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Electoral Act 2022:The Dilemma Of Withdrawal Of Candidates-Abdu Fagge

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Barrister Abdul Fagge

 

INTRODUCTION:

The Electoral Act, 2022 came into force on the 25th February, 2022 to regulate conduct of Political Parties activities, primaries election, and general Election among others. I commend the National assembly and President Federal Republic of Nigeria for passing and assenting same respectively. The Act provides certain innovations as well as new provisions which can only be clearly and perfectly understood through the instrumentality of Judicial pronouncements.
From 20th August, 2022, when the wind of rumor starts escalating for defection of distinguished Senator Ibrahim Shekarau from NNPP to PDP to the 29th August, 2022 when he formally defected and up to today the 1st of September, 2022, I received and I am still receiving phone calls from some Honourable Attorneys General, the legal practitioners, Excellencies, Right Honorable Members, members of National and State Assemblies, Key Stake Holders of different Political Parties, Politicians, Proprietors of some National dailies and general public seeking my opinion on whether NNPP and PDP can submit names of other candidates to INEC and upon such submission INEC is obliged to accept.
The above nagging question requires not Yes or No answer. In my candid opinion, the answer can only be proffered from x-raying Sections 29(1), 31, 32(1) and 33 of the Electoral Act, 2022 vis-a-vis Section 78 and paragraph 15 of the 3rd Schedule to the 1999 Constitution Federal Republic of Nigeria (as altered) and Section 28(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022, Judicial authorities and other enabling laws.

Relevant Sections of the Electoral Act:

Section 28.—(1) The Commission shall, not later than 360 days before the day appointed for holding of an election under this Act, publish a notice in each State of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory —

(a) stating the date of the election; and
(b) appointing the place at which nomination papers are to be delivered.

Section 29.— (1) Every political party shall, not later than 180 days before the date appointed for a general election under this Act, submit to the Commission, in the prescribed Forms, the list of the candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections, who must have emerged from valid primaries conducted by the political party.

Section 31. A candidate may withdraw his or her candidature by notice in writing signed by him and delivered personally by the candidate to the political party that nominated him for the election and the political party shall convey such withdrawal to the Commission not later than 90 days to the election.

Section 32(1): the commission shall, at least 150 days before the day of the election, publish by displaying or causing to be displayed at the relevant office or offices of the commission and on the commission’s web site, a statement of the full names and addresses of all candidates standing nominated.

Section 33. A political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute its candidate whose name has been submitted under section 29 of this Act, except in the case of death or withdrawal by the candidate: Provided that in the case of such withdrawal or death of a candidate, the political party affected shall, within 14 days of the occurrence of the event, hold a fresh primary election to produce and submit a fresh candidate to the Commission for the election concerned.

CONSTITUTION FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA 1999 (AS ALTERED):
Section 78. The registration of voters and the conduct of elections shall be subject to the direction and supervision of Independent National Electoral Commission.

From the above cited provisions, INEC has unfettered powers to issue guidelines, time table and schedule of activities for 2023 General Election, and it is on this premise it issued time table, schedule of its activities on the 26th day of February, 2022 to regulate all the political parties activities including last day for replacement of the withdrawn candidates.

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Therefore, I am of the firm view that INEC time table, Guidelines and schedule of activities have same force with any enabling law and they run pari – pasu and all political parties are under obligation to comply with the said Time Table, Guidelines, and schedule of activities and it is in that regard all political parties sold their nomination forms, conducted primaries and forwarded the names of their candidates to INEC all within the stipulated period provided by the time table. The submission above is supported by the case of N.D.P. VS. I.N.E.C. (2012) 14 NWLR Part 1319 at page 176 particularly page 197 para D – F.
“The Time Table is Guideline with force of law; this is because any action taken outside the published time table is fatal to the political party involved. The activities and time schedule set out in the Time Table published are not directory”.

