On the 23rd of November 2009, rumours abound that the President of Nigeria Mr. Umaru Yar’adua had been flown to Saudi Arabia for the third time this year.
Following strong rumours that he was in actual fact dead, the information minister Mrs Dora Akunyili and the special adviser on media affairs, Segun Adeniyi, informed Nigerians three days later that the President was suffering from acute pericarditis, a heart condition but assured us that he was recovering and would return to the country within a week.
The duo also publicly stated that a letter had not been sent to the National Assembly informing them of the President’s absence and confirmed that an official handover would not be necessary as the president was expected to return within two weeks.
Since that date we have had various conflicting messages from the presidency which include; “the president has made a full recovery and will be back within a couple of weeks” , “the president can rule from anywhere for a whole year and even contest the 2011 election from wherever he is”, “all necessary documents are being sent to Saudi Arabia for approval and have been returned signed” etc.
These comments have been issued intermittently through the media by the Minister of Justice Mr. Michael Aondoakaa, Minister of Information Mrs Dora Akunyili, the Secretary General to the Federation Mr. Mahmud Yayale, the President’s sister, mother and brother. At one point the Minister of Justice even promised that a video conference would be arranged so that Nigerians can see that the President is recovering rapidly. None of these promises have materialized and the foreign media and online news blogs have repeatedly stated that the President will not be returning in the nearest future and that in fact he is in a vegetative state.
Various pressure groups including the G53 have called for the resignation of the President but the calls were condemned by the government and instead the Senate President and the Vice President continually called for prayers for the recovery of our ailing President. During this period the Vice President has chaired the weekly Federal Executive Council meetings and approved the award of contracts and other necessary documents.
Today Nigerians were informed that the principal secretary David Edevbhie travelled to Saudi Arabia and has obtained the President’s signature on the N353 billion supplementary appropriation bill. This news has come as a total shock to Nigerians who are incensed by the apparent fraudulent nature of this claim. The time has come to ask the Nigerian government to treat Nigerian citizens with respect and on that basis we demand a response to the following:
1. Full disclosure on the true position of the President’s health which can be effectively communicated by televising a video conference with him in Saudi Arabia so that Nigerians can determine whether or not he is in a fit state to review and sign a 400 page document.
2. Why has the President not signed a letter to the National Assembly informing them officially of the President’s absence and giving the Vice President the authority to act on his behalf as provided in the constitution under S.145.
3. How does the Presidency intend to swear in the new Chief Justice on the 31st of December 2009 when the tenure of the current Chief Justice will expire since there is neither a president nor an acting president in office?
4. What is the legal basis of all the approvals that the Vice President has signed in the past month considering that there has been no official handover? What section of the constitution permits this?
Nigerians are no longer prepared to sit back and accept unconstitutional acts perpetrated by government officials in whom we have placed our trust to represent our collective interests.
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On CJ swearing in a new CJ, www.elombah.com says:
The Oath’s Act of 1990 provides in the second schedule the range of public officers that are required to take oath, nature of oaths and the corresponding public officials to administer the oaths. For instance, the Chief Justice of the Federation is required by that law to take oath of allegiance, to be administered by either the President of Nigeria or the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
So is Aondoakaa correct?
He is and he is not. He is if we apply the literal interpretation of the Oath’s Act.
He is not if we interpret OR as meaning in the absence of the President.
Well then if the Act says the CJ could, then he is right but He is not because Oath’s Act is supposed to be a secondment to the constitutional role. Having CJN, Oath’s Act stipulates that the president that appoints the CJN finishes up what he has started.
What am saying is that this matter would still be taken to court for interpretation
We could well validly assert that The Oaths’ Act vests the swearing duty in this instance on the president by tradition. The CJN option is a distant possibility. Is Aondoakaa by this, telling us that Yar’adua is now unable or incapacitated to perform his function?
We could also validly argue that the constitution does not explicitly say the president alone should swear in the CJ?
The Oath’s act also says the CJN could. Therefore the argument could be that the Oaths Act support the constitution and fills the lacuna. What the constitution provides for in the 7th schedule is the words of oath-taking. So the point could be made that the CJ by virtue of the Oaths Act could swear in a new CJ, perfectly legal!
We are talking legality here, the question is this: Could present CJ swear in a new CJ in law?
But look at this scenario: Assuming the CJN is dead and a new CJN is to be sworn in, who does that?
If a CJN is dead, obviously acting CJN is appointed. Then, in the event that a substantive CJN is to be sworn, is it the acting CJN that should swear him in?
So what we are angry at is this: Does it mean that Yar’adua is now incapacitated not to perform his function again? If yes, let him notify the National assembly so that the VP could assume those functions. It is barbaric though legal that we have VP who should be discharging the functions of the President and yet the CJN is performing a function that he should be doing.
It is a grotesque distortion of the law
They are looking at ways to prevent Jonathan Goodluck from assuming the reigns of governance.
Yes, the Oath’s Act permits the CJN to swear in another CJN but in the absence of the president. Is the president absent? Is the VP no more part of the president?
Yes, the AG may be right to say that the present CJN could legally swear in an incoming CJN…following from that, we could then look at the consequences of Yar’adua’s absence and failure to perform his presidential functions. That is why we are in court.
It serves no purpose that the AG wrong in his assertion, what we could practically do is to look at the politically consequences of the CJN swearing a new CJN while the president is still alive and where a VP has been acting in his stead, albeit without following the constitutional procedure.
Unbeknown to Aondoakaa, the implication of his position is that President Yar’adua is either absent (thus necessitating the invocation of Section 145) or incapacitated (necessitating the invocation of Section146)!