Says Senate is acting a clever script
A Lagos-based lawyer and human rights advocate, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa has said that Nigeria is slipping into a failed state as it has neither a president nor senate president and by February 10, it will have no chief justice, even in acting capacity.
In a widely circulated statement issued in Lagos and sent to media houses, Adegboruwa based his argument on the current state of affairs in the country occasioned by the inability of President Muhammadu Buhari to resume duties on February 6 as contained in his earlier vacation letter to the Senate.
He quoted Section 145 of 1999 Constitution as saying: “Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President.”
He argued that since the president did not return on February 6 as he promised and the letter he ‘purportedly’ transmitted to the National Assembly informing of his extended vacation on grounds of ill health had not been read on the floor of the Senate to form its votes and proceedings, the legal capacity of Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo ended midnight Monday, February 6, 2017.
He stated: “Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President.”
“When traveling in January, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari personally transmitted a letter to the National Assembly, notifying them of a specific days vacation, which ended on February 6, 2017. This letter was duly read and became part and parcel of the Votes and Proceedings of the National Assembly.
“The president did not return on February 6 as he promised but he has purportedly taken an extended vacation, on ground of ill health, through a letter they was said to have been transmitted to the National Assembly. That “letter” has not been seen by anyone, in order to determine its authenticity and its real author.
“The “letter” has not been read on the floors of either chambers of the national assembly, to make it part of its Votes and Proceedings. In effect, the legal capacity of Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, ends midnight February 6, 2017,” he said.
Adegboruwa wondered why the senate would “hurriedly adjourn its sitting” even before the president’s letter of extending his vacation could be read.
“Somehow, as if acting out a clever script, the Senate had hurriedly adjourned it sitting to February 24, ever before the “letter” for an extended vacation arrived. So legally, the “letter” is cooling somewhere in the National Assembly, just another letter, without any force of law. A letter transmitted to the National Assembly must be read at the plenary session to become binding,” he said.
Adegboruwa also talked about the ‘missing’ senate saying: “The President of the Senate is facing multiple trials, bordering on failure to declare his assets. If he is convicted, he would have to step down as Senate President.”
On the ‘missing’ chief justice the legal practitioner said there is neither the president nor acting president handle the matter.
He said since the acting president did not forward the name of Justice Walter Onnoghen to the Senate before February 6, there is no one to do so anymore, even if the National Judicial Council (NJC) re-nominates him for the office in compliance with section 231(5) of the 1999 constitution.
He quoted Section 231(5) of 1999 Constitution as saying: “Except on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council, an appointment pursuant to the provisions of subsection (4) of this section shall cease to have effect after the expiration of three months from the date of such appointment, and the President shall not re-appoint a person whose appointment has lapsed.”
He recalled that on November 9, 2016, Justice Mahmoud Mohammed, CJN, retired as the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
He said the NJC recommended Justice Onnoghen but Buhari ignored the recommendation and proceeded to swear him in acting capacity for three months.
Until he traveled for his 190-day vacation, the President did not forward the nomination of Honourable Justice Walter Onnoghen to the Senate, for confirmation as substantive CJN. Up until the time that the tenure of the Acting President will expire this night, he did not forward the name and so he cannot do so after tonight.
The tenure of the Acting CJN will lapse on February 10, 2017. As of this night, the NJC has not met to consider recommending Justice Onnoghen for renewal as Acting CJN. The NJC cannot do this after February 6, 2017, as there will be no President or Acting President, to receive such recommendation,” said Adegboruwa.
The lawyer maintained that should “this remain the true state of affairs, it means until the president resumes or the Senate breaks off from its vacation on February 24 to read the president’s second letter transmitting power to his deputy, the country shall run without either acting or substantive head of state. Also, at the expiration of the acting tenure of Justice Onnoghen on February 10, the judiciary shall remain without a clear leadership, leaving the legislature as the only legally functional arm of government.”
Meanwhile, the former attorney general and commissioner for justice in Abia State, Mr. Awa Kalu has disagreed with Adegboruwa on the issue of ‘missing’ president saying there is no vacuum because the tenure of the acting president still subsists.
The Guarding quoted Kalu as saying: “Only the Senate president or his spokesman duly recognised by the Senate can comment that they don’t have an authentic letter from the president. The Senate is an institution which has an office and secretariat. It is not a house where you can lock and go away. The information we have is that the president has extended his vacation and has informed the Senate accordingly. So, I don’t have a contrary opinion. Section 145 of the 1999 constitution does not say it must be read on the floor of the house.”
Similarly, Lagos lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, said it is not necessary that the president’s letter extending his vacation is read on the floor of the national assembly before it takes effect.
“It doesn’t need the approval of the Senate. All the law requires is that he transmits a letter to the Senate and once he does that, it is alright,” he said.