Political campaigns

Nigerian Ministers’ Political Campaigns Spark Legal Debate Global Voices Français

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the ruling party’s campaign rally on January 16, 2015. Image by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Nigeria’s Deputy Minister of Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, publicly announced on April 27 that he intended to add his candidacy to the race for Nigeria’s presidential election. Four days earlier, on April 18, Chris Ngige, Minister of Labor and Employment had also joined the presidential race.

Nwajiuba and Ngige bought the nomination form for NGN 100,000,000 (about US$2,400) from the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) party. Payment is for nomination forms sold by the political party to aspiring candidates. Although Nigeria is due to hold elections in 2023, political parties have already started selecting their candidates.

Can incumbent ministers stand for election?

Nwajiuba and Ngige are not the only incumbent ministers to have declared their interests in elective positions. Nigeria’s attorney general and justice minister, Abubakar Malami, has also declared his intention to run for governor of his home state of Kogi in north-central Nigeria. Likewise, Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi has also joined the presidential race.

Section 84(12) of the Nigerian Elections Act 2022 explicitly disqualifies any Nigerian “political person appointed at any level” – local, state or federal – from being a “voting delegate or being elected to the convention or convention of any political party for the purpose of nominating candidates for any election”. Hence, this means that any official in the executive branch of government must resign before running for any office in the country. Failure to do so “is a violation of the electoral law and further renders the primary election null and void and illegal,” notes the Nigerian Cable, an online newspaper.

Many political candidates campaigning for state-level electoral positions have resigned. This was done to meet the June 3 deadline set by election officials from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

On April 27, the ruling APC party ordered the relevant government ministers – Amaechi, Malami, Nwajiuba and Ngige – to resign from their positions within 72 hours to comply with electoral law. However, none of the candidates resigned from their ministerial positions. Nwajiuba specifically stated that he “would only resign 30 days to [the] presidential election as stipulated by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Vanguard newspaper reports.

The Minister was relying on a March 2022 ruling by Justice Evelyn Anyadike of the High Federal Umuahia in Abia State in southeastern Nigeria. Anyadike’s court ruling struck down Section 84(12) of the Amended Elections Act 2022 and ordered that it be removed from the Elections Act.

The court held that sections 66(1)(f); 107(1)(f); 137(1)(g); and 182(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution already provide that government officials vying for elective office cannot “resign until at least 30 days before the date of election and any other law requiring such persons to resign or leave office at any time prior to that, was unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null and void to the extent of its inconsistency with the clear provisions of the Constitution,” according to a report by Dataphyte.

Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, upheld the court’s decision, stating that: “The provision of section 84 (12) of the Elections Act 2022 does not form part of our law and will be treated accordingly”.

However, both houses of the Nigerian parliament have pledged to appeal the High Court’s decision striking down Sections 84(12) of the Elections Act.

Potential ethical violations

While many still debate the legality of ministers’ campaigns, it also raises important ethical questions.

For example, it may be legal for Malami, as Nigeria’s Attorney General, to act as the country’s legal adviser and also as a partisan politician. However, his “involvement in partisan politics can be morally questioned”, claims the newspaper Ripples Nigeria. Additionally, Vanguard columnist Ikechukwu Amaechi insists, “As Chief Law Officer, the actions and statements of the incumbent must transcend partisanship. The interests of justice make it even more imperative that anyone in this position must rise above the maddening fray for the greater good.

Meanwhile, as Nigeria grapples with a series of political crises, including the two-month strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities of Nigeria (ASUU) that crippled the county’s education infrastructure, the incursion of Nwajiuba and Ngige in the political sphere has lasting ethical implications. for the nation.