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2 Winners, Same Silver Coin …That PDP Verdict On Senate, FEC

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Every coin has two faces, what parties seeking ‘ tie-break’ in logjam of choices usually call ‘Head’ or Tail.’ Before a coin is tossed for two conflicting parties, there must be a primary choice in contest, in the case of a soccer event, who kicks the ball first or chooses a desired half of the field.

If therefore, the log-jam now prompted by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s more –than 73-days absence from his presidential desk were to be put in context, two opposing choices will naturally emerge: One in favour of section 145 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution and the other; respect for the two Abuja High Court rulings voiced on two different occasions by the  same Justice Abutu. Lets see both angles.

First, section 145 of the 1999 Constitution which is titled, Acting President during temporary absence of president, states thus: ‘ whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representative 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”

Key points to note here are,  “written declaration”, ‘proceeding on vacation’ (Leave, as Nigerian Civil Servants know it) and “unable to discharge the functions of his office”

Did the president send a written declaration to the Senate President or Speaker House of Rep? No!

Away for more than 70 days on vacation, sorry sick leave(?), Yes. In these number of days, has Mr President been able to “discharge the functions of his office”? No.

Thus, the questions to be raised are, since the president did not transmit any such written declaration, understandably, giving his health condition, at the time of leaving Nigeria for the King Faisal Specialist and Research Centre in Jeddah Saudi Arabi, Nov 23, last year, where, he has since been receiving treatment for acute preicaditis- an inflammation of the lining of the heart, can Vice President Goodluck Jonathan be sworn-in as acting president? Or were it to be seen as Mr President normal annual leave,

sorry vacation, how long would it last? And without the constitutional Senate or Reps notification, is it legally right for the vice president to perform the duties of his boss as if he were acting president?

In a country, where politicians think less of the next election and more of the next generation valid answers to these questions would not be too hard to find.

Now, lets also analyse the second part, the two Abuja High Court rulings, based upon which the Federal Executive Council (FEC),  a body of ministers appointed by the ailing president, to make a public declaration about the true state of the president’s health.

Disturbed by the long absence from his office as president, concerned Nigerians had sought constitutional interpretation from an Abuja High Court, presided over by Justice Abutu, before whom the applicants sought, among others, relief that vice President Jonathan be sworn-in as acting president.

But Justice Abutu in his first, ruled  that the Vice President could exercise presidential powers in the absence of the president but could not be sworn-in as acting president since Yar’Adua did not transmit a letter to the National Assembly to that effect.

In his second ruling, Justice Abutu gave the Executive Council of the Federation, often also called the Federal Executive Council (FEC) 14 days starting from last Saturday, January 23, 2010 to pass a resolution on the health of the president. The  body didn’t need 14 days, they took the decision last Wednesday, January 27, 2010 and told Nigerians that President Yar’Adua was not incapacitated but that he would return to the country next (this) week.

The court’s ruling and directive to the FEC is hinged on the long winding path and hurdles placed in way of a Goodluck Jonathan ever having in his CV, Acting President, if section 144, (1a-c,2,3,4a-b,5), are to be considered

The section spells out how an ailing president or vice president shall cease to hold office and states in 144 (1,A-B) as follows.

(a)…if, by a resolution passed by two thirds majority of all the members of the executive council of the federation, it is declared that the president or vice-President is incapable of discharging the functions of his office, and (b) the declaration is verified, after such medical examination as may be necessary, by a medical panel established under subsection (4) of this section in its report to the president of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representative.

(2) where the medical panel certifies in the report that in its opinion the president or the vice president is suffering from such infirmity of body or mind as render him PERMANENTLY INCAPABLE (emphasis mine) or discharging the functions of his office, a notice there of signed by the president of Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be published in the official Gazzette of the Government of the Federation.

(3) the president or vice president shall cease to hold office from the date of publication of the notice of the medical report pursuant to subsection (2) of this section.

And then the constitution explains the constitution of the medical panel which opinion will determine the removal of either the president or vice president, in sub section.

(4) The medical panel to which this section relates shall be appointed by the president of the senate and shall  comprise Five medical practitioners in Nigeria –

(a)        One of whom shall be the personal physician of the holder of the office concerned; and

(b)        Four other medical practitioners who have, in the opinion of the President of the Senate, attained a high degree of eminence in the field of medicine relative to the nature of the examination to be conducted in accordance with the foregoing provisions.