Based on the above decision and other relevant laws cited, it is beyond doubt that INEC Time Table is not an instruction or guide but a command which all Political parties must comply with.

Therefore it is an affront to the established principle of law for political parties to even contemplate substitution or replacement of their candidates after the expiration of the last day provided by INEC in its time table and schedule of activities for 2023 General Election and for INEC to accept such substitution or replacement.

The most amazing part of the Electoral Act which I find most interesting are Sections 31, 32(1) and 33 dealing with withdrawal of candidates, date of final display of candidates and changing candidates respectively. These three sections are key to the issue under discussion and it is against that background I devoted time to carefully and painstakingly read them, and in the end my understanding reveals that there is nowhere the “last day” is stated for replacement or changing of the withdrawn candidate. Section 31 squarely deals with notification of withdrawal to INEC while Section 33 pertains to conduct of Fresh primaries.

The sections of the law were reproduced at pages 1 and 2 for ease of reference.

While rubbing mind on these issues, Two very senior lawyers whom I respect much and are my mentors, principals and still working under them argued that the 90 days period for notification of withdrawal also applies to replacement, I told them that with respect, I’m imbued with contrary position, reason being that had the law makers intended that time to apply for replacement same should have been stated.

Secondly, I asked what if Notice of withdrawal is forwarded to INEC at the anniversary of the 90 days, which is still within the ambit of law for political parties to convey such letter of withdrawal to INEC, can the political parties still organize and conduct primaries to substitute candidate less than 90 days before the day of the general election, because section 31 states categorically that “Not later than 90 days the political parties shall convey such letter of withdrawal to INEC. This will as well give another room to argue that replacement or changing of candidates can be made less than 90 days before the date of the general election on the strength of submission of withdrawal letter at the anniversary of 90 days, because the party needs to arrange and conduct primaries thereafter then the window for replacement cannot be 90 days because section 33 empowered political parties to conduct fresh primaries within 14 days of the occurrence of the event.

It is apparent that drawing 14 days out of 90 days one can safely conclude that it will certainly be less than 90 days. It is a known fact in the entire Electoral Act, there is nowhere the “last day” for replacement of withdrawn candidate is stated.

Lastly, Section 32 (2) of the Electoral Act, 2022 mandates INEC to make final display of Names and Addresses of candidates of political parties at least 150 days before the date of General Election. It is therefore, my understanding that 90 days as contained in section 31 of the Act, cannot by all canon of interpretation be the last day for substitution or replacement of withdrawn candidate, reason being that it run contrary to the intendment of the legislature, and the whole essence of interpretation is to discover the meaning and intendment of the law makers taking the entire provisions in to consideration.

It is long settled principle of law that you cannot import into law that which is not stated. See the Supreme Court decision: in NDOMA EGBA V. CHUKWUOGOR (2004) 6 NWLR Part 869 page 382 particularly page 430 Paras F – H.

“……….There is no doubt that to use the common law principle of presumption of regularity to interpret entrenched constitutional right may be inappropriate. It is however erroneous to read into a clear and unambiguous constitutional provision what its does not embrace. The provision has to be interpreted strictly in accordance with the ordinary meaning of the word use without it being adorned, as it were, with ornamental words not therein to make it attractive to wider interpretation……..”

See also EBOIGBE V. N.N.P.C. (1994) 5 NWLR (Part 347) page 649.

Section 32(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 mandates INEC to make final publication of full names and addresses of all candidates standing nominated at least 150 days before the election.

It is clear from the above provision that INEC is required to make final publication of candidates in its offices and its website at least 150 days to the election and it was against that background INEC made about two publications in their offices of 36 States, its Headquarters and in its website before the 15th July, 2022 and 12th August, 2022 respectively so as to allow political parties to change and substitute their candidates where necessary before the final day for replacement.

Had the drafters of the Electoral Act, 2022 intended 90 days to be the last day for substitution or replacement they would not have stated at least 150 days to be the last day of final display of names and addresses of candidates in section 32(1).

