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Attorney General of the Federation and Justice Minister Abubakar Malami (SAN) and Labour and Productivity Minister Chris Ngige hit back yesterday at critics who had kicked over their return to the federal cabinet after unexpectedly pulling out of this month’s primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The two ministers, who had attended Friday’s valedictory meeting called by President Muhammadu Buhari with exiting cabinet members, said they had done nothing illegal as they never resigned from government as being insinuated by critics.
The deadline handed down by President Muhammadu Buhari to all ministers and other political appointees seeking to contest in the primaries expires tomorrow with uncertainty still hanging over the status of Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of State for Petroleum Timipre Sylva and Women Affairs Minister Pauline Talline, all of whom are yet to turn in their resignation letters.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) deplored President Muhammadu Buhari’s retention of Mr. Godwin Emefiele as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) despite the outcry over his purported interest in the APC presidential ticket.
Ngige, in a direct response to claims by Lagos lawyer, Mr.Femi Falana (SAN), that it was illegal for any minister to continue in office after resigning, said he neither wrote nor submitted any resignation letter.
He said Falana was embarrassing the public with a “bad harvest of his bumper imagination.”
Ngige Media Office, in a statement, accused the human rights activist of having “conjured a resignation letter, hung it on Senator Chris Ngige and went to town with it.”
It added: “That is very bad. How a senior lawyer descended to this trade in falsehood and phantom benumbs!
“According to reports in the national dailies which copiously quoted you: ‘there were reports that Malami and Ngige had withdrawn their letters of resignation after the farewell meeting. Such withdrawal is illegal as it constitutes a gross contravention of section 306(2) which stipulates that the resignation of any person from any office established by this constitution shall take effect when writing signifying the resignation is received by the authority or person to whom it is addressed or by any person authorised by that authority or person to receive it.’
“You went ahead to extrapolate legal opinion not necessary for reproduction here. However, the problem is that when there is so much haste to find fault and condemn, fidelity to facts and details is lost and the society suffers on account of this. We pray you fall no further to this demeaning situation.
“Get your facts right, Sir. First is that the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, neither authored nor submitted resignation letter to the President or “any other person authorised” by him. Therefore, the resignation letter you referred to does not exist.
“In fact, the Circular of 11 May, 2022 from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, gave on or before Monday 16th May, 2022 as the terminal date for submission of resignation letters, not just for ministers but for all political appointees of the Federal Government.
“In deed as explained in the press statement of 13th May, 2022, personally signed by the Minister of Labour and Employment, he had an audience with President Muhammadu Buhari on 11thMay, 2022 and followed it up with another on 13th May, 2022. On none of these occasions was a resignation letter tendered.
“The outcome however is the well-considered decision to withdraw from the 2023 presidential race in deference to opinion, arising from consultations with family, constituents, supporters and well-wishers which held the interest of the nation topmost.
“He further withdrew from the internal party processes leading to the presidential election, kicking in with the primary.
“As a matter of fact, it needs to be clear that Senator Ngige has not officially expressed interest to contest the presidential primary of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), by filling and returning his Expression of Interest/Nomination form.
“Though his supporters had taxed themselves to procure these forms for him, he did not fill and return them to the party.
“So, where is this resignation of appointment as the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment coming from? We hence request that you effect the necessary correction within forty-eight hours as a check on the wrong impression your position has created before the public.”
Falana had said the withdrawal of resignation letter by Ngige or any minister was illegal.
“Such withdrawal is illegal as it constitutes a gross contravention of section 306 (2) of the Constitution which stipulates that ‘The resignation of any person from any office established by this Constitution shall take effect when the writing signifying the resignation is received by the authority or person to whom it is addressed or by any person authorised by that authority or person to receive it,’” he said in a statement in Lagos.
He added: “Since the resignation of the former ministers has taken effect, they cannot return to the cabinet either on their own volition or on the directive of the President. The resignation of the ministers is not a cabinet reshuffle. It is akin to the removal of the former ministers by the President.
