On June 25, 2020, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) appointed Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni as its “National Chairman of the Caretaker/Extra – Ordinary Convention Committee” The party also appointed John Akpan Udoedeghe, as the National Secretary of the Caretaker/Extra – Ordinary Convention Committee”.
In a suit filed by Barr Valentine Offia on behalf of the National Rescue Movement (NRM) and its candidate for the forthcoming Edo state governorship election, Stevie Nash Ozono, the duo asked the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to disqualify Osagie Ize – Iyamu as the All Progressive Congress (APC) governorship candidate in the September 19, 2020 governorship election of Edo State.
The plaintiffs averred that the laws allow only the political party’s National Chairman and the National Secretary to sign a letter forwarding names of the party’s candidate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The plaintiffs however contended that it was the Yobe state governor, Mai Mala Buni and John Akpan Udoedeghe, the “National Chairman of the Caretaker/Extra – Ordinary Convention Committee” and the ‘’National Secretary of the Caretaker/Extra – Ordinary Convention Committee” who signed the letter conveying the names of Osagie Ize-Iyamu and Gani Audu to the INEC as the APC governorship candidate and running mate respectively.
Part of their grievances is that Mai Mala Bunu is the Governor of Yobe State and is prohibited by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from occupying any other executive office whatsoever and the said prohibition is applicable to any executive office of the APC.
In their 30-paragraph of affidavit deposed to by Prince Chinedu Obi, the National Publicity Secretary of the National Rescue Movement, they averred, ‘’That the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria prohibits Mai Mala Buni from acting as a national officer of the APC while also occupying the office of Governor of Yobe State’’.
Some analyst have contended that although the All Progressives Congress (APC) national executive council (NEC) meeting was hurriedly cobbled together, but that was not an excuse for the party’s failure to dot the i’s and cross the t’s for the meeting and its outcome seemingly legal and wholesome.
The report has it that this meeting which was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, was held at the federal executive council (FEC) chamber.
By using the chamber, which is usually for official government meetings, Buhari drew the ire of many Nigerians and groups including the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which accused him of violating his oath of office.
But the issue is not just about the venue; there are also concerns about the proceedings such as the swearing-in of Mai Mala Buni, governor of Yobe state, as the APC caretaker committee chairman.
The NEC meeting was not called according to laid-down rules, according to members of the dissolved NWC, because the mandatory seven-day notice was not issued.
But Buni said it was a continuation of the March meeting that was postponed.
Buni was appointed the chairman of the caretaker committee which will run the affairs of the party pending when it elects new officials. But his appointment is seen as a clear violation of the APC constitution which forbids officers of the party from holding any executive position in government.
Section 4 under article 17 reads: “No officer in any organ of the Party shall hold executive position office in government concurrently.” In other words, if one is not qualified to hold a substantive position, then he or she is not qualified to act. This is the clear intendment of sections 11 (1) and (2) of the Nigerian interpretations act of 2004.
Another infraction is the swearing in of Governor Buni by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN), as the “National Chairman of the Caretaker/Extra – Ordinary Convention Committee”. It is a clear violation of the provision of the APC constitution which states how party officers should be sworn in.
By virtue of the Article 29 of the party’s constitution, it forbids party officials from taking oath of office before any person other than “an appropriate principal officer of the party.”
The article reads: “Every Officer elected or appointed as an officer of the Party shall subscribe to the Oath of Office as provided in Schedule II to this Constitution before an appropriate Principal Officer of the Party as may be approved by the National Working Committee.” Of course, Malami is not a member of the party’s NWC, with some observers saying he is therefore not eligible for the role going by the constitution of the party.
In a statement on Saturday by Umar Gwandu, Malami’s spokesperson, the AGF said it is not out of place for him to administer oath of office on anyone whether at the federal level, political or to private individuals
This seeming breach of the party’s constitution by the justice minister is one of the arguments opponents have cited against the controversial APC NEC meeting.
