By Ise-Oluwa Ige (14th Jan 2010. Vanguard.)
ABUJA—A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, declared that Vice President Jonathan Goodluck is empowered by the 1999 Constitution to exercise, in the absence of President Umaru Yar’Adua, all the powers vested in him, including signing of sensitive documents, so far such powers are delegated to him.
The presiding high court judge, Justice Dan Abutu made the pronouncement while interpreting the meanings and intendments of sections 5(1) and 148 (1) of the 1999 constitution in a suit brought by a lawyer, Mr. Christopher Onwuekwe.
Onwuekwe, in his suit, FHC/ABJ/CS/10/2010, had requested the high court to declare that in the absence of President Yar’Adua who is receiving treatment in Saudi Arabia, the Vice President, by virtue of the provisions of Section 5(1) and 148 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, could exercise all the powers vested in the President in the interest of peace, order and good governance pending when his boss, Yar’Adua, would resume office. He sued the Attorney General of the Federation and the Executive Council of the Federation.
He filed the suit last week and served the originating processes on the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation last Monday while judgment was delivered in the case yesterday by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court. If it is not the fastest case ever decided by the Nigerian judiciary, it must be one of the fastest because it took the court less than 96 working hours (four days) for the registry of the court to take all processes in the case, hear it on its merit and deliver judgment.
Exercise of presidential powers
In the verdict handed down, the trial judge, Justice Abutu granted the two reliefs requested by Mr. Onwuekwe to the effect that Vice President Goodluck could exercise, in the absence of the sitting president, all the powers vested in the President.
He said the exercise of such presidential powers by the Vice President could only be queried by Mr President if he did not permit the Vice President to so perform the presidential functions. Justice Abutu said the constitutional authority of the Vice President to so perform the presidential functions is enshrined in both sections 5(1) and 148 (1) of the 1999 Constitution.
Section 5(1) of the 1999 Constitution 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 with respect to which the National Assembly has, for the time being power to make laws. Section 148 (1) of the 1999 constitution also reads:
“The President may, in his discretion, assign to the Vice President or any Minister of the Government of the Federation responsibility for any business of the Government of the Federation including the administration of any department of government.
Justice Abutu said the two constitutional provisions (sections 5(1) and 148(1) of the 1999 constitution are clear as to the powers of the President to transfer any of his presidential functions to either his vice president or any of his cabinet members.
Before drawing curtain on the interpretation of the two constitutional provisions, the trial judge added that both sections 5(1) and 148 (1), however, did not specify the manner or the procedure through which Mr. President could delegate any of the presidential powers donated to him by the 1999 constitution.
He consequently held that it is, therefore, not available for anyone or institution to pry into the mode of the power transfer by the sitting President to his vice or ministers, noting that so far the president has not complained or challenged the vice president or his ministers over usurpation of his constitutional functions, no one could challenge the exercise of his presidential functions by any member of his cabinet.
Similarly, Justice Abutu, also delved into the meanings and intendments of section 145 of the 1999 constitution even though the subject-matter of the suit being determined did not rest, in the main, on the constitutional provision. While interpreting section 145 as it related to when the Vice President could exercise the powers of the sitting president as an acting president, Justice Abutu said “when the Vice President is exercising the powers of the President as an Acting President, he is exercising that powers in his own right as acting president and not on behalf of the president.
Written declaration to National Assembly