“Therefore, if the former ministers are going to be reappointed, the President is required by section 147 of the Constitution to submit names to the Senate for fresh screening and confirmation.”
Malami’s decision to withdraw ambition in Kebbi governorship demonstrates altruism, patriotism – Aide
Malami’s Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr. Umar Gwandu, described his principal’s decision to drop out of the APC governorship primaries in Kebbi State as a demonstration of altruism and patriotism as well as “of contentment, self-control and decisiveness in problem-solving at a time of competing stimuli.”
“It is a commendable posture worthy of admiration coming from a paragon of virtue,” Gwandu said.
He insisted that Malami never resigned as Minister and Attorney General of the Federation but only withdrew his ambition to contest for the 2023 Kebbi State Gubernatorial Elections.
The minister, he argued, “has the right to choose to voluntarily shelve his gubernatorial ambitions, and it is a matter of personal conviction and individual right which didn’t violate any law.
“Right-thinking members of the society accord respect to an individual’s right to freedom of choice in matters relating to this.
“As Nigerian citizens with inalienable fundamental rights, we are not aware of any legally justifiable and tenable obligations compelling Malami to make this choice.”
Malami had declared interest in the Kebbi governorship race last month.
”You asked me to come and contest, and I have agreed to contest. Today, I have joined the governorship race,” he said at the time.
It’s up to Buhari to keep returnee appointees
Some other lawyers contacted yesterday by The Nation said President Muhammadu Buhari had a free hand to take back or reject returnee political appointees who had indicated interest to contest political offices but later withdrew to take back their jobs.
Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Mba Ukweni, said: “It is at the discretion of the President to take them back.”
He added: “The President is the appointer. Even if they are out and they come back, it is at the discretion of the President to accept or not to accept them back.
“If he says you have resigned, I can’t take you again; even if they have not resigned and he says I’m relieving you of your appointment; that is it. It is at the discretion of the President who appointed them.
“Whatever it is, whether it is to go back to the National Assembly, it is still the President who would do that. If they have not resigned, they have not resigned.
“Even if they have sent in their resignation letter and the President has accepted it, then it means the resignation is inchoate. They can still withdraw it.
“But if they have resigned and it is accepted, then it means it is like a reappointment bringing them back to the office.”
His view was shared by a former Second Vice-President, Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Barrister Monday Onyekachi Ubani.
His words: ”The order that they should resign has Monday as the deadline. They are still within time to resign or not resign. I would have had issues with those who had resigned and after Monday they want to come and take back their jobs.
“The President can hire and fire. He has the prerogative to take them back or reject them. But somebody can challenge it in court and see what the court will say.
“But if you ask me, I will say that since Monday is still the deadline and they have withdrawn their letters of resignation, they are still in order.”
PDP knocks Buhari for retaining Emefiele, insists CBN Governor must go
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) faulted President Muhammadu Buhari for retaining Mr. Godwin Emefiele as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The party said Emefiele’s withdrawal from the 2023 presidential race was not enough justification for the President to allow him retain the position, because he has left no one in doubt about his partisanship.
A group of rice farmers had purchased the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential nomination form for Emefiele last week, sparking uproar in opposition circles.
Emefiele had, shortly after a meeting with Buhari on Thursday, said he was “having a lot of fun” and his critics might as well have a heart attack if they wanted.
Although details of his meeting with the President were not made public, Emefiele failed to submit the nomination forms on Friday; the deadline for the return of all such forms.
But in a statement yesterday, PDP spokesman, Debo Ologunagba, described Emefiele’s statements as reckless, irresponsible and unpardonable.
Ologunagba said the CBN Governor’s statements were provocative enough to trigger a nationwide restiveness, pitting Nigerians against the CBN and shutting down the economy on a scale that could destabilise the polity.
Insisting that Emefiele acted in violation of the CBN Act 2007 and the Public Service Rules, the party said the CBN Governor still cannot continue in office for being a card carrying member of the APC.