It is long settled principle of law that to appreciate and have a fuller meaning of the law the statute shall be given community reading rather than isolated reading.

On this principle of law See the Supreme Court Decision in BELLO V. A.G. OYO STATE 1986 5 NWLR part 45 page 828 particularly 832.

“…….. in construing the provisions of an enactment, although it is the particular section that is being considered that should be the primary concern, the whole enactment should be construed as a whole…..”

Flowing from the above, It is palpably wrong to hold the view that political parties can substitute or replace their candidates at least 90 days to the election placing reliance on section 31 of the Electoral Act, 2022.

I have read extensively the Electoral Act, 2022 particularly Section 29, 31, 32, 33 and 34 and I found no clear and unambiguous provisions relating to last day of substitution or replacement of political parties candidate(s) and having no clear and specific date the wordings of the statutes should be given their ordinary meaning.

On this principle of law see OGBEBOR V. DANJUMA (2003) 15 NWLR Part 843 page 403 particularly paras D–G.

“it is the duty of Court to interpret the word of the law makers as used.”

I therefore, have no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that INEC has unfettered power to stipulate in its schedule of activities and Guidelines the last day for substitution/replacement of candidates as issued in its Time Table dated 26th day of February, 2022.

To sum it up I am of the firm view that INEC by section 78 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as altered and paragraph 15 of Third schedule to the said Constitution has unfettered power to issue Guidelines, Time Table and Schedule of Activities for 2023 General Election including stipulating last day for replacement or substitution of withdrawn candidate(s) of political parties.

It cannot be right to say that column 6 of INEC Time Table and schedule of Activities for 2023 General Election which fixes 15th July, 2022 as last day for replacement of Presidential and National Assembly Political Parties candidates and 12th of August, 2022 as last day for replacement of Governorship and State Houses of Assembly Political Parties candidates are in conflict with Electoral Act, 2022 or 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria as altered as there is nowhere the last day for replacement is specifically stated either in the Constitution or Electoral Act. Therefore, INEC by Section 78 and Paragraph 15 of 3rd Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of FRN has unfettered Power to organize and direct how the elections shall be conducted and it is on that strength INEC issued the said Time Table. See N.D.P VS. I.N.E.C supra.

Conclusion/Recommendation:

I will now therefore, without much ado answer that the window for replacement or substitution of Political parties’ candidates is deemed closed since the 15th July, 2022 and 12th August, 2022 respectively.

It is therefore, my humble advise that the National Assembly whenever the need arise for making further amendment, the “Last Day” for substitution or replacement of candidate(s) by Political parties be clearly and specifically spelt out in the Act.

Most obliged.

Abdul Adamu Fagge Esq., ACArb.
(Head of Chambers)
BASHIR, NASIRU (SAN) & CO.
(Member, Common Wealth Lawyers Association)
(Former Member National Executive Council Nigerian Bar Association),
(Former Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, Kano Branch)
08032846588
Abdulfagge57@gmail.com

Opinion

Nigeria Independence And The Boldness Of Buhari To Blow The Trumpet

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President Muhammad Buhari

 

By Bala Ibrahim.

It was late Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sakkwato, the former Premier of northern Nigeria, and the supreme political leader of the region that said, “You should blow your trumpet, because if you don’t, no one is going to blow it for you, as everyone is busy blowing his own”. Undoubtedly, the ambition of the Sardauna statement is to encourage people to tell their own success stories, particularly people that are vested with responsibilities. But for some people, perhaps because of modesty, or that behaviour of being relatively moderate, they don’t subscribe to the idea of blowing their trumpet. To do that they argue, is like being boastful about one’s achievements. Until recently, one of the people with such belief is Gen.Muhammadu Buhari rtd, and now President Muhammadu Buhari, PMB.