(5)        In this section, the reference to “Executive council of the Federation is a reference to the body of ministers of government of the Federation, however called, established by the President and charged with such responsibilities for the functions of government as the president may direct.

This is why a lawyer, who had obviously lost his mind said on national television last Tuesday “they are a bunch of desperate politicians determined to save their jobs not the nation. Who knows what could happen to their jobs, if the Vice President were to be sworn-in as Acting President,” I do not agree with that lawyer, what I do know however is that anytime the lion feeds something dies; anytime a new President emerges the status quo, or a part of it, is displaced; any time a vice becomes acting president, he, and not a retiring Chief Justice swears-in a successor; anytime there is a president, he presents his budget to a joint session of the national assembly and not do so through a proxy; and anytime there is a serving president, there is no quarrel as to who should sign bills passed by the National Assembly.

Now, the issues that should be addressed in all these, our prayers for the quick recovery of the President notwithstanding, are; should the Vice President be sworn-in as Acting President to fill the vacuum created by Yar’Adua’s  long absence so as to perform all such duties that only a  President can perform? Or should we remain where we have been, since November 23, last year, content with the verdict of Yar’Adua’s ministers, that their boss is fine and would return soon?

These, methinks are the two faces of the silver coin, which the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said bear same faces-‘head’ and ‘head’, since the senate and the Federal Executive Council (FEC) are both right.

Looking critically, however, the Senate position and that of the roundly criticized chairman, Board of Trustees of the PDP, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, are slightly similar, only, the latter should have voiced the same view privately, even earlier, or never at all.

My Agony is, that even with the awesome powers of a President which VP Jonathan is said to have exercised so far, including the power of sending the military to Jos to quell the tin city’s disturbances, and all, the legality of signing the 2010 Appropriation Bill into law, when passed by the National Assembly, may not be one of the spoils of a Vice President’s office.

Yet, the PDP says, both the Senate and the FEC are right and deserve same commendation. Many agree, I don’t.

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Insecurity In Nigeria, Alarming, Wike Alerts …Suspends JAAC Accounts From Defaulting Banks

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says insecurity in Nigeria has reached an alarming proportion.
He has therefore called on security agencies to redouble their efforts in curbing it.
Governor Wike expressed the concern yesterday when the new General Officer Commanding 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Olu Irefin paid him a courtesy visit at Government House, Port Harcourt.
He noted that the prevalence of insecurity in every State of the Federation seems to overwhelm the military.
Governor Wike stated that the situation is different in Rivers State because of the robust collaboration between his administration and the security agencies.
“Our determination is to keep the State safe but development also attracts criminality, so we can’t say we are totally free.
“There are still pockets of criminal elements. So, as a professional whose role is to defend the territorial integrity of the country, fight crime and do not involve in politics.
“We are willing to collaborate with you as a government because security is important for us. Just let us know what you require to succeed in the fight against criminality.
“That way, we will be partners in progress and make the State safe for all residents,” he stated.
Earlier, the General Officer Commanding 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General OluIrefin commended Governor Wike for his developmental strides.
He said on assumption of duties, his commanders told him that they have enjoyed tremendous support from the state government in the discharge of duties.
He pledged to sustain the existing collaboration in protecting lives and property in the State
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has directed the removal of Joint Account Allocation Committee (JAAC) from banks that gave unauthorised loans to some Local Government Chairmen in the State.
Governor Wike gave the directive on Wednesday, while swearing in the substantive Chairman of the Asari-Toru Local Government Area at Government House, Port Harcourt .
He directed the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice to take legal action against the defaulting Banks.
Governor Wike said both the Banks and the Councils that defaulted would suffer the consequences of the illegality.
He noted that the Banks cannot seek refund of the loans because they contravened extant Laws of the State.
“We have taken a decision that for all those loans taken without approval, the affected accounts must leave the defaulting banks.
“I have told the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice to take necessary steps. The Banks cannot go and seek for refund from the Local Governments. When you default the Law, you suffer for it.
“Council Chairmen who want to take loans from banks must get official approval. You cannot take loans that will mortgage the future of the people”, he stated.
Governor Wike charged Mrs. AlasoJohnbull Obi to use her new position to make a difference because the people are yet to feel the impact of the Council.
“Go and put your local government together. Do not allow busy body politicians to distract you. Use this opportunity you have to make a difference.
“We never thought that Chief Odiari Princewill will die but as God will have it, he is dead and we have to abide by the constitution.
“That is why you, as the deputy, has to step in as the substantive chairman of Asari-Toru local Government Area today.
“In choosing your Deputy, you must consult widely with all the stakeholders of the Party. As election is coming up next year, you have an opportunity to sell yourself,” he added.
Until her swearing in, Mrs. AlasoJohnbul-Obi was the Vice Chairman of the Council but the death of the elected chairman, Chief Odiari Princewill on the 27th May, 2020 created a vacuum that needed to be filled.

