Following the directive early Wednesday by President Muhammadu Buhari that political appointees interested in contesting political offices should resign from office, at least three ministers have resigned.
Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajuiba and their Science and Technology counterpart, Ogbonnaya Onu, were said to have resigned.
Contrary to the rumoured withdrawal of Akpabio from the presidential race, his Chief Press Secretary, Jackson Udom said the Niger Delta minister is still in the presidential race.
In a statement titled: 2023 – ‘Who is Afraid of Akpabio, Udom’ dismissed as untrue news stories making the rounds that the Senator Godswill Akpabio, has purportedly withdrawn.
Udom said “this is certainly the handiwork of those who are scared of contesting against Senator Godswill Akpabio.
“Senator Akpabio has resigned his appointment as Minister, Niger Delta Affairs Ministry and will soon submit his nomination form at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, in line with his party’s guidelines.
“For those behind these lies and falsehood, we advise that they should learn to live with the reality, that Senator Akpabio is fully in the race, not only for the All Progressives Congress (APC) ticket but to emerge the next democratically elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier in the day ordered every member of the Federal Executive Council who have the ambition to contest elective offices must resign on or before May 16th, 2023.
Those affected are Ministers of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio; Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; Science, Technology and Innovation, Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba; Justice and Attorney General, Abubakar Malami.
They have all bought the APC N100 million presidential nomination forms ahead of the May 30 presidential primary election.
Others are the Minister of State Mines and Steel, Uche Ogar, who is running for the governorship position in Cross Rivers State, and the Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, who declared her ambition to contest for the senatorial seat in Plateau State.
Meanwhile, the Head of Service of the Federation (HOSF), Dr Folashade Yemi-Esan has categorically said civil servants remain barred from partisan politics.
A circular signed by the Head of Service, dated 5th May 2022, marked HCSF/479/II/19, with the title, “Clarification on the provisions of Public Service Rules viś-à-vis the Supreme Court judgement as it relates to civil servants in partisan politics.”
The circular said: “It has become necessary to draw the attention of all civil servants to the legal opinion of the Hon. Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (HAGF&MJ) on this matter.
“In his letter, Ref. Number SGF/PS/HCSF/210/II, dated 26th November 2018, HAGF&MJ asserted, inter alia, that ‘neither the 1999 Constitution nor the Supreme Court has authorised civil servants to engage in partisan politics.
‘The provisions of rules 030422 and 030423 of the Public Service Rules (2008 edition) were not nullified by the Supreme Court, hence, they remain in force and binding on all civil servants seeking to participate in nomination exercises or party primaries.'”
Rule 030422 of the Public Service Rules states:
“No officer shall, without the express permission of the government, whether on duty or leave of absence:
“(b) offer himself/herself or nominate anyone else as a candidate for any elective public office including membership of a Local Government
Council, State or National Assembly.
“(c) indicate publicly his support of or opposition to any party, candidate or policy;
“(d) engage in canvassing in support of political candidates.
Rule 030423 of the Public Service Rules states:
“Resignation is necessary before seeking elective public office. Howbeit, any officer wishing to engage in partisan political activities or seek elective public office shall resign his/her appointment
She noted that the HAGF&MJ concluded that the rules should be enforced as the Supreme Court, in the case of Musa versus INEC, did not set them aside, and must be complied with.
“Accordingly, in the overall best interest of neutrality, harmony, integrity and development of Nigerian Civil Service, all civil servants are strongly advised to be guided by the provisions of PSR and the legal opinion of the Hon. Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice on the subject,” the Head of Service added.
The Trumpet recalled that the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Wednesday set aside the judgement of the Federal High Court in Umuahia that voided Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act 2022.