“The governor shall not, during the period when he holds office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever,” said Senator Ovie Omo-Agege as he quotes the provisions of Section 183 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
Senator Omo-Agege, who represents Delta State Central senatorial district and doubles as the Deputy President of the Senate, believes the law does not forbid a sitting governor from holding another position.
He, however, clarified that such a position must not be salaried executive office, noting the situation where a governor could lead a committee or group such as the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF).
This was in reaction to the controversy over the appointment of Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, as the Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court affirmed Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of the APC as the winner of the October 2020 governorship election in Ondo State.
A seven-man panel of the apex court, in a split judgement of four to three, agreed with the decision of the Court of Appeal in Akure that struck out the appeal of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the poll, Mr Eyitayo Jegede, for lack of merit.
The appellants had asked the court to sack Governor Akeredolu, saying his nomination form was signed by a sitting governor.
According to them, the suit was filed in line with the constitutional provision that forbids a sitting governor from holding executive positions outside their statutory position as governors.
But in his legal opinion as a lawyer, Senator Omo-Agege disagreed with the position of the opposition party.
He stressed that it was absolutely impossible and untenable to argue that the provisions of Section 183 barred a governor from being a chairman or member of a caretaker committee set up by his or her political party.
Read the full text of the lawmaker’s opinion below:
LEGAL OPINION ON THE JUDGMENT OF THE SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA IN JEGEDE V. AKEREDOLU AND THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 183 OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AS IT AFFECTS THE APC SCHEDULED CONGRESSES NATIONWIDE
Yesterday, Wednesday 28th July 2021, the Supreme Court delivered its judgment dismissing the appeal initiated by Eyitayo Jegede against the election of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu.
Surprisingly, mischief-makers for obviously nefarious intentions, resort to misinterpret the said judgment vis-a-vis the purport of section 183 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), as it affects the APC Congresses scheduled for Saturday.
Without much ado, it is important to state that the majority decision of the Supreme Court in Jegede’s case, emphatically dismissed the appeal and did not consider the issue of the provisions of Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution, neither did the majority decision make any comments on the competence of Governor Mai Mala Bumi as the Chairman of the APC Caretaker Committee.
The appeal was dismissed on the ground of competence or lack thereof for the non-joinder of a necessary party to the suit at the lower court. It is, therefore, disingenuous, unsound, and mischievous to attempt to misinform the reading public of what was not the ratio decidendi of the judgment of the court.
Even if the apex court had considered the provisions of Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution, the majority panel would still have dismissed the appeal. Having established the above point, it is necessary to proceed to clear the gross misconception of the provisions of section 183 of the 1999 Constitution.
The sole question that begs for consideration is whether the appointment of Governor Mai Mala Bumi as the APC Caretaker Committee Chairman offends the provisions of Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended)?
In answering the above question, it is pertinent to reproduce the provisions of Section 183 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) as follows:
“The governor shall not, during the period when he holds office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever.”
In view of the foregoing constitutional provisions, the question becomes: Is the appointment of a Governor to Chair a Caretaker COMMITTEE of his political party, same not being an ‘Executive Office’ in respect of which he is to be paid remuneration, incompetent? Can it be said that a State Governor who is the Chairman of the Governors Forum of Nigeria is occupying an “Executive office”? Can it also be argued that the President cannot be appointed as the Chairman of the Africa Union?
From the explicit provision of Section 183 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), it is absolutely impossible and untenable to argue that the provisions of Section 183 bar a Governor from being a Chairman or member of a Caretaker Committee set up by his or her political party. More so, the position of the Chairman of a Caretaker Committee cannot by any sense of imagination, logic, or simple common sense be classified as being a salaried Executive office.
It is important at this point to restate the fact, that the Caretaker Committee was duly constituted by the NEC of the party and given a specific mandate to put necessary measures in place to conduct a seamless elective National Convention.
There is no law under our legal jurisprudence that bars or prohibits a Governor who is a member of a political party and won elections under the political party from carrying out specific assignments on behalf of his party. How this will amount to holding an Executive office is beyond every stretch of human comprehension.
In the light of the foregoing exposition, it is humbly and firmly stated that Section 183 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) only bars a Governor from holding Executive positions like being a Minister, or any other executive position for which he shall be paid for. It does not by any scintilla of imagination, render the appointment of Governor Bumi as APC Caretaker Committee Chairman incompetent and will not in any way, affect the legality or competence of the APC scheduled Congresses.
Senator Ovie Omo-Agege
Deputy President of the Senate & Obarisi of Urhoboland