John ODHE, Yenagoa
As the 2023 general elections draw closer, there are concerns in Bayelsa State following the non- resignation of political appointees who are aspiring for different elective positions in line with the 2022 Electoral Act as amended.
The Act 2022 was recently signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
One of the newly introduced clauses in section 84(12) provides that
“no political appointee at any level shall be a 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”.
The implication of the above is that political appointees who intend to be delegates or stand as aspirants for elective positions in a primary election shall, first of all, resign their appointments.
For a political appointee, the failure to resign an appointment before voting as a delegate or standing as an aspirant in a primary election is a violation of the Electoral Act and further renders the primary election null and void and illegal.
Section 84(13) further provides that “where a political party fails to comply with the provisions of this Act in the conduct of its primaries, its candidate for the election shall not be included in the election for the particular position in issue”.
Thus, where a political party violates the provision of the Electoral Act in respect of political appointees in primaries, the party’s candidate shall be excluded from the general election for which the primary election was conducted.
In Bayelsa State, party fateful are worried that unlike other states where political appointees are resigning to aspire for elective positions, the same are sitting tight to their offices in Bayelsa state.
Some of the serving appointees are the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Friday Kombowei Benson who is said to have picked form for the Bayelsa Central Senatorial District seat before he recently stopped acting as the state’s scribe while his resignation has not also been made public.
We also gathered that the Chief of Staff, Government House, Chief Benson Agadaga picked a form to clinch the ticket for Bayelsa East Senatorial District. It is uncertain if he has resigned.
There are many other aspirants who are yet to resign their appointments officially.
Meanwhile, political watchers see the refusal by aspirants to resign their position before vying for elective positions as an affront on the state governor who had severally warned his appointees to do so beforehand.
The situation, according to political pundits, is worrisome considering the legal implication of not resigning officially before picking forms for elective positions which negates the provisions of section 84(12) of the new electoral act.
According to the new timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) political parties primaries are expected to commence on April 3rd, 2022 and end on June 3rd, 2022.
This means, those seeking elective offices ought to have resigned to avoid future legal fireworks by the opposition that may end in waste of recourses and loosing of candidacies as well as elected officials.
When contacted for further legal interpretation of the section 84 (12)
of the Electoral Act, a Yenagoa based legal practitioner, Barr. Great Temedie, hinted that a recently ruling by the Appeal Court setting aside the previous ruling of a Federal High Court sitting in in Abia state has further lend credence to section 84 (12).
Great added that though the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria stipulates that public office holders should resign three months to elections, the new Electoral Act was in effect since the Supreme Court has not given further ruling on the case.
The lawyer warned that those who were taking advantage of the lower court ruling may end up losing their seat after being elected since the appeal court has set aside the Abia ruling.