CONSTITUTIONAL and human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) has asserted that the purported withdrawal of resignation letters by Dr Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, and Abubakar Malami, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, after they were submitted to the President was illegal and constitutes a gross contravention of section 306 (2) of the Nigerian Constitution, as amended.
Falana stated this in a statement he issued on Friday, where he noted that having resigned, the two ministers cannot just change their minds and resume their jobs as cabinet ministers.
Both Ngige and Malami had previously declared interest to contest for the office of the President on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and had reportedly bought the party’s Expression of Interest and Nomination forms at the rate of 100 million naira each.
Ngige however recanted on Friday stating that he had changed his mind and no longer interested in the presidential race. In a press statement he personally signed, Ngige said he took the decision after meeting with President Buhari and consulting widely with his family, constituents, supporters and well-wishers.
He disclosed that his decision to withdraw from the race has been communicated to the President and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
“Having also consulted widely with my family, constituents, supporters and well-wishers, it is my pleasure to announce the withdrawal of my interest and earlier decision to contest the office of the President in the 2023 general election.
“As a result of this, I will NOT be participating in any of the internal party processes of the said election, starting with the primary. I took this momentous decision firstly in the overall interest of the nation, in order to enable me concentrate on my job, and assist the President and the Government, weather the difficult last lap, in the life of the administration and secondly for other family reasons.
“My constituents, political associates and well-wishers across the country are by this statement informed of this latest decision, which also has the blessing and support of the overwhelming majority, hence supersedes any other interest, personal or otherwise.”
According to Falana, to turn around to purport to have changed their minds after resigning and the resignation accepted by the appointive authority is illegal and unconstitutional.
Falana argued that such withdrawal of resignation as done by Ngige and Malami constitutes a gross contravention of section 306 (2) of the Constitution, which requires that, “The resignation of any person from any office established by this Constitution shall take effect when the writing signifying the resignation is received by the authority or person to whom it is addressed or by any person authorised by that authority or person to receive it.”
Falana further stated: “At the last Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday, May 11, 2022, President Muhammadu Buhari directed all ministers and other political appointees who aspire to contest for elective offices in the 2023 General Elections to resign their appointments.
“In compliance with the directive, nine Ministers resigned their appointments. The former ministers are Rotimi Amaechi, Godswill Akpabio, Ogbonnaya Onu, Timipre Sylva, Chris Ngige, Abubakar Malami (SAN), Uche Ogah, Pauline Tallen and Chief Tayo Alasoadura.
“In a farewell meeting held with the former ministers on Friday, May 13, 2022, President Buhari thanked them for serving the nation sacrificially, ‘with dignity and honour’.
“While wishing them success in the upcoming elections and in future endeavours the President commended them for their decision and courage to contest for elective offices and their compliance with his directive.
“Having resigned from the Buhari administration Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN and Dr. Chris Ngige were reported to have withdrawn their letters of resignation after the farewell meeting.”
Falana stressed that “Since the resignation of the former Ministers has taken effect, they cannot return to the cabinet either on their own volition or on the directive of the President.
“The resignation of the Ministers is not a cabinet reshuffle. It is akin to the removal of the former Ministers by the President.
“Therefore, if the former Ministers are going to be reappointed the President is required by section 147 of the Constitution to submit names to the Senate for fresh screening and confirmation.”