Constitutional lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, has faulted the withdrawal of resignation letters by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, AbubakarMalami, SAN and his Labour and Productivity counterpart, Dr Chris Ngige.
A few hours after a valedictory meeting with the president on Friday, the minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, said that he had withdrawn his presidential aspiration and would remain in office as minister.
Ngige said this in a statement he signed and issued to newsmen on Friday in Abuja.
He said after having an audience with the president, he had decided to remain in office “in order to enable me to 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.”
The minister said that he had since communicated his decision to the president and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
Malami was also reported to have rescinded his decision to contest for Kebbi State governorship in other for him to remain in office as Minister of Justice.
Falana, on Friday, however, said the withdrawal offended Section 306 (2) of the 1999 Constitution.
In a statement, Falana claimed nine ministers in the cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari resigned their appointments to pursue political ambitions, noting that only a re-appointment by the President, could bring them back to the Federal Executive Council, if cleared by the Nigerian Senate again.
He 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.”
Pointing out the alleged constitutional lacuna in walking back their resignation decision, Falana explained; “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 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.”