• Thursday, February 29, 2024
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Presidential 25% requirement: Why FCT voters are special

Presidential 25% requirement: Why FCT voters are special

There have been arguments and counter arguments by the public, especially legal experts about Section 134 (1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) which stipulates that a presidential candidate must attain or score a majority of votes cast in a presidential election, where two or more candidates are involved, and at least 25% in two-third of the 36 States and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Nigeria to meet the constitutional requirement to be declared as duly elected as President of Nigeria.

This writer is not a legal practitioner and as such has no intention of joining in the argument with lawyers about the contentious Section 134 (1) & (2) of the constitution.

However, as a public affairs analyst, I have deemed it fitE to make my prognosis or hypothesis which appears logical to my perspective. Since Nigeria has 36 States and the FCT, Abuja, a presidential candidate is required to score a simple majority of votes and at least 25% votes in 24 States plus the FCT.

The framers of the constitution had it in mind that the FCT is not a state, and that’s why the Section was written as two-thirds of the 36 States and FCT. It’s mandatory that a presidential candidate must score 25% votes in 24 States and the FCT.

Those who postulate that it’s not compulsory that a presidential candidate must score a minimum of 25% votes in the FCT are utterly wrong. As earlier stated, Nigeria has 36 States and the FCT. The FCT is not a state, the FCT has its own peculiarities clearly distinct from those of the states.

The FCT is under the administration of the Nigerian President who appoints a minister or at times two ministers to oversee the affairs of the FCT. The FCT could be regarded as a ministry because it has a Federal Permanent Secretary as its head of administration. The FCT has no governor, state assembly members, unlike the states. The FCT has just one senatorial district unlike the states. Since the president is deemed as the head of the FCT who administers its affairs through his ministers, shouldn’t the president be required to score at least 25% votes in the FCT which he oversees?

Lagos State was the capital of Nigeria at a time, but Lagos is quite distinct from the FCT. Even though the Presidents of Nigeria and Heads of State resided in Lagos as the capital of the country, yet Lagos had elected governors and military administrators who administered the affairs of the state without the direct control of the Presidents or Heads of the State.

The recent general election had the ignoble record of the first time that a presidential winner did not attain or score 25% votes in the FCT since the Second Republic or even independence. For instance, MKO Abiola, Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari all scored at least 25% votes in the FCT to be declared as president unlike Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who was declared as president-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

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The FCT voters are special voters because they do not have the privilege of being governed by a governor unlike voters in the rest of the 36 States of the country. Except the FCT is constitutionally converted as state and also given all the privileges accrued to states, they remain special voters. The FCT does not attend Federal Allocation Account Committee (FAAC) meetings unlike states. The fiscal budget of the FCT is usually prepared by the president through his ministers and passed by the National Assembly unlike states where such budgets are passed by the State Houses of Assembly.

The FCT voters may have the same permanent voter cards (PVCs) just like the rest of voters in Nigeria, but they are special due to the reasons aforementioned. Those who framed the constitution knew that it was possible for a presidential candidate to get all the majority votes that he requires from just one or two most populous states like Lagos and Kano to be elected as president if the Section 134 (1) and (2) was not inserted into the constitution.

In conclusion, a presidential candidate must score at least 25% votes in the FCT to be eligible to be declared as duly elected because the same FCT is literally one of his ministries which he oversees as president. Anything short of that is an aberration, a nullity, illegitimate and illegal because doing otherwise will set a bad precedent.

Maduako, writes from Owerri via [email protected]