

In another judgement on Wednesday, the Court of Appeal in Abuja again nullified the ruling of the Umuahia Federal High Court.

Delivering its judgment, a three-member panel of the appellate court headed by Hamma Barka held that the Federal High Court, Umuahia, lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit.

However, the appellate court also declared the section unconstitutional. Notwithstanding that pronouncement by the court, President Buhari on Wednesday directed all his appointees to resign.

Those out

Godswill Akpabio

The former Governor of Akwa Ibom State submitted his resignation letter shortly after the FEC meeting on Wednesday.

Mr Akpabio, who served as Minority Leader in the 8th Senate until he defected to the ruling APC, was appointed minister after losing his bid to return to the Senate.

His former godson and successor, Governor Emmanuel Udom, is also running for nomination under the main opposition party, PDP.

Mr Akpabio's tenure as minister is dogged by financial scandals at the Niger Delta Development Commission. In 2019, the House of Representatives investigated the finances of the agency.

During the investigation, Mr Akpabio was indicted by Joy Nunieh, a former MD of NDDC. She said she was under pressure by Mr Akpabio to abuse processes and engage in financial recklessness.

After inaugurating forensic auditors in September 2020 to examine the books of the agency, the minister in September 2021 presented the final report of the forensic audit to President Buhari.

But eight months after submitting the report, the governing board of the NDDC has yet to be constituted.

Ogbonnaya Onu

The Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, formally joined the 2023 presidential race under the APC last Thursday.

Mr Onu had earlier announced his bid to become the flag bearer of the ruling party at the Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja.

In his speech, Mr Onu appealed to his party to nominate him for him to be the "chief servant of the nation."

Mr Onu resigned his position on Wednesday, after serving as minister for about seven years. His tenure has been about promises with little achieved.

So far, Nigeria has not commenced production of pencils which the minister said will provide 400,000 jobs.

He also promised to "close all technology gaps" to advance national development, commercialise science and technology ideas, get a monetary incentive of N1 billion, N500 million and N200 million for research purposes to the three top agencies, and use nuclear technology for power generation.

None of these has been achieved.

Emeka Nwajiuba

A group, Project Nigeria, reportedly procured the expression of Interest and nomination forms for the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajuiba, to contest for the presidential ticket of the APC.

Mr Nwajiuba was later presented with the form and he accepted to join the race. For many on social media, the idea of the minister running for president when students of public universities are at home due to a strike by lecturers is morally wrong.

The public university teachers have been on strike since February 14 over dispute with payment system and other issues.

Mr Nwajiuba was the first to resign from the cabinet to pursue his ambition.

Those still hanging on

Rotimi Amaechi

Rotimi Amaechi, the minister of Transportation, declared his interest to run in the 2023 presidential election in April.

The former governor of Rivers State declared his bid for the APC ticket in a stadium packed with supporters.

He already procured the N100 million expression of interest and nomination forms and has been moving across the country reaching out to delegates.

While Mr Amaechi has been hailed by many for the transformation in the rail sector, however, his campaign is coming at a time when several persons abducted by the bandits on the ill-fated Abuja-Kaduna train are still in captivity.

Mr Amaechi had initially blamed his colleagues in the FEC for rejecting a N3 billion surveillance project, however, this paper later published a leaked memo of the FEC meeting.

According to the report, the proposal was rejected because of red flags over due process. For instance, Mr Amaechi was unable to justify the nomination of the main supplier of the equipment.

If Mr Amaechi decides to resign to pursue his presidential ambition, he will be leaving that burden for anyone taking over from him, which is going to probably be the Minister of State, Gbemisola Saraki.

There is also an ongoing controversy over the $193million Deep Blue security contract. The House of Representatives Committee on Navy is investigating the process for awarding the contract to HLSI, an Israeli private security company.

PREMIUM TIMES had in a report, detailed how Mr Amaechi is a serial-violator-of-Nigeria's procurement-law and other processes.

