Nigeria has been without her no. 1 citizen for the past three months. The reason for the absence of the President is widely known across the whole world, even to the extent it became a quizzacious quiz on CNN, a renowned international television news channel; which turned out to be the genesis of consciousness on the part of some Nigerians to clamour for the return of their President or he should resign. This cannot be without a legal consequence, hence this discourse becomes pertinent.
The legal implication involved here can be divided into two major parts. These are:
- President (Muhammadu Buhari) being in London for medical vacation for a period exceeding 3months, and still counting.
- The protest championed by Charly Boy for the return or resignation of the President
WHAT IS THE LAW SAYING ON THE IMPLICATIONS HIGHLIGHTED ABOVE?
ON THE CONTINUOUS MEDICAL VACATION OF THE PRESIDENT IN LONDON
Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria(as amended) provides:
(1) ”Whenever the President is proceeding on vacation or is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, he shall Transmit a written declaration to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives to that effect, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, the Vice-President shall perform the functions of the President as Acting President.”
(2) ”In the event that the President is unable or fails to transmit the written declaration mentioned in subsection (1) of this section within 21 days, the National Assembly shall, by a resolution made by a simple majority of the vote of each House of the National Assembly, mandate the Vice-President to perform the functions of the office of the President as Acting President until the President transmits a letter to the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives that he is now available to resume his functions as President.”
The President has strictly complied with the provisions above. However, the question of how long such vacation can be is left dangling in the air. Since the Constitution is silent on the dangling salient question of how long the President can temporarily relinquish the performance of his functions to the Vice President, there is no legal justification for the clamour for resignation or return of the President.(emphasis mine)
ON THE PROTEST REQUESTING FOR THE RESIGNATION OR RETURN OF THE PRESIDENT.
It is unsurprising that this protest is taking place. It is even more unsurprising that many Nigerians have attacked the motives behind the protest. The protesters are tagged psychopaths & sadists; some Nigerians are even happy that the protesters were tear gassed by security officials; while the chiefs critics of the protest say: ‘’why didn’t they protest the syndicated loot of the national treasury during the tenure of Goodluck Jonathan’’. My grouses on the protest, & answers to them are:
Do they have right to protest against any conduct that is likely to create negative impression about Nigeria?
Sections 38, 39 & 40 of the 1999 CFRN (as amended) guarantees freedom of thought, expression & association respectively. Provided such rights does not contravene any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society, for the purpose of the rights & freedom of other persons or in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health, as stated in section 45(1) of the Constitution.
The protesters did not exhibit violence that could lead to public disorder, but they were still teargassed anyway!
Is the request of the protesters known to the law?
The answer to this is in negative. This has been treated above extensively.
Can the request of the protesters which is unknown to our law become law?
This is where the efforts of the protesters can be appreciated. It is quite logical to say ‘’the wrong of today may be the right of tomorrow, & vice versa’’. This can be likened to the criminalization or recognition of same sex marriage in various countries. A ‘’charity begins at home’’ example is the amendment of the Constitution to the current stage, which mandates the transmission of power to the Vice-President where the President is going on vacation or unable to discharge his duties, unlike what was experienced during the ailment of a former president, late Umar Yar’adua.
The protesters are trying to avert a situation where a candidate elected as public office holder will be ruling through proxy, as opined by learned silk Femi Falana (SAN). It is evident that with the long absence of the President in the country, for a period more than 3 months, shows there is a lacuna that must be filled, hence we would all perish in it when it is negligently left to become a deadly ditch!
With all the forgoing, it can be said that our Constitution guarantees freedom of expression & thought, irrespective of the gullibility of the thought or expression, so far it does not contravene the proviso in section 45(1) of the 1999 CFRN (as amended). It can be safely said that the protesters have right to demand for requests unknown to law – such is not a crime! Same is being done in South Africa, where protesters took to the street, requesting their parliament to pass ‘’vote of no confidence’’ on Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa; although, I am yet to read or watch where they were tear gassed!
My hands are tied to request for the resignation or return of President Buhari, but my hands are not tied to request for the amendment of the Constitution, in order to avert the future occurence of this kind of ugly experience.
I pray for speedy recovery of President Buhari’s health!
Long live Nigeria!
Written by K. O Bayode, a Legal Practitioner, based in Ilorin.