He said the Vice President, Jonathan Goodluck in this case, can exercise all the powers of the sitting President, Umaru Yar’Adua, both as Vice President and as Acting President, stressing that the difference between the two is that Vice President Jonathan Goodluck could not perform the functions of the President under section 145 of the 1999 Constitution except there is a written declaration to the National Assembly while Goodluck could perform all the functions of the President (Yar’Adua) without any written declaration to the National Assembly so far he is discharging the delegated duties in his capacity as Vice President.
The pronouncement on the three different provisions of the 1999 Constitution: sections 5(1); 148(1) and 145 of the 1999 constitution has, no doubt, doused the rising tension in the polity, at least for now.
Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, SAN, who was personally in court to take the judgment said the position of the court had vindicated him on his view that the sitting President, Umaru Yar’Adua could govern the country from anywhere in the world. He said the verdict has resolved the controversy on whether or not the Vice President could exercise all the functions of the sitting President without any written declaration transmitted to the National Assembly.
The knotty suit maintained by radical Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, and a separate one by former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Adamu Farouk, are predicated on section 145 of the 1999 Constitution which the court had interpreted.
Aondoakaa said moments after the judgment: “It seems the judgment has vindicated my position all along. You heard the court say that no person or authority can question the Vice President when he exercises the powers of the President.
It is only the President that can say I didn’t give you those powers. The court also went on to give a final declaration which has settled, I believe, all the crises to the effect that the Vice President, in the absence of the President, can carry out all the functions of Mr. President pending when he arrives. To me, it is a good judgment. The plaintiff brought me here.
He canvassed all the issues and we filed our counter-affidavit and in the wisdom of the court, it found that I was correct. I have been vindicated. “The issue of section 145 has also been clearly stated. That it is a discretionary provision. The President may wish to transmit or not transmit. And when he transmits, it means the Vice President is no longer exercising the powers of the President on his behalf but exercising the powers in his own right.
But now the powers which the Vice President has been exercising under section 5 of the 1999 Constitution before now, the court said he can continue to act on behalf of the President all the powers vested in the President.”
On why it was difficult for the Vice President to sign the appropriation bill when he can exercise the powers of the President, Aondoakaa said he could not do that at the time because “we have not got the interpretation of the law. With this interpretation, he can now sign anything the President can sign. He can send bill to the National Assembly and he can sign any bill now.”
Precarious circumstance
Also reacting to the judgment, Mr. Amobi Nzelu, the lead counsel to the plaintiff, said the judgment was the best in the precarious circumstance Nigeria finds itself today. According to Nzelu, “the court has upheld the case of the plaintiff who has come to court to seek a mid-course rather than make a heavy weather of section 145 of the 1999 constitution.
We had to bring together section 5(1) and 148 (1) to say that the Vice President can, in the absence of Mr. President, carry out the functions of Mr. President without necessarily transmitting a letter to the National Assembly. That was why we were in court and the court said yes, we were right and that the vice president can do that.
It is our view that we don’t need section 145 to come into play before VP Jonathan can perform the functions of the sitting President who is presently not available. We came to court and the court has upheld our argument saying that Jonathan Goodluck, as Vice President, can lawfully execute the functions vested in Mr. President until the ailing President returns from his medical leave.
That is why we came to court. Although by this judgment, Jonathan could not be called an Acting President but I tell you, the phrase “Acting President” is just a matter of nomenclature. The most important thing is that he can perform the functions of the President. So, it now depends on the name you want to give him: Acting President or President by Court Order.

