Primaries: Confusion over statutory delegates as INEC insists on existing Act
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Primaries: Confusion over statutory delegates as INEC insists on existing Act


National Assembly members and other statutory delegates are still unsure of their eligibility to vote in  next week’s  presidential primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) following indications last night that President Muhammadu Buhari might not sign the latest amendment to the Electoral Act 2022.

The two main parties are themselves in a quandary over the development and have been unable to provide satisfactory answers to state party officials who have been making frantic phone calls to seek clarification on the eligibility of statutory delegates

The parties and the leadership of the National Assembly have been putting pressure on the president to sign the amended Act.

If the status quo remains until the primaries, only persons elected as ad hoc delegates to the primaries  will be eligible to vote to elect the presidential candidates.

Chieftains of the parties have been holding consultations upon consultations to review the situation.

The presidential aspirants and their strategists have also been working round the clock to ensure that the situation does not damage their chances at the primaries, The Nation can now reveal.

If the status quo remains until the primaries, only persons elected as ad hoc delegates to the primaries  will be eligible to vote to elect the presidential candidates.

Chieftains of the parties have been holding consultations upon consultations to review the situation.

The presidential aspirants and their strategists have also been working round the clock to ensure that the situation does not damage their chances at the primaries, The Nation can now reveal.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned that it cannot alter the election timetable for any reason otherwise a constitutional crisis will ensue.

The latest amendment to the Electoral Act, Section 84 (8), was passed to the President for signing by the National Assembly two weeks ago.

It provides thus: “A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidates shall clearly outline in its constitution and rules the procedure for the democratic election of delegates to vote at the convention, congress or meeting, in addition to statutory delegates already prescribed in the Constitution of the party.”

The existing provision reads: “A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall clearly outline in its constitution and rules the procedure for the democratic election of delegates to vote at the convention, congress or meeting.”

Statutory delegates form the largest number of voters at party primaries at state level and conventions at the national level.

They include the National Chairman of the party and members of the National Executive Committee (NEC).

Others are serving and former Presidents and vice presidents who are still members of the party; serving members of the National Assembly and former principal officers serving and former elected state governors and deputy governors; governorship candidates and their running mates who are automatic delegates.

The rest include members of State Assemblies and former presiding officers of state Assemblies; serving and former members of the Board of Trustees (BoT); elected members of zonal committees, all National Assembly candidates; party chairmen of local government areas; all elected local government chairmen; former members of the National Working Committee; and one physically challenged person per state and the FCT nominated by the state caucus.

If the statutory delegates are excluded from the primaries, the fate of the APC presidential aspirants will be determined by 2,340 ad hoc delegates made up of three from each of the 774 local government areas in the country and the six area councils in Abuja while 780 similar ad hoc delegates will pick the PDP flag bearer.

The 774 local government areas will send a delegate each while the remaining six will come from the Abuja area councils.

An APC chieftain contacted last night told The Nation that the parties were as confused as everyone else on whether the statutory delegates stand any chance of voting during the party primaries.

The source said his office had been inundated with calls from anxious members on what was happening.

Article 20.3 of the APC Constitution on Nomination of Candidates merely says delegates to a convention, congress for the election of candidates shall be elected and that they will assemble at a venue designated for that purpose. It does not say anything about automatic delegates.

However, the same constitution says that the NWC can come up with rules and regulations about the nomination of candidates, and that such rules shall be approved by the NEC of the party, the second highest organ of the party.

But at the last meeting of NEC, the body ceded its powers to the NWC as regards the primaries and preparations for the 2023 elections.

In line with its expanded powers, the NWC has published guidelines and regulations for the primaries. In the regulations, it stated clearly those who can vote at the different primaries.

They include automatic delegates commonly referred to as “ statutory delegates” like the President, Vice President, governors and their deputies, lawmakers, past assembly members, party executives, among others; and  ad hoc delegates or three elected delegates per local governments in the case of presidential primary, and five elected delegates per ward  to vote in the governorship primaries.

Some APC officials who spoke with The Nation yesterday said the party has not breached any law, including the Electoral Act which in fact states that parties are free to update the outlines of its nomination process in their constitutions and rules.

A ranking Senator from the South-West told The Nation that it is unlikely Buhari will sign the amendment before the primary election. According to him, the leadership of the National Assembly had made it clear to the President that the bill required urgent attention.

”As politicians, some of us made discreet enquiries, and I can tell you off record that what is happening is a case of political intrigue.

“The presidency is not made up of just Mr. President. There are other people with diverse interest therein.

“These people may have resolved to ensure the amendment is not signed to keep the legislators too out of the convention.

“Also, it may be a case of tit-for-tat. The president asked the NASS to amend the Electoral Act, the NASS refused. Now, the NASS wants the president to help it amend the same law, and Mr. President is refusing. It is all politics and can only be resolved politically.”

Another source, a member of the House of Representatives, said it is likely the leadership of the NASS will approach the presidency early next week to again urge the President to sign the bill.

“The matter is seriously being discussed among us lawmakers. It is generating anxiety and the best the leadership can do is approach the President. That is what will be done. I can tell you that.”

The situation is not better in the PDP with officials expressing frustration over the distraction the uncertainty over statutory delegates is causing in their preparation for the primaries.