In the days when I was a reporter with the BBC, and prior to his transformation from a soldier to a politician, I was a regular visitor to him in Kaduna. Time without number, we had discussions on the sacrifices he made as a soldier, and the successes he recorded as a Governor, Minister and Head of state. Every time he mentions them, my instinct as a journalist, was to spur him to talk on the radio. I would say sir, why don’t you narrate these to me on the microphone. And his response was always NO. He would blushingly decline to speak by way of a formal interview, because according to him, some may think you are exaggerating your sense of importance, or your abilities for accomplishment.

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After countless abortive attempts, in one instance, I sought and succeeded in getting a note from him, to travel to Ilorin, and speak to his deputy at the Supreme Military Council then, late Gen.Tunde Idiagbon rtd. Lo and behold, I met him, but the situation wasn’t any different. In fact, Gen.Idiagbon issued me a threat, that if I insist on him blowing his trumpet, he would instruct for my immediate arrest, regardless of the introduction letter from his boss. I said take it easy sir, my intention is honourable. Like his boss, talking about your achievements, is akin to exaggerating your sense of importance, or your abilities for accomplishment.

But I am particularly happy with today, because, years after the death of Gen. Tunde Idiagbon, and on the occasion of the celebration of the 2022 Independence anniversary of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari has reversed his position on the issue of the blowing of the trumpet.

In an address to the nation this morning, PMB took time to score himself high, alongside his political party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, because as he said, in addition to the many achievements of his administration, and pursuant to the effective public financial management system put in place by his government, Nigeria succeeded in exiting two economic recessions. Sure, this was achieved because of the very practical and realistic monetary and fiscal measures employed by the government.

Not only had his administration given the desired priority to the agricultural sector through a series of incentives to micro, small and medium-scale enterprises that resulted in creating millions of jobs, as he mentioned, PMB was quick to blow his trumpet more, thus:

“Leading this initiative, the Central Bank of Nigeria’s intervention in a number of areas as well as the Anchor Borrowers Programme had created the required leverages for Nigerians towards self-sufficiency in food and the necessary attraction for farming as a business”.

After a detailed examination of some of the challenges facing the country, and the efforts of the Government at addressing them, including the thorny issue of the strike of the University lecturers, PMB returned his mouth to the trumpet, thus:

“In the past few years, we have witnessed and overcome a good number of challenges that would ordinarily have destroyed our nation. However, the indefatigable spirit of the Nigerian people has ensured that we overcome our challenges. It is in this spirit that I call on all of us to individually and collectively bring to the fore in dealing with all our development issues. I was called to serve, along with my team, I saw an opportunity to create a better Nigeria which we have done with the support of Nigerians. Almighty God and the good people of Nigeria supported us in laying a solid foundation for the Nigeria of our dreams.”

As a spin doctor, who is interested in projecting favourable interpretations of the activities of the government and the party in power, especially in the media, by this boldness, to blow the trumpet of his achievements, PMB had simply given me the best of the gifts that any President can give his people at a trying time like now.

Yes, although this is his last independence anniversary speech as an elected President, the speech would help in correcting some of the distortions, and the negative perceptions about his performance.

Hip Hip Hip! Hurrah Nigeria at 62. And Hurrah PMB, for changing your stance, on the issue of the blowing of the trumpet.

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Opinion

APC : The Time To Tame The Fanning Out Of Fake News

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Senator Abdullahi Adamu,APC National Chairman

 

By Bala Ibrahim.

For the best part of last night, and the early part of this morning, my phones were ringing non stop, and virtually all the calls were coming with questions for clarification. As one heading the bureaucratic arm in charge of media management of the party in power, where important decisions taken by the elected representatives of the party are passed to you to process, for onwards transmission to the public, as directed, such calls can come under the classification of the normal call of duty. But not when they emanate out of the intent to install in the media, an insolent and impudent information, by the friends of fake news. Yes, the friends of fake news.

