Twenty-four hours after President Muhammadu Buhari advised political appointees desirous of running for elective offices to resign on or before May 16, 2022, and hours after the Secretary to Government of the Federation issued a circular directing heads of government agencies with political ambitions to also resign, the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, yesterday met with the president at the State House, Abuja behind closed doors.
Though he was not forthcoming on details of his discussion with the President when State House correspondents asked for his reaction to the president’s directive that appointees interested in 2023 election should resign, Emefiele merely said he had no news for the reporters, but there would be news later.
His words: “There is no news now, but there will be news. You heard me, I said there is no news but there will be news.”
When further told that international community as well as Nigerians are interested in his position as regards the presidential directive, the CBN Governor stressed that he was not bothered that some people were going to have heart attack, but that he was having fun while those concerned were free to have heart attack.
Meanwhile, there was a new twist yesterday as the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and two others joined in the suit filed by Emefiele, seeking court’s determination of his right to participate in the 2023 presidential election.
This is just as the federal government has issued a circular directing serving ministers in the cabinet, heads of government agencies, ambassadors and other political appointees of the administration, coveting political ambitions in 2023 to resign from the government.
Also, yesterday, the Pan Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, lauded the presidential directive that all political appointees interested in the 2023 general elections should resign their appointments forthwith.
On the suit filed by Emefiele, the court had on Monday adjourned to Thursday to enable the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) appear before it to explain why the court should not restrain them from preventing the CBN Governor from realising his political ambition by participating in all the processes leading to the 2023 presidential election.
The summoning of INEC and AGF was sequel to a motion exparte argued by Emefiele’s lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, to restrain the two defendants from taking any step that would jeopardise the interest of his client.
Ruling in the ex parte, Justice Mohammed had ordered the CBN Governor to serve all court processes in relation to the suit he filed against INEC and the AGF who were the 1st and 2nd defendants respectively.
However, when the matter was called yesterday. both INEC and AGF were in court in line with the court’s order.
However, instead of proceeding with the case of the CBN Governor, two lawyers stood up to announce appearances for their clients.
First was a Senior advocate of Nigeria, Chief Sebastiane Hon, who informed the court of the intention of his client, the PDP to join as an interested party, which was immediately followed by one John Martins and Olukunle Ebun, who told the court that they were suing for themselves and on behalf of the Save Nigeria our Fatherland.
Responding, Emefiele’s lawyer, who did not oppose the applicants joining the suit, undertook to serve the applicants with all processes within 24 hours.
While INEC through its lawyer, Mr. Ibrahim Inuwa, SAN, did not also oppose the application for joinder, that of the AGF, Mr. Dipo Okpeseyi, SAN, did and urged the court to ensure that only proper parties should be allowed to join in the matter.
In a short ruling, the court joined the PDP, John Martins and Olukunle Ebun as 3rd, 4th and 5th defendants respectively.
Justice Mohammed in addition ordered accelerated hearing on the matter, adding that while the 1st and 2nd defendants were directed to respond to the plaintiff’s suit within Monday and Tuesday, the 3rd to 5th defendants have up till Wednesday next week to respond and the plaintiff, 24 hours to reply on point of law.
Justice Mohammed subsequently adjourned to May 23, for parties to adopt their final written addresses.
Justice Mohammed while warning that the court would not entertain any request for extension of time since all parties have pledged to the accelerated hearing of the matter, also warned parties not to take any step that would undermine the proceedings.
Emefiele had amongst others approached the Federal High Court for an Order restraining the defendants from preventing or hindering his participating in the process of the presidential election slated for February next year.
He expressed the fear that any political party he chooses to affiliate with in realising his political ambition may disqualify him based on the provisions of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022, which had barred political appointees from participating in the congresses and conventions of political parties unless the resigned 30 days to such conventions and congresses.
Specifically, he argued that by virtue of being a public servant he cannot be barred from participating in the political primaries of political parties by Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
He submitted that constitutional provisions stipulated that he can only resign his appointment as Governor of CBN 30 days to the presidential election which he is interested in contesting.
Amongst the court processes he filed before the court was an application for maintenance of status, which he predicated on the fact that he would be prejudiced against or hurt if the court does not restrain the defendants from taking any step that would jeopardise his desire to contest the presidential election.
Arguing the motion for maintenance of status quo, Emefiele’s lawyer, Ozekhome had told the court that Emefiele, “is in a delimma” as to whether he can run in the forthcoming presidential election.
