Nigerian Governors want National Assembly to Empower VP

The Governors forum will meet with the National Assembly to pass a Resolution formally recognising the vice-president as the acting Presdent. They have already presented their Resolution to the Vice-president. They want Goodluck Jonathan to start acting as president even without President Yar’adua transmitting a letter in harmony with Section 145 of the Constitution.

The decision was taken after a meeting of the Governors Forum in Abuja today.

Addressing the Press after the meeting, Kwara State Governor and chairman of the forum, said they have taken the decisision to end the current impasse in the country; “We now agree to meet with the leadership of the National Assembly to pass a resolution recognising the Vice President as the acting president,”

Governor Liyol Imoke corroborated the statement saying that the decision is to maintain the peace and political harmony of the country.

Conference of Speakers of State House of Assembly, also  on Friday passed a Resolution asking President Yar’adua to transmit a letter to the National Assembly in harmony with said Section 145 of the 1999 Constituttion.

Ysterday, the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji said President Umaru Yar’Adua will hand over to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan after transmitting a letter of his medical vacation to the National Assembly.

The revelation was upon pressure from the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, caucus which Wednesday night, extended its ultimatum for President Yar’Adua to transmit the letter to February 15.  The PDP senators also vowed not to accept any executive communication from Vice President Goodluck Jonathan in his present capacity, sources at the Wednesday night closed door meeting between the PDP national leadership and the senators disclosed.

Meanwhile, National Chairman of PDP, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, and some other top party officials are to embark on a trip to Saudi Arabia on Sunday to meet President Yar‘Adua to secure the letter. Ogbulafor told PDP senators during the meeting at the residence of the Senate president that visas for the trip had already been obtained as he pleaded with the aggrieved senators to extend the submission of their resolution by one week.

Abba-Aji who had a secret meeting with Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, which was also attended by the Special Assistant to the President on Legislative Matters, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, said that since President Yar’Adua left for Saudi Arabia, it was only the Aide de Camp, ADC, Colonel Mustapha Onoyiveta and the Chief Security Officer, CSO, Mr Yusuf Tilde that have been talking to most top officials.

Abba-Aji said: “I am in touch with Mr. President, through the ADC and CSO because the part of the hospital where the President is staying is different from other part of the hospital and that is actually where the King of Saudi Arabia himself if he needs treatment will stay.

So the security and protocol arrangements are controlled from the king’s palace in Riyadh so it is not like a general hospital that you can walk in or walk out from. Because of this we are communicating regularly through the ADC and the CSO and he is aware of everything that is happening in the NASS. The National Assembly’s resolution they have sent is on its way, and he will transmit.

The President I know will transmit the letter. He has never disrespected resolution and there is also a court ruling, he will weigh both and he will act wisely there is no doubt about that.”

He, however, failed to be specific on the possible time for the transmission.

Fielding questions from State House Correspondents, Abba-Aji said: “the President has never shied away from making decisions. He will weigh the Senate resolution against the court ruling, and he will do what in his view is best for this country.

Communiqué read by the chairman of the Forum, Dr. Bukola Saraki

“The forum resolved to meet the leadership of the National Assembly with a view to urging them to pass a resolution to formally recognise the Vice President as the Acting President in the interest of the nation.” The meeting which started by 8pm, Thursday night, came to a close at about 12.45 am on Friday morning. It had only two items on the agenda; the state of the nation, especially in relation to the continued absence of President Yar’Adua who is currently receiving treatment in Saudi Arabia and the recent Jos crisis. According to the communiqué, “the Forum calls on all arms of government to continue to give full and total support to the Acting President until the President returns in the interest of our dear and beloved country Nigeria.” 

The Kwara State Governor also noted that the governors “appreciate the provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) in relation to the office of the President and Vice President. The Forum also identified with the judgements of the courts on the same and agrees that the position of acting (president) could either be verbal or written and the Vice President has been appropriately acting admirably.” The Senate’s decision is in spite of spirited moves by chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, to dissuade senators from taking further action on the January 27 resolution by the Upper House. The upper legislative chamber had urged President Yar’Adua to formally notify the National Assembly of his medical vacation in line with Section 145 of the 1999 constitution. Ogbulafor’s plea was made Wednesday night during a closed door meeting the PDP’s National Working Committee held with the party’s caucus in the Senate at Senate President, David Mark’s official residence in Abuja. 

Also, the governors condemned the recent sectarian crisis in Jos, Plateau State and declared that the crisis was not religious, but ethnic and political. The meeting therefore called on all state governors as chief security officers of their respective states to take appropriate measures to forestall a reoccurrence of such crisis in their states. The governors resolved to set up a relief fund which will procure relief materials for distribution to victims and displaced persons in the state. The picture was however unclear at the House of Representatives where, THISDAY gathered, the members remained divided on the issue of the necessity of a vacation letter from the president to the National Assembly. The members had simply resolved to send a delegation to the Saudi Arabia hospital to ascertain the true state of affairs with regard to the president’s ailment. 