The ousted 18 members of the NWC had called the NEC meeting illegal and initially rejected its outcome, indicating they would challenge it in court.
“Article 25(B) of the Constitution of the APC is explicit that only the National Chairman or the National Working Committee (NWC) is given the prerogative of summoning meetings of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Party either for statutory quarterly meetings or for emergency meetings. The same provision of the constitution makes it compulsory for a notice of a minimum of 14 days in respect statutory quarterly meetings and seven days in respect of an emergency meeting,” the Hilliard Eta-led NWC said in a statement shortly after the NEC meeting.
Although they said they would consult with their allies and lawyers to determine their next action, the ousted NWC members are believed to have accepted their fate.
Defending his action in a statement on June 27, 2020 by Umar Gwandu, his spokesperson, the AGF said it is not out of place for him to administer oath of office on anyone, whether at the federal level, political or to private individuals.
“Entrenchment of democracy and democratic culture is not only a desirable responsibility, but a constitutional one regard being had to the constitutional provisions and the demand for sustenance of democracy in the country,” he said.
“The office of the attorney general exercises dual functions inclusive of that of minister of justice which is a political and advisory function. Administration of justice is one of such functions
“A federation is an embodiment of the governance inclusive of the executive, legislature, and Judiciary with a possible expansion to accommodate private, corporate and associated entities.
“Within that context, it will not be out of place for an attorney general of the federation to administer an oath on any one inclusive of leadership of any political party whether he belongs to it or not.”
Meanwhile, an activist lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, had in an interview with an online newspaper said Malami committed serial infractions by administering the oath of office on the APC officials.
“I see that as an abuse of office because the Attorney General is not a private legal practitioner. The implication is that he cannot afford to use his position as a legal practitioner to do whatever he wants. He cannot act outside the purvey of his responsibility and functions as the chief legal officer to the government of the federation,” Mr Effiong reiterated.
Mr Effiong cited the code of conduct for public officers which states that “a public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.” His argument aligned with the position taken by the opposition People Democratic Party (PDP) in it official statement on Friday.
The party had accused Mr Malami and the ruling APC for “using official facilities of FEC chamber to administer oath of office to a functionary of a political party, in total disregard to his oath of office, the code of conduct prohibitions under the 5th Schedule and extant public service rules.” Effiong said going by the provision of Article 29 of the APC constitution, the oath he administered is “null and void.”
But Tunji Abayomi, a lawyer and former senatorial aspirant of the APC, said what happened at the Presidential Villa, on June 27, 2020, was an “abnormal situation” which the party constitution does not envisage and provide for.
He said since “Principal officer is not defined and the national working committee is not in existence, Article 29 cannot be invoked. The prescription of the constitution is in a normal situation but we are in an abnormal situation. In a normal situation where the National Working Committee is in existence, then you follow that.
National Rescue Movement (NRM) has asked a Federal High Court in Abuja to declare that APC has no candidates for the Edo State gubernatorial elections to be held on September 19, 2020 by virtue of the non – submission of her list of candidates before the deadline on 29th June 2020.
This is because Buni, the “National Chairman of the Caretaker/Extra – Ordinary Convention Committee” of the APC who submitted Ize-Iyamu’s name to INEC is still the current governor of Yobe state.
The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) prohibits Governor Buni from holding another executive position like “National Chairman of the Caretaker/Extra – Ordinary Convention Committee” of the APC.
Section 176 (1) of the 1999 Constitution states that ‘’There shall be for each State of the Federation a Governor and that (2) ‘’the governor of a state shall be the Chief Executive of that state’’.
Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution unambiguously states that ‘’the governor shall not, during the period when he holds office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever’’.
According to Barr Samuel Akinyosoye, ‘’the APC should be preparing for an uphill task, and defense of its Villa meeting, wrongful appointment and illegal swearing-in, in the courts of law, now or thereafter’’.