According to Ozekhome, time is of utmost importance, following the fact that timeline for collection of nomination and expression of interest forms ends on Wednesday May 11.
Ozekhome in addition told the court that timeline for the primaries and congresses of political parties have been fixed for May 30 to June 1, and unless the court intervened there will be a carriage of great injustice against his client.
“He needs the protection of the court, the court needs to ensure that nobody does anything that will hurt him”, the senior lawyer submitted, adding that if the court refused to grant the order for maintenance of status quo restraining the defendants from hindering Emefiele from participating in the primary election under a political party of his choice within this period, the case would amount to a mere academic exercise by the time parties return to the court.
FG Asks Ministers, Heads of Agencies, Ambassadors, Other Appointees Nursing Political Ambitions in 2023 to Resign
Meanwhile, the federal government’s circular, dated May 11, 2022, with Ref. No.SGF/OP/l/S.3/Xll/173, a copy which was sighted by THISDAY, was issued by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha.
The circular was addressed to all serving ministers, Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, National Security Adviser, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Chairman, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service and heads of extra-ministerial departments, Directors-General/Chief Executive Officers of parastatals, agencies and government-owned companies among others.
In the circular, Mustapha stated that President Muhammadu Buhari had observed and noted the expression of interest and intention by some members of the Federal Executive Council, Heads of Extra-Ministerial departments, agencies, parastatals of government, ambassadors and other political office holders to contest the upcoming presidential, gubernatorial, National and State Assemblies’ elections.
He said the president had directed that the affected office holders aspiring to run for various offices in the 2023 General Elections, should tender their resignation on or before Monday, May 16, 2022.
The SGF said for smooth running of the machinery of government and the country’s foreign missions, the affected ministers are to hand over to the Ministers of State where they exist or to the Permanent Secretary, where there is no Minister of State.
Also all ambassadors are to hand over to their Deputy Heads of Mission or the most Senior Foreign Service Officer in line with established practices.
“Similarly, Heads of Extra-Ministerial Departments, Agencies and Parastatals are to hand over to the most senior Director/Officer as may be peculiar to the organisation, in line with the service wide Circular No. SGF.50/S. Il/C.2/268 of 4th December, 2017,” the circular added. The SGF said the circular and the incidental directives take effect immediately.
Afenifere Hails Buhari’s Directive for Ministers, Others to Resign
However, Afenifere National Publicity Secretary, Jare Ajayi, said the directive given by Buhari on political appointees and the promptness of its execution demonstrated that he could be decisive where and when he wants to and on matters that touch his heart.
While conceding that the resignation of those interested in contesting would provide a level playing ground for all contestants, Afenifere spokesman called on the president to apply the same decisiveness with which he charged his appointees to resign also in tackling the myriads of challenges facing the country to avert a slide into anarchy.
According to him: “The gusto with which the order of President Muhammadu Buhari on political appointees to resign if they intend to contest in the forthcoming elections was carried out indicated that he seems to be comfortable with those other aspects of governance that Nigerians are complaining about because of the pains they are suffering.
“Were he to be disturbed by and concerned about those things that are bothering Nigerians he would have brought the same swiftness to bear on those areas. It makes it difficult for one to agree with the notion that he does not have the power or capacity to deal with at least some of the major problems Nigerians are battling with.
“He has failed to deal with them only because he did not consider them as problematic as the rest of us are considering them.”
He added that unfortunately, those who are close to the president and could make him see the challenges realistically failed to do so either because they were afraid or profiting from the anomalies going on or both.
“For example, what stops the President from providing all that is needed by the security agencies in the country to put a stop to terrorism and insecurity going on in the country? What stops him from ensuring that the Ministries of Education and Labour provide the wherewithal for the smooth running of our universities in line with the proposition that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) have been making for several years? What stops President Buhari from breathing life back into the moribund four refineries in the country or build new ones?”
The Afenifere spokesman argued that the issue of non-availability of fund should no longer be an excuse, saying after all, his party raised several billions of naira in less than two weeks just to express interests in running for offices.
“If the ruling party could raise such a huge sum within so short a time, why is government finding it difficult to raise the N200 billion required to make our educational institutions at tertiary level worthy of its name? Between contest for elective offices and education of the country, which should be more important?”, Ajayi asked.
Culled from THISDAY