Views: 409

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Nigeria has become a laughing stock in England and the U.S.A. Now the simple question is why do we have to go to court for this very simple situation. I call it situation because I don't see it as a problem.
Even a 5 year primary school pupil in Nigeria know the role of a vice of any position. The reason of having a vice position in any organisation is simply to occupy and fulfill the responsibilities duties the the position in case of the absence of the that position. Why going Court?
Good judgement! I think this is what would have been done earlier instead of the alleged forging of signature on the supplementary budget.
i am amazed that despite the knowledgeable legal expert we have in Nigeria we had to go to court for this interpretation. however it is still a welcome development as it was the judicial stand that the vice president can act on behalf of the president.even though the political elite and opposition stand is not clear as it is obvious that the vice president is answerable to the president the big questions are knowing the state of health of the president does the vice president have to wait for orders to respond to national issues that require urgent actions like the role of the president in the us airline failed attack..........the Nigerian constitution and polity could be ridiculous at times .to me an acting president is different from president by constitution...........soon other issue will unravel, trust Nigerian politicians
The judgment has answered the question of whether Jonathan has constitutional powers to perform the duties of the president, but why has it been so difficult for Yar'Adua to confer the status as Acting President on Jonathan? Yar'Adua should as a matter of urgency declare if he is still capable of steering the ship of the nation or he should honourably throw in the towel and allow the vice president to continue. Nigeria has not witnessed appreciable progress since Yar'Adua came on board. It is a fact. We can not afford to continue like this. We have been taken for a ride for too long.
Enough is enough!
The Court actions is a welcome development, in fact with the action the Judiciary had restore their dignity they loose when the former chief justice of the federation use his power to give oath to his predecessor.I wish VP Jonathan God Guidance in taking Nigerians to promise land successfully amen
Nigeria as a country still have a long way to go. The day the diverse elements that made up Nigeria decides to hold their destiny in their own hand and stood up for their God given rights, would be the day that the sunshine which had eluded the nation since late Awolowo made the statement on darkness will shine.What we allowed PDP and Obasanjo to put us through is what we are now living with. The president is sick and unable to perform his sworn duties yet we had to go to court to beg for the vice president to act in his absence. What a country! I want to know how the north will allow this to happen. The born to rule have had to wait for 8 useless years to get back the mantle of leadership from a yoruba in hausa skin. Mr one Nigeria Obasanjo whose years as head of states and president had put more tears in the eyes of the people and caused underdevelopment in the south of Nigeria. I am not really keen if Mr goodluck is allowed to act or not because nothing good is going to come out of him. We as a people need to rethink and stop this few from further damaging the economy of a nation that God has bless before time. We are a nation in the mist of plenty, yet our young and old suffer everyday from lack of needs and want. From Ogun state to other part of Nigeria, a change not only in leaderships but also in the culture of accountability is what we need and it is what we must all stand up and fight for with the last drop of our blood. The truth is that Nigeria and the Nigerians need not a political party that is capitalist oriented, and we do not need some people to tell us with the use of money and thugs to do their biddings.
Nigerians dont be deceived by that judgement. It is a foul play. If Jonathan is empowered by the constitution & that he has been performing that functiion as claimed by The AGF, let them show us the documents Jonathan has signed since Yar'Adua left this country (I know they will say for security reasons they can not make it public). Secondly, if he has been performing that duty why taking the supplementary budget to a dying man to sign. Nigeria is such a hoax of a country & we are angry that America is icluding us in a list of terrorist country. They are not like our leaders who dont value us; they value their citizens.
What I read from one of the newspapers in Nigeria today is that "...President Yar'Adua ...failed to hand over the reins of power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan before leaving for his current health-related trip to Saudi Arabia for fear that former President Obasanjo might gain a foothold in the Presidency through Jonathan.

The Guardian learnt during the week that majority of the northern political elites and some in the South believed that the alleged continued loyalty of the Vice President and Senate President David Mark to Obasanjo might change the country's power calculus if President Yar'Adua handed over to Jonathan."

My frustration and I am sure shared by millions of well meaning Nigerians is when will we truly have the tenets of democracy practiced in Nigeria? I mean the one that says government of the people, by the people and for the people. If an individual who truly believe that his assumption to lead the people was by the dictates and will of the people, he or she will have the people at heart and will not leave them without a leader when it matters most on the occasion of his or her deemed incapacity albeit for a short or longer period. Let us face it; we practice oligarchy in Nigeria with a cosmetic surgery to make it look like democracy - Oligcracy.
Why go to court you ask? Politics as usual of course. Now Presidential powers have shifted to the south. Do you have any idea how many people in Nigeria who are uncomfortable with that situation, eventhough for now it is temporary?

Prince Mohammed A Davies said:
Nigeria has become a laughing stock in England and the U.S.A. Now the simple question is why do we have to go to court for this very simple situation. I call it situation because I don't see it as a problem.
Even a 5 year primary school pupil in Nigeria know the role of a vice of any position. The reason of having a vice position in any organisation is simply to occupy and fulfill the responsibilities duties the the position in case of the absence of the that position. Why going Court?
they are all a bunch of disappointment. the are just playing judicial makossa with the nation. the question is where is our president? the senate president David Mark tactically dodged the vital question ' is it true that the president spoke with you?' ... you see wat i mean. we are just groping in the dark stormy sea called nigeria like a ship without a captain. it is well
B*******.....

RSS

Forum Categories

© 2022   Created by Vanguard Media Ltd.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service