Thirty one governors some of whom include the following attended the meeting: Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola (Osun State); Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala (Oyo); Gov Usman Dakingari (Kebbi); Gov Murtala Nyako (Adamawa); Gov Ibrahim Shekarau (Kano); Gov Gabriel Suswam (Benue), Gov. Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers); Gov Ibrahim Shema (Katsina); Gov Aliyu Doma (Nasarawa). Others at the meeting include: Gov Babangida Aliyu (Niger); Gov. Segun Oni (Ekiti); Gov Godswill Akpabio (Akwa-Ibom); Gov Liyel Imoke (Cross River); Gov Ikedi Ohakim (Imo); Gov Martin Elechi (Ebonyi) and Gov Sullivan Chime (Enugu). Also, the leadership of the North-West Zone of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has endorsed the resolution of the Governors Forum seeking strict compliance with provisions of the 1999 Constitution to allow for the Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to be declared Acting President, pending the return of President Umaru Yar’Adua from medical vacation.

National Vice Chairman for North-West Zone, Dr. Danladi Sankara told THISDAY in Kano yesterday that the position taken by the Governors was a proactive measure to resolve the constitutional issues raised by the President’s absence from the country on medical ground. He said: “I agree with the Governors that the Vice President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has lived up to his constitutional duties in the absence of the President, pointing out that there was no time a vacuum existed in the presidency on the account of Yar’Adua’s absence. Sankara stressed:

 “We firmly endorse the position of the 36 State Governors and that of the 19 Northern Governors which resolved on the need for adherence to the provisions of the Constitution to declare Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President pending the full recovery of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. 

“The position taken by the Governors was a validation of the earlier position of our eminent leaders such as former President Shehu Shagari, General Yakubu Gowon and other prominent Nigerians who called for restraint and strict adherence to the provisions of the Constitution. It is a very simple issue that was over-politicised”. The PDP Zonal Chairman emphasised. He pointed out that the Vice President has proved a responsible and trustworthy leader having performed creditably to ensure continuity in governance even without Yar’adua. “The Vice President has been a trustworthy and responsible leader who refused to be distracted by focusing on his duties that ensured continuity. The PDP has given him full backing. “I have always made a strong case for us as a people to take lesson from the personal disposition of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua which is tilted towards the promotion of the rule of law.” 

In a further  development, a BBC report today says:

Ill Nigeria leader ‘to step back’


Nigeria’s ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua will write a letter handing power over to his vice-president, his adviser has told the BBC.

The letter, formally informing the Senate that Mr Yar’Adua is on “medical vacation”, automatically means his deputy becomes acting president.

The president’s allies have previously resisted calls for him to step aside.

He has been in a hospital in Saudi Arabia since November, prompting fears of power vacuum and street protests.

The president is suffering from an inflammation of the lining around the heart and has long suffered from kidney problems.

Nigeria’s powerful state governors have said they believe Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan should be acting president.

The BBC’s Caroline Duffield in Lagos says Nigeria’s political struggle over the president’s fitness to rule may be nearing an endgame.

The president’s special adviser on legislative affairs, Abba Aji, did not say when Mr Yar’Adua would write the letter but he said there would be no “undue delay”.

Yar’Adua absence still rankles

For weeks, Nigeria has been beset with rumours and hoaxes over whether the president is alive or dead, our correspondent says.

His failure to transfer powers to his deputy before he left created a power vacuum – in which fear and false reports flourished, she says.

Newspapers said the president was brain dead – or struck dumb.

There were apparently official statements claiming the president was discharged from hospital. They later turned out not to be true.

Political tensions have been high – government business has stalled and legislation been frozen and cracks have appeared in the uneasy peace in the oil-producing Niger Delta.

Cabinet split

Earlier this week, the first signs of a split emerged in Nigeria’s cabinet, when Information Minister Dora Akunyili urged her colleagues to admit that the president was no longer fit to govern.

But she was shouted down in the cabinet meeting, government sources told the BBC.

The federal high court has ruled that there is no constitutional requirement for the president to hand over power when he is abroad receiving medical treatment.

But he now appears to have given in to all the pressure.

Nigeria’s split between the mainly Muslim north and the mainly Christian south has complicated the issue, analysts say.

Northern power-brokers may be reluctant to see Mr Yar’Adua, a northerner, hand over power to Vice-President Jonathan, from the south, before the next scheduled presidential elections in 2011.

Since the return to civilian rule, power has usually rotated between the regions.



23 November 2009 goes to hospital in Saudi Arabia

26 November Presidential doctors say he has pericarditis – inflammation of the heart lining

23 December First court case filed urging him to step down

5 January 2010 Two more court cases filed, rights group wants president declared “missing”

12 January President gives first interview from Saudi Arabia

27 January Cabinet declares president fit

29 January Court says no need for formal transfer of power