Yar’Adua: The Politics, The Debate
Many people are worried about the president’s absence which is already having negative effect on state matters. The new President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami, and Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Katsina Alu were supposed to be sworn-in by the president after the confirmation of their appointments by the Senate.
Also, the annual National Merit Award list which was due at the end of last year, was also delayed due to the absence of the president.
Apart from this, the National Assembly last November, passed the N353.6 billion supplementary budget, which includes capital spending of about N253 billion. Part of the money is for the rehabilitation of the ex-militants and other post amnesty intervention programmes in the Niger Delta.
However, when it became apparent that the nation may not have a substantive chief justice, the Minister of Justice, Michael Aondoakaa, had to come out and state that the out-going chief justice Idris Kutigi could perform the swearing in on behalf of the president.
Despite protest from some lawyers and civil rights activities; Kutigi had justified the action by saying that the Oath Act of 2004 provides for the swearing-in of the CJN, justices of the Supreme Court, president of the Court of Appeal and justices of the Court of Appeal, among others by the president or the CJN.
Surprisely, Barrister Ibimina Kelechi a legal practitioner based in Port Harcourt, never concurred with this argument, as he said he had already proceeded to the Federal High Court, Abuja to fault the swearing-in of the CJN.
According to him, with the swearing-in of Justice Alloysius Katsina-Alu as the CJN, a constitutional vacuum has been created. Kelechi said, “Nigeria political and constitutional history would never be the same again.”
But Hon. Justice C.J. Okocha does not seem to agree with his learned colleague, as he said the swearing-in and the administration of oath on Justice Katsina-Alu was in order.
Okocha also the former president of NBA admitted that the out gone CJN does not lack the power to administer oath on the present CJN, but noted that there would have been chaos if one arm of government did not have a leadership.
In spite this development, controversies have continued to trail all the executive functions performed in the absence of the president, for example, the off-shore signing of the supplementary budget by the President ran into the fire storm of public discourse. Some were skeptical over whether it was true that Yar’Adua actually signed the budget, whether or not the signature on the N353.6 billion supplementary budget was that of President Umaru Yar’Adua.
A release from the Presidency had stated that the president actually signed the budget in the hospital in Saudi Arabia, five weeks after it was passed by the National Assembly.
Some were cynical whether it was true that his Principal Secretary, David Edebvie, actually took the budget to him in Saudi-Arabia. The pen with which President Yar’Adua allegedly signed the off-shore supplementary budget hardly dried up before the Ijaw National Congress (INC) called for the photograph of the President in action as usual or the signature for forensic verification.
However, the Attorney-general of the Federation, Chief Michael Kaase Aondoakaa (SAN), while contributing to the debate said that President Umaru Yar’Adua “can perform his functions as President from any where in the world”.
According to him, Yar’Adua was not suffering from infirmity of body or mind as to render him permanently incapable of discharging the functions of his office from any where in the world. He noted that the Federal Executive Council, (FEC) which is a creation of the Nigerian constitution, had on December, 2 invoked its powers under section 144 (1) (a) of the 1999 constitution to pass a resolution and declared Yar’Adua fit to continue in governance.
The minister argued that there was no need for Yar’Adua to inform the National Assembly on exercising the functions of his office through the vice president and his ministers as enshrined in section (5) (1) and section 148 (1) of the 1999 Constitution.
Section 5(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria reads: “subject to the provisions of this constitution, the executive powers of the federation
(a) shall be vested in the president and may subject as aforesaid and to the provisions of any law made by the National Assembly be exercised by him either directly or through the vice president and ministers of the government of the federation or officers in the public service of the federation and (b) shall extend to the execution and maintenance of this constitution, all laws made by the National Assembly and to all manners has, for the time being power to make laws, section 148 (1) of the 1999 constitution also reads:
(b) (1) The president may, in his discretion, assign to the vice president or any minister of government of the federation responsibility for any business of the government of the federation including the administration of any department of government. According to him, Yar’Adua has since been delegating the powers of his office to members of the FEC including the vice president.
