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Media Owners Ask Yar’Adua to Resign

By thisdayonline.com

Media owners in the country have added their voice to the controversy trailing President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's absence from the country.They said the President should cede power to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan or resign within seven days.

“Therefore, because President Yar'Adua has been in Saudi Arabia for medical treatment for more than 70 days, thereby unable to perform his duties as Head of State and has not been seen in public since then, the stakeholders hereby demand that the President cede power to his deputy or resign within seven days,” the media gurus said in a communiqué at the end of their meeting in Lagos, yesterday.

“If he fails to take these obvious constitutional steps to stabilize the polity and keep away undemocratic forces from the political space, the National Assembly should commence impeachment proceedings against the President for endangering the country,” they added.

Twenty-two media stakeholders signed the communiqué on what they called “state of the nation”.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is getting set to endorse the Vice-President as acting President in the absence of Yar'Adua.

This came on the heels of a growing realisation among some lawmakers that the proposed visit to Saudi Arabia by a six-man delegation of the House was no longer feasible.

The media men said they were appalled by the “recklessness and unpatriotic politicization of the ill-health of the President and the dance towards darkness by our leaders”.

They noted the various efforts of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister Michael Aondoakaa to “secure rulership in absentsia for President Yar'Adua even when the President had admitted his health challenges in a BBC interview”.

Condemning the plan by the House to send a six-man delegation to visit President Yar'Adua, the media men said it was insulting that members of the National Assembly would be committing very scarce public funds to a “goodwill visit” to the President in Saudi Arabia.

They, however, commended what they called the valiant intervention by former heads of state and other eminent statesmen that the President should show regard for the spirit of the 1999 constitution.

“The communiqué stated thus: Upon a careful review of the dangers posed to our nation by the gathering clouds in the land occasioned by disregard for the spirit of our constitution, the stakeholders said they resolved as follows:

•That President Umaru Yar'Adua is human and susceptible to health challenges like every one else.

•That President Yar'Adua is no ordinary Nigerian. In any case, his health challenge is being tackled with national resource.

•That President Yar'Adua swore to an oath of allegiance to obey the letters and the spirit of the 1999 Constitution without fear or favour and to also promote peace and concord in Nigeria.

•That the media stakeholders note the various efforts of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Michael Kasee Aaodoakaa, SAN, to secure rulership in absentsia for President Yar'Adua even when the President had admitted in a BBC interview that his health challenges had temporarily incapacitated him and prevented him from performing the duties of his office.

•That it is therefore frustrating and insulting that members of the National Assembly shall be committing very scarce public funds to a 'goodwill visit' to the President in Saudi Arabia.

•The stakeholders commend the valiant intervention by former Heads of state and other eminent statesmen that President Yar'Adua should show regard for the spirit of our Constitution which foresaw our kind of situation.

•Therefore, because President Umaru Yar'Adua has been in Saudi Arabia for medical treatment for more than 70 days; leaving more than 150 million Nigerians rudderless, thereby unable to perform his duties as Head of State, Chief Executive of this Federation and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria and has not been seen in public since then, the stakeholders hereby demand that the President cede power to his deputy or resign within seven days. If he fails to take these obvious constitutional steps to stabilize the polity and keep away undemocratic forces from the political space, the National Assembly should commence impeachment proceedings against the President for endangering the country”.

THISDAY learnt the House decided to take the bull by the horns after last Friday's judgment of the Federal High Court in which Justice Daniel Abutu ruled that the transmission of a vacation letter to the National Assembly was not mandatory on Yar'Adua.

The lawmakers, it was learnt, are set to go beyond urging President Yar'Adua to act in line with Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution by transmitting a vacation letter to the National Assembly to allow Jonathan step in as acting President, as the Senate did last week.

The House may set a deadline within which the said constitutional provision must be met because of the growing concern that the Presidency and the Federal Executive Council (FEC) were taking advantage of the discretionary nature of Section 145.

House Speaker Dimeji Bankole tactically shelved the motion on the endorsement yesterday because the interest groups behind it were yet to fully agree on all the resolutions being proposed.

About a hundred lawmakers drawn from two different camps were said to have met at the Rock View Hotel, Wuse 2, Abuja on Monday night to fine-tune strategies on the issue but could not reach a common ground.

Armed with this information, Bankole was said to have acted swiftly to halt the motion from being listed on yesterday's Order Paper as any attempt to present such a sensitive issue without its sponsors building enough consensus could throw the entire House into confusion.

The proposed endorsement, THISDAY checks reveal, is now billed to take place today or tomorrow and will be coming as a result of an emerging compromise of two groups in the House who have over the past weeks held two diametrically opposing views on the Yar'Adua absence saga.

One of the groups said to be under the command of a legislator from the North-west geopolitical zone was said to have been canvassing a position similar to that of the FEC and had all along insisted that power could not be transferred in any form until the North had had its full tenure in Aso Rock.

The other group, championed by a legislator from the South-south geopolitical zone, had in its engagements highlighted the looming dangers in the power controversy and emphasized the need for the parliament to throw its weight behind the Vice-President and encourage him to exercise full presidential powers in the absence of Yar'Adua to avoid a leadership vacuum.

A member of the latter group who spoke to THISDAY said though both groups had been holding separate meetings over the past couple of weeks, the current consensus began to build after each group dropped their very extreme positions and adopted a middle course line of action in the overall national interest.

He said that though the activities of the groups had made the leadership of the House uncomfortable, there was no going back.

The bill seeking to amend Section 315 of the 1999 Constitution to confine the powers to make laws and amend existing laws to the Legislature has, however, passed second reading.

Hon. Leo Ogor (PDP Delta) who led the debate on the amendment of some provisions of Section 315 of the Constitution said they are in conflict with the provisions of Section 4(1,2,3,4) and Section 58 of the same constitution.

Whereas Section 58 spells out the procedure of lawmaking and the powers of the parliament, Section 315 makes provisions for the amendment of existing laws by the Executive without recourse to the Legislature.

“The essence of the amendment is to avoid the usurpation of the functions of the National Assembly by the President and in the case of the state House of Assembly by the governor,” Ogor said.

The House at plenary also resolved to ask the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) to as a matter of urgency rehabilitate the worsening gully erosion site along the Sam Mbakwe Road, Umuariam of Obowo Local Government Area in Imo State.

Hon. Austine Nwachukwu (PDP Imo) who brought the motion said the road in question which links several other towns and cities in the South-east zone had been in a deplorable condition for the past two years.

Also, the Forum of Former National Assembly Members has resolved to send a delegation to the House to meet with the Speaker and other principal officers on the state of the nation.

Coordinator of the forum, Hon. Samuel Obande, said the group of ex-lawmakers took the decision after their meeting in Abuja.

Obande who represented the Ado/Ogbadibo/Okpokwu Federal Constituency of Benue State during the tenure of Ghali Umar Na' Abbah as Speaker said there was need to support the present House in its efforts at resolving the problem.

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