Timipre Sylva

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, announced that he would soon commence consultation on joining the 2023 presidential race on the platform of the APC.

Mr Sylva, a former governor of Bayelsa State, disclosed this when a group, Northern Solidarity Group for Timipre Sylva, presented him with the APC presidential expression of interest and nomination forms.

The group procured the forms and presented them to Mr Sylva at the NNPC Towers in Abuja on Monday.

Like some of his other colleagues, Mr Sylva will be leaving behind several unanswered questions in the petroleum sector. Across the country, long queues have re-appeared.

Three years after his appointment, the four state-owned refineries remain comatose after billions of naira were spent on turn-around maintenance.

A scarcity of Jet A1 fuel has also crippled the aviation sector. Airline Operators had threatened to shut-down operations due to the situation. However, there is an ongoing intervention to address the problem.

While all these are related to the downstream sector, there are crises too upstream. There is massive oil-theft in some of the major pipelines in the Niger Delta.

Despite the hike in the price of oil at the international market due to the Russia-Ukraine war, Nigeria has been unable to take advantage, and had to reduce daily production benchmark in the 2022 reviewed Medium Term Expenditure Framework.

Oil theft has led to the increase in the illegal-refineries in the Niger Delta with the resultant effect on the environment, incuding soot and contamination of water bodies. Those are some of the legacies that Mr Sylva is taken to the presidential race.

Abubakar Malami

The AGF is seeking to become the governor of Kebbi State. Mr Malami was defeated at the 2014 primaries by the incumbent governor, Abubakar Bagudu, who is rounding off his second term. The governor is believed to be behind Mr Malami this time.

Mr Malami has also bought the N50 million expression of interest and nomination forms for Kebbi State governorship race.

The AGF submitted his form on Wednesday to the National Organising Secretary of the APC, Suleiman Argungu.

In the past seven years as the AGF, Mr Malami was almost at one scandal per month level. From suspicious N159 billion -judgment-debt, to the involvement in the illegal search warrant on Supreme Court Justice Mary Odili's house, to his indictment by the asset recovery committee of the House of Representatives- the list is quite long.

Perhaps, as the longest serving AGF, Mr Malami amassed enormous power, and was often accused of abusing his office through that power.

In connection to his governorship ambition, Mr Malami recently distributed hundreds of Mercedes and Toyota Prado SUVs to party officials and statutory delegates ahead of the primary election.

Chris Ngige

The Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige, is also running for the presidential ticket of the APC.

Before his appointment as minister in 2015, he had been governor of Anambra State and senator.

Mr Ngige in the 7th Senate represented Anambra Central district but lost re-election to Uche Ekwenife of the PDP.

With over 33 per cent unemployment rate and industrial action by ASUU, Mr Ngige has several questions to answer on his stewardship at the Ministry of Labour and Employment.

Under his watch, university lecturers have shut down schools for over 15 months. The strike, which started in February, has been extended again for about 12weeks.

As if that is not enough, polytechnic lecturers under the umbrella of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) will begin a two-week warning strike on Monday, May 16.

This position was contained in a statement signed by the union's president, Anderson Ezeibe, and dated May 11, 2022.

Furthermore, the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) has given the Nigerian government a 21-day ultimatum to address the union's demands, else it will embark on industrial action.

Amidst all these, Mr Ngige will be moving across the country seeking support to be made president.

Godwin Emefiele

At the national convention of the APC on March 26, posters of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, flooded the convention ground and continue to appear in strategic places across the city.

The refusal of Mr Emefiele to speak on the matter fuelled a speculation that the Delta State-born banker would take a shot at the presidency.

The main opposition party, PDP, called for his resignation over the campaign, while PREMIUM TIMES also in an editorial asked him to either speak up or resign.

But Mr Emefiele initially refused to outrightly speak on the campaign. In a statement, he said his focus was "robust monetary policy and fighting inflation" ending the statement with "#NoDistractionsPlease.