He said: “The CBN which keeps all sensitive materials for elections cannot be trusted with the custody of such materials with a biased Mr. Emefiele at the helm of affairs.
“It was despicable to watch Mr. Emefiele on Thursday May 12, 2022 at the Presidency, brazenly and derisively spit at the concerns of millions of Nigerians, the international community and the corporate world when he said of Nigerians, ‘let them have heart attack. It’s good to have heart attack. I am having a lot of fun.’
“Mr. Emefiele has crossed the red lines. He is provoking and daring Nigerians to do their worst, especially in the face of huge allegations and revelations of massive looting, manipulations and doctoring of the books in the CBN under his watch as recently exposed in a leaked phone conversation and for which he ought to be behind bars.
“His unthinking and insensitive comment further establishes that he is not a fit and proper person to hold public office and continue the coordination of our national commonwealth as the CBN Governor, having exposed his lack of the required professionalism, code of conduct and regard for public concerns on issues that affect our economy and the electoral process.
“It also underpins the thoughtlessness and endemic corruption in the Buhari-led APC government and further shows the decadence in the CBN under Mr. Emefiele.
“The fact that President Muhammadu Buhari has failed to decisively rebuke and sack Mr. Emefiele only confirms that impunity is an official policy of the APC administration.
“Emefiele should know that Nigerians will never have heart attack because of APC’s impunity. Instead, they are now, more than ever before, ready and resolute to confront the situation and rescue our nation from the stranglehold of the APC.
“Now that he has been confirmed to be a card-carrying member of the APC, Mr. Emefiele must forthwith steer clear of the CBN as he cannot continue as the Governor.
“Anything short of that amounts to testing the will of the people and the PDP will not hesitate to call out our members and teeming supporters across the country to, within the ambit of the law, defend and protect the integrity of the CBN and our electoral process.”
APC reschedules screening of presidential aspirants for May 23
The APC yesterday rescheduled the screening of its presidential aspirants for Monday, May 23.
Party sources said it was part of the efforts to ensure a perfect exercise.
The party had in the adjusted schedule of activities and timetable released last week fixed the screening of all aspirants from the House of Assembly to the Presidency for 14th and 15th May, 2022.
But APC National Organising Secretary, Suliaman Arugungu, announced to newsmen shortly after inaugurating screening and screening appeal committees for the governorship, Senate and the House of Representatives aspirants yesterday in Abuja that the screening of the presidential aspirants had a new date.
He said some of the aspirants “have started withdrawing their aspiration.” He gave no details.
However, a party source said: “If you listened to the National Organising Secretary today, he said some of the aspirants have started withdrawing their aspirations. That statement is heavy and should not be taken lightly.
“By the arrangement, the screening of presidential aspirants will be five days to the primaries, and it is expected that the party would have been able to prune down the number of the aspirants for effective influence on delegates for the preferred candidates.”
Breakdown of aspirants to be screened
Giving a breakdown of those to be screened, the National Organising Secretary said 145 governorship aspirants are jostling for the party’s tickets in 30 states for the March 2023 governorship election.
According to Arugungu, “You have been selected by the national chairman and the National Working Committee to do the first segment of our transition to 2023 election. That is to screen our gubernatorial aspirants, the senatorial aspirants and indeed the members of the House of Representatives respectively.
“We have so far 145 aspirants for the governorship and we have constituted three panels to screen the governorship aspirants and also have 351 aspirants that have also partake and returned the senatorial aspiration forms, while we have 1197 aspirants for the House of Representatives with 10 panels.
“The panels for the Senate are going to be four. In addition to that, we have the guidelines of our great party that will be given to each of the panels for screening and indeed the Appeal Committee.
“We also have a set of guidelines, an aspirant assessment and verification form that will be given to each of the committees for the screening and also each of the panel will be given collections of the forms names, expression of interest forms and the guidelines of our party, each of these for guidance.”
