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Author Name: Omotayo, J. A.
Number of articles: 211
During my time too, there were scholaships, grants and busary awards to students. Some of my friends... (0) Comment


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Nigeria: National Assembly (NASS) Cannot Appoint An “Acting President” - 2
Author: Omotayo, J. A. | March 11, 2010



Such discretionary powers are not limited to the Presidency alone nor are they alien to our Constitution. The late Mr. Adekunle Ajasin used it under the 1999 Constitution and gave responsibilities to and withdrew same from his Deputy Governor, Mr. Akin Omoboriowo, in line with provisions of Section 174 Subsection 1 of the 1979 Constitution (For further details, See: Ajasin: Memoirs and Memories, Ajasin Foundation, 1 Hussey St, Lagos, Nigeria, pg 178-179, 296-312). Once while Mr. Bisi Akande, the former Governor of Osun State, was on leave, he handed over to the Secretary to the Osun State Government instead of his Deputy Governor, Mr. Omisore. The list is endless. It is very unfortunate that such discretionary powers granted the executives in office will be eroded the moment the proposed amendment to Section 145 is passed by the National Assembly and signed into law. Why? It would make a Mr. Olusegun Obansanjo to hand over power to his estranged deputy, Mr. Abubarkar Atiku. Similarly, it would make a Mr. Bola Tinubu to hand over power to his estranged deputy, Mrs. Kofoworola Akerele-Bucknor, among others. Will such forceful handing over bring loyalty and respect to the holder of the executive office from his deputy? I think otherwise. What we would have instead is a twin drivers seating by the wheel but remain divided on which direction to turn the steering. The problem created will be monumental and too dangerous for the nation to bear. However, we must be vigilant too. The Constitution does not provide for a situation where the presidency would be run by a group of faceless individuals parading themselves as members of the inner caucus. To that extent, it was necessary for the president to hand over the reign of government to someone among the trusted group of the Vice President and serving Ministers who surround him. Not doing so suggests a personal weakness unbecoming of an elected President, even though it is not a breach of the Constitution. Definitely, Mr. YarâAdua knows why he would not hand over power to anyone. Only his recovery from his present ill health, either soon during his reign or in the near future after his tenure, would reveal his motive. Else, we might debate for hours without getting any clue. How would the personal weakness of such a president be mitigated for the overall interest of the nation? A special case is that of Mr. YarâAduaâs temporary incapacitation and his inability to handover to his Vice President as an Acting President in line with Section 145. There are enough provisions in the Constitution that suggest to us that the Vice President should automatically take over. Consider Section 136, for instance. The President-elect has not been sworn in before he dies. Therefore, a written transmission to the National Assembly does not come into effect. Yet the Constitution empowers the Vice President to be sworn in as President. Consider again Section 142. There can be no elected President who has no nominated running mate as Vice President. In other words, both the President and his Vice President are on a joint ticket. The qualities desired of the President are the same for the Vice President. Why would all these qualities be the same if he could not perform the functions of the President in his absence? It is not the norm that deputies cannot represent their bosses at meetings or forward letters and documents to other agencies committing their bosses. That a Vice Principal cannot endorse a letter forwarding documents to the Ministry of Education on behalf of the school is to render nonsense his elevation to that high office. In such instances, the Vice Principal merely signs for his Principal. He does not seek appointment to be made an Acting Principal before such a record or document can be sent on behalf of the school. He can only start to act when the Principal is retiring or on transfer to another school. Even in private firms and public corporations, don.t we have deputies representing their bosses and taking decisions that remain binding? Even when the President has not been ill, his Vice President must have had occasions to stand in for him and take decisions that are binding. Thus if Mr. Umaru YarâAdua, President of Nigeria, does not transmit a letter to the National Assembly empowering the Vice President to act on his behalf, perhaps he was taken out in a state of coma, it is