IT'S UNCONSTITUTIONAL FOR SPEAKERS TO TAKE OVER -EX-AGF
Former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Kanu Agabi, yesterday described the handover of power to Speakers of state Houses of Assembly whose governors were sacked by the Supreme Court as illegal.
The Supreme Court had yesterday ruled that the tenures of Governors Ibrahim Idris (Kogi), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa), Aliyu Wamako (Sokoto) and Liyel Imoke (Cross River) had expired on May 28, 2011 as their four years tenure started counting from May 29, 2007 when they were sworn in.
Following the judgment, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke had issued a statement directing Speakers in the five states affected by the judgment of the apex court to take over and preside in acting capacity.
But addressing newsmen yesterday in Abuja, Agabi declared that the Speakers in the affected states could not act as governors, as the 1999 constitution only give them powers to do so, when elections are annulled, or invalidated. Although he applauded the judgment, Agabi was of the opinion that Section 180 (1) (a) of the 1999 Constitution did not confer on the Speakers such powers.
He submitted that apart from Kogi State, where election had been conducted and Captain Idris Wada had emerged winner, the governors in the other four states should remain in office till an other election is conducted and a successor emerges.
The former minister said: 'Section 180 subsection (1) of the Constitution says, subject to the provision of this Constitution, a person shall hold the office of a governor of a state until when a successor in office take the oath of that office. He holds that office until his successor takes over the office.
'The Speaker of a state is not the successor of the governor under the constitution, except when the election is invalidated or something like that happened. As a consequence of the judgment, the terms of office of those governors has expired, but they cannot just leave the office because the Constitution says when their term of office has expired you hold on to that office until somebody succeeds you.'
'It is not a matter of what make sense or what does not make sense; it's what the Constitution provides; if the Constitution says that he remains in the office until somebody succeeds him, whether in 30 minutes or a year time he is out, but if nobody succeeds him for another one year he has to remain there, because you can't leave the state without a successor.
'The judgment merely says that look their terms have ended, but having ended they cannot just leave the office, because the Constitution provides that they can leave office only when a successor emerges, the governor cannot just leave office except in the case of invalid election, once an election is invalid and the governor's election has been invalidated he must leave immediately, but in the case such as this, when they were validly elected governors and were serving, the declaration that their terms have ended simply means they will leave when somebody emerges to take their place.'
Agabi attributed the present situation to lack of maturity of the politicians and faulting elections. 'Section 180 (1) reads: Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, a person shall hold the office of governor of a State until: (a) when his successor in office takes the Oath of that office or (b) he dies whilst holding such office or (c) the date when his resignation from office takes effect or (d) he otherwise ceases to hold office in accordance with the provision of this Constitution.'