Elder statesman and Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark has said that Nigeria needs Section 84 (12) of the (newly signed) Electoral Act to sanitise the polity, saying it is not in breach of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
In a statement on Wednesday, Chief Clark noted that a review of the provision stopping public office holders from contesting in election was unnecessary because that law will provide the much need clean up of Nigeria’s political space.
Chief Clark also stated that transforming politics in the public interest requires deliberately increasing the ability of democratic structures to operate fairly.
“With respect to Mr. President’s advice to the National Assembly (NASS) on Section 84 (12) of the new Electoral Act which he signed into Law on Friday, 25th February, 2022, I have my own reservation on Mr. President’s advice to NASS, and Nigerians as a whole,” he began.
“Firstly, there is no provision in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which allows public servants to remain in office, while engaging in political activities.
Also, Article 31 (1) (iii) of the APC Constitution (October 2014 As Amended), states that:
“Any Party office holder interested in contesting for an elective office (whether party office or office in a general election) shall resign and leave office 30 days prior to the date of nomination or Party primary for the Office he or she is seeking to contest.”
Under public policy, it is inconsistent for a government appointee to remain in office, when he is contesting a political position. I have also observed that such public office holders normally give at least one month notice before entering into the political field in order to contest any position, whether as Counsellor in a Local Government Council or as President of the Country. This moral and pristine practice has been overtaken recently by the system where law and order are no longer obeyed in Nigeria. Public servants now contest public offices, still holding/occupying their political appointments/offices, except in a situation where either the President or Governor asks such interested person to resign.”
Chief Clark continued that “Now that the Electoral Law under Section 84 (12) states that:
“No political appointee at any level shall be 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,” all public office holders and appointees who have decided to contest elections or want to vote for any one contesting, shall resign 3 months before the election processes commence. This is a legal and valid position, there is no Constitutional breach, and therefore, the call on Mr. President to NASS to review that the said Section 84 (12), is unnecessary, if we are serious that we want to sanitise our electoral system.
The new Electoral Law is, indeed, in line with government policy and loyalty to the government; and not in some cases, where there could be conflict of audit interest between the personal expenses of such appointees when they begin to use government funds and properties such as vehicles, drivers, etc., in their possession, if Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act is amended to state otherwise.
Political Party Conventions and Congresses should be attended only by party’s card-carrying elected delegates from their various Wards, who are not political office holders or appointees, by the party members.
In any case, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), is Constitutionally empowered by reason of Section 160 (1) which states that: “Subject to subsection (2) of this section, any of the bodies may, with the approval of the President, by rules or otherwise regulate its own procedure or confer powers and impose duties on any officer or authority for the purpose of discharging its functions, provided that in the case of the Independent National Electoral Commission, its powers to make its own rules or otherwise regulate its own procedure shall not be subject to the approval or control of the President”, to direct its affairs. Mr. President has no powers to delve into this matter. INEC has the prerogative to deal with the situation.
Mr. President, if we are sincere in fighting corruption and other forms of vices, plaguing our country, this is one big opportunity. Let us not blow it, because we want to serve the interest of a few persons who are in office today.
No body will be disenfranchised; all the Act is saying is that we want to stop impunity and waywardness.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!!