I did my best addressing the media last night, mostly my colleagues in the Hausa service of the electronic media, but by the morning time, the queries have skyrocketed to something like a quiz of scepticism. Everyone is asking, some with doubts, about a letter sighted by the media, to the effect that the National Working Committee, NWC, of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, under the leadership of Sen. Abdullahi Adamu, as the chairman, had written, in an unpleasant language, to the Presidential candidate of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. As expected, in the eagerness to be the first to break news, some of my colleagues were quick to release the story, some, with nasty captions.

One of the moderate caption reads thus, APC Campaign Council List: Adamu Accuses Tinubu Of Side-lining NWC. It went on to say, “The chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Abdullahi Adamu has accused the party’s presidential candidate Bola Tinubu of appointing members of the Presidential Campaign Council without the approval of APC National Working Committee. Tinubu had on Friday unveiled a 422-man committee comprising political heavyweights and other notable members of the party to pilot the various sub-committees of the campaign council. However, days after releasing the list, Tinubu’s campaign council postponed its inauguration to accommodate other interests and stakeholders within the party”.

Some media houses went as far as releasing the purported nasty letter, which by implication means, the party has arrived at the junction of the rumoured rift, and the anticipated rupture.

A paragraph from the said wordings of the chairman reads, “It is against this background that the NWC received with astonishment and regret, the press release by the PCC on 23rd September, 2022, in which a purported list of appointees was announced, which effectively served as the approved roster of participants in the Party’s Presidential Campaign Council. The purported list not only came as a complete surprise to the NWC and the Party’s leadership, but also contravened the principles and purposes of the arrangements that you and I had led towards the adoption of the Organogram of the PCC, and its principal officials”- Sen. Abdullahi Adamu.

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My first quarrel is not with the content of the letter, but it’s qualification for authenticity, which ought to lie on the genuineness of the signature on it. And that gave way to my second, and most painful quarrel, because the letter in circulation, has not even been signed by anyone. It is a draft.

The last time I checked the dictionary, on the meaning of draft, it said, a preliminary version of a piece of writing. And my English teacher used to say, preliminary is the beginning, not the tentative, or fixed. It can change. Which means, even if there was the intention to fight, if there is a change of mind, the intention to fight can not be published as a fight.

No sooner than these agents of fake news had finished their work, than a release came from the Party, duly signed by the National Publicity Secretary, Bar. Felix Morka, viz:

APC PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN COUNCIL – SENATOR ABDULLAHI ADAMU DID NOT WRITE ASIWAJU BOLA AHMED TINUBU.

“Our attention has been drawn to a “DRAFT” letter in circulation purportedly written by His Excellency, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, the National Chairman of our great Party, addressed to His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Presidential Candidate of our great Party, expressing dissatisfaction over the recently released list of the Presidential Campaign Council (PCC). To be clear, the “DRAFT” letter did not emanate from the Party. An UNSIGNED letter that marks itself as a ‘DRAFT’ cannot and should not be attributed to its purported author. The National Chairman of our Party and our Presidential Candidate maintain cordial and effective communication channels, and enjoy full liberty of open and frank conversations on matters of interest to the Party and our Presidential Campaign. As such, an unsigned “DRAFT” letter of the kind in circulation is patently unnecessary and of no qualitative value to engagement between the Party and the PCC. We will not be distracted by the wishes and actions of detractors that wait gleefully but in vain for some kind of crisis to erupt between the Party and the PCC. We stand united, as a Party, in our resolve and commitment to execute a focused and issue-driven campaign to persuade Nigerians to renew our mandate in next year’s general election”.

As if acting with the instinct of a premonition, at the occasion of the signing of a peace accord today, which had in attendance virtually all the Presidential candidates for the 2023 elections, alongside their party chairmen or representatives, the chairman of the National Peace Committee and former Head of state, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, took time to address the issue of fake news, saying unlike in previous elections, where thuggery and violence were the major threats, in 2023, fake news is the major challenge. He said and I quote, “According to the latest fake news, the name of the winner of the Presidential election of 2023 has already been released, long before the ballots are cast”.

