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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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PDP Reschedules NEC Meeting For Sept 26

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has slated September 26 for its second National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the year.
The date was announced by the party through its 2024 adjusted timetable and schedule of activities for congresses, which were released to party members and stakeholders on Monday.
Ahead of the September NEC meeting, the party has slated July 27 for the conduct of ward/delegate congresses to elect ward executives as well as three ad hoc delegates in 23 out of the 36 states of the country, including Abuja.
The timetable also disclosed that, among other things, the NEC is expected to ratify the list of executives that will emerge from the congresses.
According to the timetable, local government congresses to elect council executives and national delegates in 21 affected states are expected to follow on August 10th.
Recall that in April, the PDP held its first NEC meeting after acrimonious elections in 2023, where many of its high-profile members were involved in anti-party activities.
The party remains polarised, with some members supporting former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the party, and others queuing behind the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister, Nyesom Wike.
The outcome of the election and issues surrounding the role played by its leaders led to the suspension of the National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, by his Igyorov Ward executives from the Gboko Local Government Area of Benue State.
However, the effort to remove the Acting National Chairman, Ambassador Illiya Damagum, to allow the North Central region where Ayu hails from to produce its successor was deferred to the next NEC meeting earlier slated for August, which has now been shifted to September.

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Edo, Ondo 2024: INEC Warns Personnel Against Corrupt Practices

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says the success of any election largely depends on the professionalism and competence of those responsible for conducting it.
INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said this while warning its personnel against unethical and corrupt practices in the upcoming Edo and Ondo governorship elections.
He spoke on Monday in Abuja at a lecture in honour of late Abubakar Momoh, former director-general of The Electoral Institute (TEI), from August 2013 to May 2017.
Prof. Yakubu, represented by the National Commissioner, and Chairman, Board of Electoral Institute, Prof. Abdullahi Zuru, warned that any unethical practice before, during and after those elections would incur severe punishments under the law.
The theme of the lecture was: “Achieving Professionalism Among Election Personnel Through Effective Training in Preparation for the Edo and Ondo Governorship Elections.’’
He advised electoral officers to be guided by the principles of integrity, impartiality, transparency, professionalism, gender and disability sensitivity.
He said it was important for electoral personnel to be knowledgeable, skilled and well-equipped with relevant competencies to handle the complexities and challenges of the electoral process.
“Moreover, the crucial role election personnel play in upholding the integrity of our democratic processes cannot be overstressed.
“The manner in which they discharge their duties and responsibilities affects the degree of confidence voters will have in the electoral process, which will impact their participation and turnout,’’ he said.
Prof. Yakubu said that to ensure credibility and trustworthiness in elections and build trust among the electorate, INEC had always prioritised the professional development of its election personnel.
He said the commission identified effective and efficient electoral training as the key to unlocking professionalism among election personnel.
“The commission’s involvement in effective training programmes has empowered its staff to uphold the highest standards of integrity and professionalism in order to strengthen our processes and procedures to serve the interests of all Nigerians,’’ he said.
The Director General of TEI, Dr Sa’ad Idris, in his remarks, said that INEC, in pursuit of its mission and vision, had prioritised professionalism toward achieving free, credible, transparent and inclusive elections.
“As we prepare for the 2024 Edo and Ondo off-cycle governorship elections, the commission is assured that the outcome of effective training of election personnel will manifest in a high level of professionalism”, he said.

 

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Reps Propose Rotational Presidency, Six-Year Single Term

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A bill seeking a single term of six years for the President and state governors was brought up on Monday by 35 members of the House of Representatives.
The bill also canvasses the rotation of the presidency among the six geopolitical zones of the country.
The 35 legislators, under the auspices of Reform-minded Legislators, said the proposition would lead to a reduction in the cost of governance.
Addressing a press conference at the National Assembly Complex on Monday, the spokesman for the group, Ikenga Ugochinyere, added that the move would unite the country and ensure a seamless transition and unprecedented development for the country.
Hon Ugochinyere emphasised the need to interrogate the challenges facing the Nigerian state, saying, “We should not be afraid to meet and discuss our problems, challenges, fears, aspirations, and prospects as a people. We should not discuss in fear and we should never fear to discuss.”
Speaking on the bill, Hon Ugochinyere, who represents Ideato North/Idaeto South Federal Constituency of Imo State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said, “On governance, we are proposing a constitutional alteration to provide for the rotation of executive powers among the six geopolitical zones to ensure equal representation and reduce the desperation and tempo of agitation for the creation of states. We are proposing to amend Section 3 of the constitution to provide for the recognition of the division of Nigeria into six geopolitical zones.
“And also, to amend the constitution to provide for a single tenure of six years for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the state governors. This will bring about a reduction in government spending and wastage; promote efficiency in governance, and national stability by providing a single term of six years for the President and the governors.”
The lawmakers drawn from different political parties are also seeking amendments to the constitution “to create the office of two Vice Presidents from the southern and northern parts of Nigeria.”
Hon Ugochinyere explained that the First Vice President would be a succession vice president, while the Second Vice President would be a minister in charge of the economy, and both shall be ministers.
Hon Ugochinyere said the 35 lawmakers were also pushing for a “constitutional amendment to provide that the President and the First Vice President shall come from the same part of the country (North or South) and the First Vice President shall become President whenever the President becomes incapacitated, that is, VP (succession), VP (Administration and Economy).”
The bill also seeks financial autonomy and accountability of local government councils by prescribing an independent Consolidated Local Government Council Account solely superintendent by Local Councils. It prescribes long-term imprisonment for any misuse of local government funds.
On electoral reforms, the group proposed amendments to the relevant sections of the Electoral Act to ensure “that all elections (presidential, governorship, National Assembly, state Houses of Assembly, and local Governments) are held on the same day.”
Hon Ugochinyere said, “We are pushing for amendments to relevant sections of the Electoral Act to provide that no declaration of a winner of an election shall be done by the relevant Independent National Electoral Commission officials until such officer has compared the results with the list of accredited voters and ensured that the results to be declared are in tandem with the list of accredited voters and the B-VAS machine or any other electronic device.
“Amend the Electoral Act to provide that any INEC officer who declares a false result will be liable for civil and criminal action personally brought against him by parties in the elections.
“An amendment to the Electoral Act to provide that all election-related litigations must be resolved and determined by the Elections Petitions Tribunal, Appeal Courts, etc before the winners are sworn into the respective elective offices.

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