Friday, February 12, 2010
Nigerian permanent secretaries sworn-in by the Acting President Goodluck Jonathan at State House in Abuja. Jonathan took charge amid the continuing incapacity of President Umaru Yar'Adua who is still in a Saudi Arabian hospital.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
Nigerian permanent secretaries sworn-in by the Acting President Goodluck Jonathan at State House in Abuja. Jonathan took charge amid the continuing incapacity of President Umaru Yar'Adua who is still in a Saudi Arabian hospital.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
Jonathan receives N'Assembly leaders, swears in perm secs
From Martins Oloja, Madu Onuorah (Abuja) and Niyi Bello (Akure)
ACTING President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan yesterday morning held a breakfast meeting with the leadership of the Senate led by Senate President, David Mark at his residence at Aguda House, within the precincts of the Presidential Villa Abuja. He pledged to start official correspondence with the Senate immediately.
The issue of correspondence was the main point raised by the Senate leadership with the Acting President.
Jonathan commended the senators for their commitment to Nigeria which he said, moved them to empower him as Acting President, adding that this has removed the tension and anxiety prevalent in the country as a result of the absence of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua.
According to the Acting President: "I love the spirit the National Assembly has been working with the President and myself. From the day we came till today, and from what has happened, I have to compliment and commend your courage and commitment to the country. As a nation, we must move forward. And I assure you that we will work with you, because governance is not one man's business. In terms of the correspondence, I believe you will get some today. For one reason or the other we couldn't get some correspondence out yesterday. Of course, you know that I had some pending issues that we really need to get them through."
Also yesterday, Jonathan urged the three arms of government to work together in order to provide good governance and democratic promises to Nigerians.
He said when he received a delegation of principal officers of the House of Representatives led by the Speaker, Dimeji Bankole that the doctrine of separation of powers does not mean that the arms of government should operate in isolation of one another.
"It is a pleasure for me today to receive the leadership of the Senate in my sitting room before going to work. Let me use the opportunity to thank the National Assembly members for what you have been doing for this country before this period, even before my boss our President (Umaru Musa Yar'Adua) left for medical attention abroad; and especially within this period, from November (last year) that he travelled out. When you read the papers and listen to the news, you will know that the nation has been so heated and only needs the National Assembly members that are focused and committed to make sure that the country moves forward.
"The challenges are enormous and obvious to all of us. But with your support, I will try to hold brief for Mr. President until he returns. Like all Nigerians, both Christians and Muslims are praying daily for his quick recovery. We hope and we pray that he will come back soon. On our own part, I personally believe that the separation of powers does not mean that the parliamentarians and the executives are different. We all belong to the same political family, even from our own local governments, states and national level and there is no way you can separate people who belong to the same political family leading by the same political manifesto."
Senator Mark had earlier told the Acting President "we are now ready and prepared to take correspondences from you as it ought to be because that is the right thing. It is to let you know that we are very willing and very prepared to work with you, conscious of the separation of powers. And with your wealth of experience, am sure that you are very conversant with the way the Assembly used to work with the executive."
He added: "It is a very rather informal visit. We thought we should come here early enough to let you know that as soon as your correspondences are ready, they can now begin to come to us. We are looking forward to reading the first three. We expected one yesterday and it didn't come. And am not sure we are getting any today. But am sure you will see the ovation once your first letter comes to the Senate. Your Excellency, we pray that God will give you courage and the wisdom to lead this country aright. And we join you in continuing to pray for the quick recovery of the President, his Excellency Umaru Musa Yar'adua."
The House of Representatives' delegation was in the Acting President's office yesterday evening "on a solidarity visit."
He noted that in the present situation the National Assembly cannot allow the democratic process in the country to collapse but plays a key role stabilizing it.
Jonathan thanked the National Assembly for the courage and commitment to bring to an end the intense debate caused by the absence of President Yar'Adua who travelled out of the country for medical treatment.
According to the Acting President: "Though the political scientists are talking about separation of powers they cannot really separate the executive from the parliament even in the presidential system of government. We belong to the same political family and under the same political party, there is no separate manifesto for the executive and the legislature. My advice is that we should work together for good governance and deliver democratic dividends to Nigerians."
Jonathan promised to encourage harmonious relationship between all arms of government while he steers the reigns of governance.
Bankole said he and the principal officers of the House of Representatives came to register their solidarity to the Acting President.
He assured that "the House of Representatives is going to work with the Acting President to ensure that the promises made to Nigerians to deliver the dividends of democracy are executed". He assured further that as representatives of various constituencies in the country, they are determined to work with Acting President Jonathan to ensure that things are done properly to move the country forward."