He said the call by some Nigerians and the reliefs being sought in the pending suits before the court to compel the president to either resign his office or inform the National Assembly of his ill-health to allow Jonathan take over as acting president were unnecessary. The suit was filed by Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana. Aondoakaa argued that in the first place, the case of Yar’Adua’s health was not all that bad to necessitate the invocation of section 145 of the 1999 Constitution.
He said assuming without conceding that it was that bad, the invocation of the provision of section 145, which is one of the principal reliefs being sought by Falana is discretionary.
The section 145 of the 1999 Constitution reads: “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, such functions shall be discharged by the vice president as acting president.”
But a right group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has petitioned the UN Human Rights Council (UNRC), requesting the body to urgently consider the deteriorating economic and social rights situation in Nigeria due to President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s prolonged absence from duty, and his failure to empower the Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, to act as president to sign and effectively implement the 2009 supplementary budget, and the budget for 2010.
The petition dated 3 January 2010 and signed by SERAP’s Executive Director, Adekunbo Mumuni, copy of which was made available on line urged the HRC “to simultaneously hold a special session on the non-compliance by the Nigerian government with its obligations in relation to the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights; and to consider this petition under the HRC new complaint procedure established pursuant to resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006”.
Similarly, a youth group under the aegis of Amalgamated Northern Political Forum and the South Elements Progressive Union, have warned that “Nigeria risks losing its democratic gains of the past years if the country continues to function without a president.”
The group, through their national chairman, Mr. John Yahaya and Joseph Ambakederimo, respectively insisted that those speaking against the president’s continued refusal to follow constitutional process since leaving the country about 42 days ago, should not be seen as hating the president.
The Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, the Action Congress and some prominent lawyers had opposed the legality of Yar’Adua’s signing of the Supplementary Budget in Saudi Arabia.
However, as Yar’Adua continues to stay in Saudi Arabia for medical treatment, his sudden departure “without formally handing over” political analysts say, “will continue to generate controversy among Nigerians, due to the obvious vacuum his absence has created in the act of governing the country at this critical period.”
EU Recommits To Strengthening Nigeria’s Democratic Governance
The European Union (EU) has restated its commitment towards engendering and strengthening Nigeria’s democratic governance.
The EU stated this at the end of a two-day retreat for Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria, EU-SDGN, partners in Lagos, pledging to further deepen its engagement with youngsters, women, and persons with disabilities, through its partners.
Remarking further, the EU noted that while there were some positives and good achievements in the just concluded general elections, there were also some issues that needed to be addressed henceforth.
The six EU-SDGN component areas include Support to INEC; Support to the National Assembly and the Judiciary; Support to Political Parties; Support to Media; Support to Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities and Support to Civil Society Organisations.
In his remarks, the European Union’s Programme Manager for Democracy and Rule of Law, Laolu Olawumi, elucidated that the retreat considered the interventions of the partners in the last 12 months with a view to understanding what worked and what didn’t work, identified the challenges encountered, and charted better ways to address them.
Olawumi, while underlining the importance of introspection on the just concluded elections, also urged the EU-SDGN partners not to lose sight of states such as Kogi, Bayelsa and Imo who will be having elections in just over 100 days.
She stated that “Over the last 12 months, we have had an intense work plan where different members of the EU-SDGN cohort have been delivering several activities and technical support to critical stakeholders that we have jointly identified.
“The retreat, therefore, sought to see whether the interventions that we have planned for the next couple of months would help us address the challenges that we have seen in the period leading to the elections, and the immediate aftermath of the election.”
Elucidating further she pointed out that the retreat developed an opportunity for all the partners to discuss their intervention areas, the precise actions they undertook during the elections and what the cohort considers the critical issues that needed to be addressed moving forward.
