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Yar’Adua: The Politics, The Debate

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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.”

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Yiaga Africa Blames Govt For Voters’ Apathy

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Independent election observer group, Yiaga Africa, has expressed worry that increasing voters’ apathy as witnessed in the Anambra governorship election may not have been caused by insecurity but increasing loss of confidence in government.
A board member of the group, Ezenwa Nwagwu held the view in Awka during a post-election reflection meeting with leaders of Civil Society Organizations.
Nwagwu reiterated that the ugly trend was not necessarily occasioned by insecurity that had always heralded elections in the past, but growing disconnect between the government and the masses, saying it is time populace held government to account to bridge the gap.
He said: “Election is over. Now we have to watch governance and the only way to do that is to clearly design pathways through which we can hold the government accountable.
“One of the ways is for the citizens to engage the government with budget process. Government every year estimates what it uses the people’s resources to do for them.
“Unfortunately, the people involved don’t show any interest, and four years later, the same people will start complaining that government has failed, even when there was nothing to track.
“We need to see how the Media and Civil Society groups can collaborate and produce what I call a citizen charter demand that they can hand over to the new Governor-elect.
“They can liaise with other professional bodies to conduct infrastructural assessment in the state and use that as a document to organize a town-hall meeting to engage government officials.”
Nwagwu also identified what he termed “fear and complaint industries” as major impediments to the growth and development of the state, insisting that the two factors must be shut to enable people of the state enjoy democracy dividends.
He added: “We need to close up the two industries of fear and complaint that have gripped the state, especially after the election so people can leverage the benefits of governance.
“If we continue with this scare-mongering and complaints, we will only succeed in having few persons taking over the government and dictating the pace.”

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CVR: Fresh Registrations Hit 4.2m

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said that fresh registration in the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) has hit 4,297,494.
The commission disclosed this in the second quarter, week seven, weekly update released by the commission in Abuja recently.
The commission said that as at 7 a.m. on Monday, November 22, 1,856,771 persons have completed their online and physical registration.
According to statistics provided by the commission, 1,856,771 persons who completed their registration, include 941,098 males, 915,673 females.
It also added that 741,183 persons completed their registration online, while 1,115,588 completed it through physical registration.

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Saraki Visits Benue Over Presidential Ambition 

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A former President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, has visited Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State over his ambition to vie for President in 2023.
Saraki, after a close door meeting with Governor Ortom, also met with the State Working Committee members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to familiarise them with his intention to kick start consultations for his ambition to rule the country.
He said that the nationwide defection of party loyalists from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the PDP was an indication that there might not be anyone left in the party before the next election.
“A party that cannot organise its affairs has no business leading this country. A party that has organised its affairs is ready in leading this country and that is the PDP,” he said.
Saraki added that the North Central Zone has paid its dues by working so hard in keeping the country together as one united entity just as he pointed out that, “this time we must stand for our own and charity begins at home.”
The ex -senate president, who was accompanied on the visit by former Governor of Kogi State, Idris Wada, former National Chairman of the PDP, Kawu Baraje, Senator Suleiman Adokwe and Prof Iyorwuese Hagher, Chairman of Council, Saraki for President Campaign, thanked the Benue governor for standing out for the zone.
Earlier, Governor Ortom, eulogised Saraki for being one of those Nigerians that had contributed immensely to the development of democracy.
Ortom said it was time to rescue the country from bottom, a position it was placed by the APC government, to the top, adding that Saraki deserves the presidential seat to enable him salvage the country from its current mess.
On his part, the State Chairman of the PDP, Sir John Ngbede, represented by his deputy, Isaac Mfo, said the party in the state had remained intact even as he assured the presidential hopeful that they would back his ambition to rule the country.

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