At the time this report was being compiled at 8:44 pm yesterday, key officials in the leadership of the PDP were still at the party’s national secretariat making consultations and deliberating on the way forward.

Observers said last night that time was fast running against the application of the amendment even if Buhari, who is currently in the United Arab Emirates, were to sign today.

The Presidency and the National Assembly are currently locked in a legal battle over Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act which Buhari had asked it to delete because, according to him, it is in conflict with the 1999 Constitution.

That particular section of the act stipulates thus: “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 President and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami filed a suit at the Supreme Court seeking an interpretation of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Amendment Act 2022.

The National Assembly is the sole defendant.

They are seeking an order of the apex court to strike out the section of the Electoral Act, saying it is inconsistent with the nation’s Constitution.

According to the court document, the plaintiffs contend that Section 84 (12) of the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2022 is inconsistent with the provisions of Sections 42, 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192 and 196 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended), as well as Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and People and Peoples Rights.

Buhari and Malami also contended that the Constitution already provides qualification and disqualification for the offices of the President and Vice President, Governor and Deputy Governor, Senate and House of Representatives, House of Assembly, Ministers, Commissioners, and Special Advisers.

They urged the court to make: “A declaration that the joint and combined reading of Sections 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192 and 196 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended); the provision of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022, which also ignores Section 84(3) of the same Act, is an additional qualifying and/or disqualifying factors for the National Assembly, House of Assembly, Gubernatorial and Presidential elections as enshrined in the said constitution, hence unconstitutional, unlawful, null and void.”

In the same vein, the National Assembly has asked the Supreme Court to strike out the suit instituted by President Buhari.

The National Assembly, in its counter-affidavit, filed by its lawyer, Kayode Ajulo, said the Supreme Court cannot be invoked to amend the provision of any law validly made by lawmakers in the exercise of their legislative powers as granted by the Constitution.

Why Buhari may not grant assent – Sources

Presidency sources told The Nation last night that given the circumstances surrounding the amendment, the President might not be keen on signing it.

The sources also cited the time left for it to be signed.

“If the President did not sign the amendment before he traveled on Thursday, when he signed the National Health Insurance Authority Act, and I’m hearing the deadline for ratifying it is this weekend, then I wonder what hope of it being signed,” one of the sources said.

“Remember the President will return home on Saturday and Sunday is considered work-free. On Monday, he’ll be having another engagement outside the FCT. Where’s the time for him to perform the signing?

“If he had wanted to sign that bill, which I learned was submitted last week Friday, it would have happened since, but this is an unsolicited Legislative amendment, by the same people who have found a way to dodge a remediation in the same Act, which Baba (President) categorically requested. You can deduce the remaining by yourself.”

The source described the new amendment as self-serving, adding: “If you take an analytic look at the whole thing, no one will blame the President if he withholds assent from this amendment, because it is becoming clearer that the National Assembly did it just to corner the delegates. “Once the statutory delegates come in, the primaries will fall in the legislators’ grasp. Forget that the President or even the governors are also statutory delegates, their status is merely symbolic.

“So, with this at the back of anybody’s mind, you will not want to serve members of the National Assembly with an undue advantage over the entire process.

“So, putting all these together, the time that has virtually thinned out and the suspected motive for the amendment, if you understand politics, I doubt he will sign this particular amendment, and I believe it is the just thing to do.

“However, I have only tied the various factors together to arrive at my conclusion. To sign or not to sign is the President’s prerogative and no one can volunteer to tell you what he will do. It is his call because he’s the President.”

Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, said the proper channel to provide clarifications on the President’s actions on the bill would be the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters.

However, neither the SSA National Assembly Matters for the Senate, Senator Babajide Omoworare, nor the SSA on National Assembly Matters for House of Representatives, Hon Umar El-Yakub, could be reached on the phone.

Court orders PDP to use faction’s delegates list to conduct Ebonyi primaries

The Abakaliki Division of the Federal High Court has ordered the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) not to use any other delegates list to conduct its primaries other than the list from the congresses conducted by a faction of the party in Ebonyi State.

This followed a motion ex parte dated 17th of May but filed on the 18th of May by one Ogbonnaya Ene Odii in suit number FHC/AI/C5/61/2022.

Mr Odii is believed to belong to a faction of the party led by the State Chairman, Silas Onu and an aspirant, Ifeanyi Chukwu Odii.

Two factions had emerged in the state following the court ruling sacking the former Chairman, Tochukwu Okorie, and installing Mr Ìnå as the Chairman.

This led to acrimonious delegates’ congresses which were rescheduled about three times.

However, the two factions held parallel congresses in the state.

Both factions have since been battling to ensure that their respective list of delegates is accepted for the primaries slated to hold this weekend.

The Peoples Democratic Party and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are the first and second respondents in the matter.

Mr Ene Odii had in the motion prayed the court to restrain the PDP from using any delegates list emanating from any ward and local government congresses that was not monitored by INEC pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

He also prayed the court for: “An order of this honourable court restraining the 1st defendant from tampering with the results of the 3-man ward ad-hoc delegates local government and the national delegates (local government) congress contained in exhibits EBNDL 1-13 and EBNDL 1 being the out one of a validly held congress pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

After hearing from the plaintiff’s lawyer, Mudi Erhenede, the Judge, Justice Fatun Riman, granted all the prayers.

He thereafter adjourned the matter to May 25 for hearing on the motion on notice.


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