A group, the Green Alliance Movement, had taken responsibility for the ongoing campaign for the CBN governor under the Emefiele Support Vanguard. Daniel Enyi had in a press statement claimed that Mr Emefiele has no hand in the campaign.

Last week, about 28 groups, including a rice farmers association bought the nomination form for Mr Emefiele.

In a twist, the CBN governor, rejected the form, noting that if he decides to enter the race, he will buy the form with his money.

However, Mr Emefiele approached the court, through his lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, to ask that he should be allowed to participate in the primaries without resigning.

"The plaintiff is legally competent to contest the primaries of any political parties while still serving as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, in so far as he gives 30 days' notice of his resignation, withdrawal from the services of the CBN as its governor in accordance with the provisions of section 167 and 318 of the constitution," the plaintiff's lawyer said.

On Thursday after a meeting with President Buhari, Mr Emefiele told State House correspondents who asked him to speak on the conceens expressed by Nigerians over his presidential ambition that he was not bothered if Nigerians have a heart attack on the matter.

On his watch at the apex bank, the Naira experienced a free fall from around N190/$ in 2015 to over N580/$ currently. Pundits believe this weakened Naira has been responsible for the high cost of commodity in the country.

To address the issue, Mr Emefiele resorted to direct intervention in the agro-sector through the Anchor Borrowers' Programme and other interventions targeting rice, sugar and others.

Mr Emefiele even backed the shutting down of the land borders. According to him, the closure was beneficial to rice farmers.

He also embarked on a crackdown on crypto-currency-related platforms.

Uche Ogar

The Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Uche Ogar, is running for the Abia governorship seat in 2023.

Mr Ogah announced his bid on April 30 at the secretariat of the APC in Umuahia, the state capital.

The minister had launched bids to govern Abia twice in the past -- but he was unsuccessful in both attempts.

In his declaration speech, Mr Ogah said his decision to join the race again was to enable him to change "the ugly narrative of the state, when elected".

Not much was reported about Mr Ogah at the ministry and federal cabinet.

Pauline Tallen

The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Dame Pauline Tallen, on Monday announced that she will be vying for the Plateau South Senatorial seat in the 2023 general elections.

The minister will slug it out with Governor Simon Lalong, who is believed to be interested in the senatorial seat too. Mr Lalong will serve out his two terms next year.

Plateau South Senatorial District covers six local government areas; namely, Langtang North, Langtang South, Mikang, Qua'anpan, Shendam.

Bashir Ahmad

The Personal Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on New Media and Digital Communications, Bashir Ahmad, has picked the House of Representatives nomination and expression of interest forms of the (APC).

Mr Ahmad, who is seeking to represent Gaya, Ajingi and Albasu in the lower chamber of the National Assembly, picked the N10 million form this weekend.

Ismaeel Ahmed

The Senior Special Adviser (SSA) to President Buhari on social investment, Ismaeel Ahmed, is running for the Kano Central senatorial seat.

Mr Ahmed, a former caretaker member of the ruling APC, picked his form for N20 million last week and will be running against the current occupant, a former Kano state governor, Ibrahim Shekaru, amongst others.

States complying

Several state governments have directed political appointees seeking elective positions to resign.

The governments of Niger, Sokoto, Ondo, kwara, Yobe, Borno, Ogun, Akwa-ibom, Abia, Rivers, Plateau, Delta and Kaduna states have issued circulars asking all appointees to resign ahead of parties' conventions.

In some of these states, the appointees have resigned. In Delta State, Ovie Agas, the Chief of Staff to the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, and nine other commissioners resigned to contest different positions. According to reports, Mr Agas is seeking to succeed Mr Okowa.

In Akwa-Ibom State, the commissioner for economic development and Ibom Deep Seaport, Akan Okon, and Commissioner of Labour and Manpower Development, Sunny Ibuot, resigned in March.

Mr Okon is interested in the governorship seat in his state.

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