“In terms of what we are doing around capacity building, one thing to really highlight is the fact that the EU-SDGN programme is Nigerian-led and is mainly implemented by civil society organizations. And that in itself, is our way of contributing and building the civil society space in Nigeria.
“How do we provide a platform with which civil society can better engage with the government and build capacity to ensure that they are focusing on the issues, and they are operating within an environment that helps them properly harness the voices of ordinary Nigerians, and better serve the needs and the will of Nigerian people?
“Within the government, we are working with the electoral management body, trying to provide technical assistance. We are also working with the judiciary through our training and our engagements with Judges, as well as other officers of the court.
“We are also working with the media to promote a conducive legal environment for media to operate and for the Broadcasting Commission to also efficiently promote pluralism in the media and civic space.
“Of course, I think it’s very important to stress here that we have Kogi, Bayelsa and Imo state elections in just over 100 days from now. And so, the priority is to build trust with the Nigerian public by ensuring that those elections are conducted in a way and manner that further instils confidence in the electoral process in Nigeria,” she added.
Group Tasks Tinubu On Inclusive Government
A group, Team New Nigeria (TNN), which has former military president, Gen Ibrahim Babangida as its patron, has urged President Bola Tinubu to form an inclusive government and restore Nigeria’s standing in the world.
The group further stated that the Tinubu administration has all it takes to realize its renewed hope in having a progressive Nigeria.
TNN stated this while commending the appointment of Senator George Akume as the secretary to the government of the federation of Nigeria by Tinubu.
In his message on behalf of the National Executive Committee of the TNN, President of the organisation, Dr. Modibbo Yakubu Farakwai, described Akume as an inspiring, thoughtful and strategic thinker who will bring his trademark skill, talent and judgment to bear on his new assignment.
“In this context, the leadership of Team New Nigeria conveyed the commitment of the Organisation to working closely with the Federal Government in the areas of common Interests, including good governance and democratic values.
“The TNN leadership has also underscored the need of forming an inclusive government, take steps to restore Nigeria’s standing in the world, strengthening the country’s national security workforce, rebuilding democratic alliances across the world, championing Nigeria’s values and human rights, and equipping the Nigerian people to succeed in a Global economy”, Dr Farakwai said.
He described Akume’s appointment as an assurance of first class leadership to work on the recovery Nigeria needs and the shared prosperity Nigerians are expecting from the Tinubu administration.
“We pray that God guide and protect him on this delicate national assignment and to not stop his blessings and protection for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu whose administration promises to impact positively in the lives of the masses”, Farakwai added.
Makinde To Review Minimum Wage For Oyo Workers
Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State has shown commitment to review salaries of civil servants in the state, as part of efforts to cushion the effect of the oil subsidy removal by the Federal Government.
The development came barely 48 hours to the commencement of the proposed nationwide strike by labour unions across the country.
Consequently, the governor has set up a committee comprising both representatives of the labour unions and the state government.
They include, the Head of Service, HoS, Permanent Secretary, Service Matters; Permanent Secretary, Establishment; Director Service Matters, Director, Establishment; Accountant General of the state, and Permanent Secretary, Finance.
On the side of the organised labour are, the Nigeria Labor Congress NLC, Nigeria Union of Teachers NUT, Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, Nigeria Union of Pensioners NUP, Joint Health Sector Union JOHESU and Joint Negotiating Council, JNC and the Chairman, Association of Senior Staff.
The governor, while meeting with leadership of the unions in the state at the Executive Council Chambers, Monday, gave the Committee eight weeks to come up with a workable minimum wage.
Makinde said: “For this administration, with all sincerity, we think it’s time to engage and ensure that we are proactive irrespective of what is happening or coming at the national level, we already prepared for it here and we can run our programme.
“If you all remember, I said there is nothing stopping Oyo State from paying more than the national minimum wage if we had the resources, if we can expand our economy to that extent and I still believe we can do it.
“We can pay in Oyo State beyond the national minimum wage and we have to expand our economy and ensure that the relationship between the leadership of the labour unions and government remains cordial.”
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