As Goodluck Jonathan Accepts To Become Acting President
San Francisco Feb 09, (THEWILL) – Nigerian Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan formally accepted to become acting president in the absence of President Umaru Yar'Adua who has been incapacitated since November 23, 2009, when he left Abuja for a Saudi Arabian hospital.
In a broadcast to Nigerians on Tuesday, the acting president was unequivocally frank when he said, "the circumstances in which I find myself assuming office today as Acting President of our country are uncommon, sober and reflective."
The political solution employed by the National Assembly to install Jonathan as acting president has not doused the uncertainty in the land because the means through which he assumed office has thrown up another round of constitutional debates.
Can a political solution become a substitute for a constitutional requirement? Is it illegal like most analysts have said? The 1999 Constitution clearly states how a vice president can become acting president. Section 143 outlines the processes of impeachment; Section 144 dwells on his removal from office on medical grounds while Section 145 prescribes how he transfers power to the vice president. These are the only three conditions where the Constitution allows a vice president step up to become acting president or president.
Sections 143; 144 and 145 states thus:
"143 (1) The President or Vice-President may be removed from office in accordance with the provisions of this section.
"(2) Whenever a notice of any allegation in writing signed by not less than one-third of the members of the National Assembly:
"(a) is presented to the President of the Senate;
"(b) stating that the holder of the office of President or Vice-President is guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office, detailed particulars of which shall be specified,
"the President of the Senate shall within seven days of the receipt of the notice cause a copy thereof to be served on the holder of the office and on each member of the National Assembly, and shall also cause any statement made in reply to the allegation by the holder of the office to be served on each member of the National Assembly.
"(3) Within fourteen days of the presentation of the notice to the President of the Senate (whether or not any statement was made by the holder of the office in reply to the allegation contained in the notice) each House of the National Assembly shall resolve by motion without any debate whether or not the allegation shall be investigated.
"(4) A motion of the National Assembly that the allegation be investigated shall not be declared as having been passed, unless it is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of each House of the National Assembly.
"(5) Within seven days of the passing of a motion under the foregoing provisions, the Chief Justice of Nigeria shall at the request of the President of the Senate appoint a Panel of seven persons who in his opinion are of unquestionable integrity, not being members of any public service, legislative house or political party, to investigate the allegation as provide in this section.
"(6) The holder of an office whose conduct is being investigated under this section shall have the right to defend himself in person and be represented before the Panel by legal practitioners of his own choice.
"(7) A Panel appointed under this section shall -
"(a) have such powers and exercise its functions in accordance with such procedure as may be prescribed by the National Assembly; and
"(b) within three months of its appointment report its findings to each House of the National Assembly.
"(8) Where the Panel reports to each House of the National Assembly that the allegation has not been proved, no further proceedings shall be taken in respect of the matter.
"(9) Where the report of the Panel is that the allegation against the holder of the office has been proved, then within fourteen days of the receipt of the report at the House the National Assembly shall consider the report, and if by a resolution of each House of the National Assembly supported by not less than two-thirds majority of all its members, the report of the Panel is adopted, then the holder of the office shall stand removed from office as from the date of the adoption of the report.
"(10) No proceedings or determination of the Panel or of the National Assembly or any matter relating thereto shall be entertained or questioned in any court.
"(11) In this section -
" "gross misconduct" means a grave violation or breach of the provisions of this Constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts in the opinion of the National Assembly to gross misconduct.
"144. (1) The President or Vice-President shall cease to hold office, if -
"(a) 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 Representatives.
"(2) Where the medical panel certifies in the report that in its opinion the President or Vice-President is suffering from such infirmity of body or mind as renders him permanently incapable of discharging the functions of his office, a notice thereof signed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be published in the Official Gazette of the Government of the Federation.
"(3) The President or Vice-President shall cease to hold office as from the date of publication of the notice of the medical report pursuant to subsection (2) of this 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 the Government of the Federation, howsoever called, established by the President and charged with such responsibilities for the functions of government as the President may direct.
"145. 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 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."
The National Assembly's resolution may not stand a flurry of litigations which are inevitable under the circumstances at hand? Nigerians are once again divided on the Assembly's easy solution. I believe some aggrieved Nigerians would want this issue of Yar'Adua's refusal to transmit a vacation letter dealt with properly once and for all. The Action Congress (AC) has already flawed the decision, which it has called illegal.
Will the executive council of the federation do as the Constitution has prescribed and save the day? It is a known fact that the president is presently incapacitated. His silence since the "BBC clip" only confirms that he is truly incapacitated.
The council should do the what is best for the country and the Nigerian people; which is, begin a process of constitutionally declaring the president incapacitated just like Professor Dora Akunyili stated in her memo.
If the council fails in its most crucial assignment today, then the question becomes, can this political solution stand in a competent court of law?| Article source