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SSANU, NASU Threaten Strike Over Unresolved Issues

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The Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) said they would proceed on strike over unresolved issues with the Federal Government immediately the universities reopen.
Mr Samson Ugwoke, the Chairman, Joint Action Committee (JAC) of both unions said this while addressing newsmen on the resolutions reached by the unions yesterday in Abuja.
The resolutions were signed by the SSANU National President, Mr Samson Ugwoke, and the General Secretary of NASU, Mr Peters Adeyemi.
The unions’ grievances included the lingering Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) debacle, nonpayment of arrears of earned allowance and minimum wage. Others are the alleged lack of seriousness by the Babalakin Committee renegotiating the 2009 FG/NASU, SSANU agreements, neglect and poor funding of state universities, absence of visitation panels, among others.
According to Ugwoke, long after many other sectors had been paid the arrears of the national minimum wage and consequential adjustment, university workers are yet to be paid. “We find this development totally unwholesome and very unhealthy.
“Given the time lag of over a year since it was implemented in other sectors, members of the public would agree that we have been patient enough in the university system,” he said.
He pointed out that in spite of the series of letters by the unions to the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) Office since February, their members were still confronted with many challenges, including salary payment. Ugwuoke also said that their members, whose monthly salaries were being paid in the second week of the following month in the past seven months, were suffering as a result of the difficulties posed by IPPIS.
He argued that as responsible unions, they had avoided the planned action, adding that the unhealthy situation had made it inevitable.
Ugwoke said: “We have again cried out to the general public with a view to inviting stakeholders and well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the government to correct the anomaly of IPPIS. “Pay us the arrears of both earned allowances and minimum wage, among others.”
He warned that the unions would have no option than to embark on strike effective from when universities would reopen after the COVID-19 lockdown.

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FG’S Reviewed Broadcast Code, Draconian – PDP …Says New Code Aimed At Muzzling Media, Concealing Corruption, Abacha Loot

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The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has rejected the reviewed broadcast code, describing it as another draconian measure to muzzle the media and suppress free speech in Nigeria.
The party said the All Progressives Congress, APC and its government adopted the reviewed code with its N5 million fine “to intimidate the media and gag whistle blowers from further exposing the humongous corruption, abuse of office, violation of human rights as well as officials’ betrayal of trust and abuse of office in the Buhari administration.”
In a statement issued by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP said the reviewed code is a grand plot “to suppress and muzzle Nigerians and the media from publicly opposing plots by the APC to mortgage the sovereignty of our dear nation to foreign interests as being witnessed in the anti-Nigeria clauses in the loan agreements with China.”
The statement read: “The APC has been jittery over the stench of monumental corruption oozing out from its government as well as its anti-Nigeria activities, and now seeks to suppress public opinion and media reportage of their atrocities against our nation.
“The PDP invites Nigerians to note that the APC administration rushed to review the broadcast codes and introduced draconian clauses at the height of public revelations and media reportage of its corruption and plots to mortgage our nation’s sovereignty to China. The reviewed broadcast code therefore validates the stance by Nigerians that covering of corruption and the scheme to mortgage the sovereignty of our nation are official policies of the APC which has not denied that it is the headquarters of corruption.
“Our party however, wishes to inform the APC and its administration that the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and other laws guiding media practice, which guarantees a free press and freedom of opinion by Nigerians are clear and that no matter how much the truth is suppressed, it must always come to light.
“Moreover, the APC must know that we are in a democracy and that Nigerians cannot be suppressed from exercising their rights of speaking out in the face of injustice, corruption, abuse of trust in the APC administration, which President Buhari had also admitted.

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