incumbent on Mr. Jonathan Goodluck, the most senior public servant around, to continue from where his boss stops even without any change of title, from Vice President to an âActing Presidentâ except in pronunciation as in an âactingâ President (note the small letter âaâ in the word âactingâ). The Constitution did not state anywhere that if the Vice President gives a directive in the absence of the President, it should be flouted. It does not also state anywhere that if the Vice President sends a memorandum or document to the National Assembly on behalf of his boss that it should be rejected unless he has been made an âActing Presidentâ. The Constitution should be read many times over from page to page to appreciate the real imports of its provisions. Otherwise, we shall keep debating and dissipating energy on how to change and amend it everyday while the issues of more national importance like employment, education, social security, general welfare, food security, good roads, etc are ignored or relegated to the background. I hope to find time to deal with these other issues soon. In its contribution, The Punch newspapers stated Mr. Nwafor Orizu, then a Member of Parliament, was the first âActing Presidentâ (See: Profile of first acting President, The Punch Newspapers online, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010, http://www.punchng.com/Articl.aspx?theartic...). The late Mr Nwafor Orizu has been reported as the âacting presidentâ who handed over power to the late Mr. J. T. U. Aguiyi-Ironsi then a Major General and the most senior military officer then in Nigeria. How the âacting presidentâ came to be has been well documented. Mr. Azikiwe, the nationâs first president, was convalescing in London when the January 15, 1966 coup dâetat took place. He called a press conference to announce his return to the country as soon as possible to serve in any other capacity the nation might gave him. This statement was equivalent to resignation of appointment from his exalted office by the then president, Mr. Azikiwe. The next officer in rank was the Prime Minister, Mr. Tafawa Balewa, who had been killed in the coup. Consequently, a few Ministers hurriedly met and wanted the army General to restore order. Among those present then were: Messrs Zanna Buka Dipcharima, Nuhu Bamali, T. O. Elias, K. O. Mbadiwe, J. T. U. Aguiyi-Ironsi and Nwafor Orizu. Both Messrs Dipcharima and Mbadiwe were nominated before Mr. Aguiyi-Ironsi demanded that power be handed over to him. I quote him: âGentlemen, if I am to restore law and order you will have to hand the government over to meâ, unquote. Hurriedly, and to get a safe exit out of Lagos and the troubled West, the Ministers asked Mr. Nwafor Orizu to announce a hand over as an acting president (For further details, see: Mr. Kole Omotoso -Just Before Dawn, Spectrum Books Ltd, Ibadan, pgs 213 â 266). In the real sense of the word, the acting president was Mr. Aguiyi-Ironsi because power was handed over to him, and he indeed promised that his reign would be brief. Noting that the president is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forced, Mr. Orizu was therefore no more than a returning officer who announced the result of an election. Why? He was unable to give order to the army. The acting president is not the man who has no control over the military or the armed forces, an integral unit of the federation that enjoys wide spread over the territorial landmass, waters and airways. The point here is that if the National Assembly has to appoint an Acting President, it must be in line with the provision of Section 146 Subsection 2. In this situation, one of the members of the National Assembly has been elected to act as president with a proviso that an election would be held within three (3) months of his ascent into office. Anything else is a breach of the 1999 Constitution. If Mr. Jonathan must serve as an Acting President, will the National Assembly also appoint an âActing Vice Presidentâ using the âDoctrine of Necessityâ? I think otherwise. Unless and until we go with the roadmap, the 1999 Constitution, we may have started deviating from the route to our journey just like the Korean plane that veered into the Russian military airspace by a little margin of error and was subsequently blown off. I become afraid and very disturbed each time the Constitution is not being used as our national guide. As usual, I welcome both criticism(s) and comment(s) publicly or privately. But I must warn that those criticizing should arm themselves with sufficient facts lest they become objects for further critical review. My email address remains jaomotayo2(at)yahoo.co.uk. God bless Nigeria. Continue to::- Part 1 , Part 2

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