Be thorough, Adamu charges committees
Charging the committees for a thorough job, the National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, who was represented by the Deputy National Chairman (North) Sen. Abubakar Kyari, said the party could not afford to field its second best, hence the committees should be “patient and screen thoroughly so that we can have the best of the best.”
He said: “We have a very strong party. We have a big party. And we’re committed that we deliver the right candidates for the forthcoming elections.
“We have no doubt that the distinguished ladies and gentlemen assembled here will do just that.”
However, the screening of Governorship, Senatorial and House of Representatives aspirants took off at the two designated centres at about 7:30 pm yesterday.
Twenty of the 145 governorship aspirants had been screened at 10pm.
Those screened include the national secretary of the defunct Caretaker Committee of the party and now a governorship aspirant from Akwa Ibom State, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe; Uche Ogah from Abia State; Senator Sabo Mohammed from Jigawa State; Senator Ita Enang from Akwa Ibom State; Mrs. Modele Sharafa Yusuf from Ogun State; Niger State deputy governor, Alhaji Ahmed Ketso and Idris Malagi also from Niger State.
Kaduna, Niger swell rank of states endorsing Tinubu
Delegates from Niger and Kaduna states to the forthcoming APC presidential primaries are the latest to endorse Asiwaju Bola Tinubu for the party’s ticket.
During a relaxed, almost familial meeting in Kaduna, Governor Nasir el-Rufai and the state’s delegates pledged their support to Asiwaju Tinubu.
A similar feat was recorded in Minna, Niger State on Friday as the party’s delegates also endorsed Tinubu. It was at a meeting arranged by the State Governor Abubakar Sani-Bello.
Tinubu had sought the support of the delegates, saying: “I know the road to prosperity, safety, clean environment, development of our nation and infrastructure. I have done it all in Lagos.”
He also pledged to address banditry and secure life and property if elected president, stating that he would not only change the calendar of bandits but also conquer them.
“We will not give up on banditry; we will not run away. Bandits will not take over our lands,” he said.
Referring to his achievements as a two-term governor of Lagos State, his private sector background and his vast knowledge of Nigeria, he said: “I’m the only one in this race. I don’t know about the others. I don’t know where others are running to. Me, I’m running to the Villa.”
In Kaduna, Tinubu also spoke sympathetically about the security challenges faced by Kaduna and the entire region. He lamented the loss of lives, the destruction of property and the immense burden that insecurity placed on families, communities and the state government.
Addressing the party’s delegates from the state on May 12 in Kaduna, Asiwaju Tinubu said: “I am one of you. I identify with your challenges. With all of us working together we will defeat all evils called banditry.”
The APC leader also commended Governor el-Rufai for his visionary leadership, praising him for recording giant strides in the state in spite of the challenges.
Tinubu hailed Governor el-Rufai’s administration for the infrastructural projects in the state, particularly the road networks and for creation of primary health care centres.
At a dramatic point during the seating, the delegates rose in unison to endorse Tinubu for the presidential primaries holding at the end of the month.
Governor Nasir el-Rufai and Tinubu were joined at the meeting by former governor of Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima; Presidential aide, Mallam Yau Darazo, and former EFCC Chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, among others.
Governor el-Rufai himself endorsed Asiwaju Tinubu after delegates gave their rousing vocal endorsement of the presidential aspirant.
Jigawa governor, deputy absent as Osinbajo meets delegates
Governor Muhammadu Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State and his deputy, Alhaji Umar Namadi, were yesterday absent at a meeting between Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and APC delegates to this month’s presidential primaries in Abuja.
Gov. Abubakar is also in the presidential race.
He was said to have travelled to Abuja ostensibly for the APC screening of its presidential aspirants.
The exercise was unexpectedly shifted to May 23.
Alhaji Muhammadu Badaru Abubakar had been said to have created a trip to Abuja on the day the vice president scheduled to visit the state to meet delegates and seek their votes during the party’s presidential primary election.