A group led by human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, has stated that the decision of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, to withdraw the resignation letters they tendered to President Muhammadu Buhari is illegal and violates the Nigerian constitution.
The group, Alliance on Surviving Covid-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), noted in a statement on Friday that if the ministers were to reappointed at all, they had to, as required by Section 147 of the Constitution, face the Senate for fresh screening and confirmation.
Malami, Ngige and seven other ministers had reportedly resigned from the Buhari cabinet as directed by the President, going by their 2023 political ambitions.
While Malami was interested in the Kebbi governorship race, Ngige was one of the presidential aspirants of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress.
However, the country witnessed a sudden twist on Friday when Malami said he had withdrawn from the Kebbi governorship race and Ngige also said in a release that he had buried his 2023 ambition.
The two hence stated that they remained in the cabinet of the President after withdrawing their resignation letters.
Reacting, the Falana-led group noted that such a step was illegal and violates the constitution.
ASCAB said, “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 Chris Ngige were reported to have withdrawn their letters of resignation after the farewell meeting. Such withdrawal is illegal as it is constitutes a gross contravention of section 306 (2) of the Constitution which stipulates 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.
“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.”