In my elementary days of training on Basic Journalism, one phrase that was repeatedly used, and made to resonate like a religious verse was, DONT BE THE FIRST TO GET IT WRONG.

My colleagues and I can do justice to the mission of the National peace committee, by refusing to be amongst the first to get it wrong, through the taming of the fanning out of fake news. And the best time to do it, is NOW.

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Opinion

What You Need To Know About Professor Iya Abubakar

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Professor Iya Abubakar

 

Sadiq Mohammed Mubi

Prof. Iya Abubakar, is from Adamawa state of Northeastern Nigeria, the first-rated Mathematician Of Africa who  became Professor Of Mathematics at the Age Of 28.

Iya Abubakar had his first class in mathematics at London University (University College Ibadan) in the ’50s,  and completed a Doctorate Degree at Cambridge University, England in the 60s.

Professor Iya Abubakar was the only Nigerian appointed as a Professor in the Department of Mathematics, ABU Zaria, at the age of 28 in 1963.

A first class graduate of Mathematics at the University of Ibadan, he is the first Northerner to earn a PhD in any field when he earned it at the University of Cambridge.

He became Head of Department, Mathematics and Computer Science, ABU Zaria, at the age of 32 (a record in the Nigerian University system).

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Second indigenous Vice Chancellor of ABU Zaria, at the age of 40 and retired from academics at the age of 44.

His academic productivity suffered a lot when he became Vice Chancellor (President) of the University.

Biography and Academic Carrier

Iya Abubakar was born on 14 December 1934 at Boloko, Belel District, Maiha Local Government Area of Adamawa state. He attended Barewa College Zaria, University College Ibadan (later  became the University of Ibadan) and earned a PhD at the University of Cambridge in England.

He worked as a visiting Professor at the University of Michigan in 1965 – 1966, before being appointed as Professor of Mathematics at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria at the age of 28, in 1967.

He held this position until 1975, as well as a visiting professorship at the City University of New York from 1971-72. In 1975, he was appointed the Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University  Zaria, a position he held until 1978.

Prof. Iya Abubakar is exceptionally gifted, genius, talented, an industry of knowledge, the best of the best  and second to none.

Prof. Iya Abubakar is no doubt one of the finest brains to have come out of the North, whose legacies in academia are worth celebrating.

The people of “SABONDALE” comprised of Madagali, Michika, Mubi North/  South and Maiha Local Government Areas are indeed proud of their son ( Iya Abubakar) who is an elder statesman.

Youth of the 21st century may find it difficult to refill the vacuum created by GOD’s wishes, when death comes, only GOD knows.    “Allah ya bashi lafiya da  cikawa da imani”.  “Esteemed is better than silver or gold”.

Prof. Iya Abubakar was a director of the Central Bank of Nigeria from 1972 to 1975.

Later career

After the regime of Lt-Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo handed power back to an elected Government in 1979, Iya Abubakar was appointed as the Federal Minister of Defence, holding this office until 1982. From 1993 – 2005, he was the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of the

University of Ibadan.

In the late 1990s, he served as the Director of  National Mathematical Centre at Abuja, and chaired both the National Manpower Commission of Nigeria and the non-governmental Africa International Foundation for Science and Technology.

Iya Abubakar was elected Senator for the Adamawa North constituency of Adamawa State, Nigeria at the start of the Nigerian Fourth Republic, running on the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) platform.

He took office on 29 May 1999.

He was re-elected in April 2003. After taking his seat in the Senate in June 1999 – 2007. He was appointed to committees on Public Accounts, Banking & Currency (chairman), Commerce and Finance & Appropriation.

Iya Abubakar has also chaired the Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriation [6] and the Senate Committee on Science and Technology.

Prof. Iya Abubakar, holds a traditional title in Mubi Emirate Council, Adamawa state, as the Galadima of Mubi.

The great Professor, has since retired from active participation in public office and is now living a quiet private life

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