Besides, indications emerged last night that members of the House of Representatives on a mission to see President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua in Saudi Arabia may have been stranded as they were said to be unable to see him yesterday.
They were said to have been restrained by Nigeria`s envoy who told them that the Saudi authorities were in charge of Yar'Adua security.
Meanwhile, a presidency source confirmed last night that the former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, yesterday applied to go on some accumulated leave.
Aondoakaa who was redeployed by Jonathan on Wednesday to head the Special Duties Ministry, had not got any response from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) at press time.
In the meantime, in one of his early official assignments two days after he assumed office, Jonathan yesterday at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa swore in 17 Permanent Secretaries.
He charged them to eschew corruption and ensure smooth and effective running of government machinery.
Meanwhile, the appointment of former Labour Minister, Adetokunbo Kayode (SAN) as the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) by Jonathan, has elicited encomiums from members of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) in Ondo State.
Jonathan said based on the process that brought them into office through the new civil service reforms you should display "your competences and readiness to satisfactorily hold the office.
"It's a privilege for you to be called to serve at this time as we go into the crucial last lap of this administration. You are therefore expected to bring your experience to bear in all aspects of your duties and be prepared to accept responsibilities always. You must also bear in mind that as accounting officers of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government, you must live above board and must not condone corrupt practices.
"Therefore, let the zero tolerance to corruption of this administration be your watch word and guiding principles. I admonish you to give your honourable ministers the required co-operation and support to ensure smooth and effective running of government machinery. In particular, you must take all natural actions to assure that you have good relations with ministers especially in Ministries that have more than one Minister, and avoid being agent of division and rancour. Distinguish ladies and gentlemen; let me remind you of the very high expectations that Nigerians and especially this administration demand of you in this assignment."
The new Permanent Secretaries represent their states of origin and the six geo-political zones. They include Ambassador Sani Lawal Mohammed (Sokoto), Oloforede Willoughby (Lagos), Odusete Ibokun Abimbola (Ogun), Mohammed Sambo Bashir (Sokoto), Baba Umar Farouk (Bauchi), Anthony Ozodinobi (Anambra), Biodun Nathaniel Olorunfemi (Kogi), Ibrahim Jalo Daudu (Gombe), Aliyu Salihu (Zamfara), Sheik Goni Musa (Borno), Anjorin Dere Awosika (Delta)
Others are Fatima Binta Bamidele (Oyo), Ibrahim Gaya Maye (Kano), Dr Martin Olumobi (Edo), Charles Boma (Kaduna), Ene Ita Ann Nkese (Delta State) and Dauda Shuaibu Ibu (Nasarawa).
Out of the 17, six were picked to represent the six geo-political zones - Daudu (North-East), Olorunfemi (North-Central), Maye (North-West), Ozodinobi (South-East), Nkese (South-South) and Bamidele (South-West).
Late last October, Head of Service, Mr Steve Orosanye announced the appointment of 15 new permanent secretaries to replace those who retired under the new policy on tenure for top civil servants and also to fill other slots.
Nine of the new officials filled vacancies in states hitherto not represented while the six others are appointed to represent the geo-political zones.
The new appointments came after examinations conducted between September 23 and 30 by the Federal Civil Service Commission and office of the Head of Service for directors in the service who want to move up to the position of permanent secretary.
In August, the Federal Government introduced the tenure policy, which provides a four-year term renewable once for permanent secretaries and eight-year term for directors, irrespective of the public service rules which prescribe 60 years of age and/or 35 years of service for mandatory retirement.
The policy led to the retirement early this month of nine permanent secretaries, while over 100 directors are expected to quit by January 1.
In a statement by its Public Relations Officer (PRO), Rotimi Olorunfemi, the Akure Chapter of the NBA described Kayode's appointment as "made in the best interest of the nation and the judiciary as he is a round peg in a round hole."
According to the Akure NBA which expressed optimism that the new AGF would not disappoint the nation in his new calling, "the incessant friction between the NBA and office of the AGF which had characterized the tenure of the former occupier of the office would be a thing of the past.
"Kayode's appointment cannot come at a better time when the nation is in critical need of an experienced legal luminary that will chart a clear and unambiguous legal part for the nation. And with Kayode's wealth of experience as quintessential senior advocate of Nigeria and a foremost bar man, being a former first Vice President of NBA, he is no doubt well endowed and equipped for the top job", he added.
While congratulating Jonathan "for taking the right decision in the Kayode appointment", the NBA pledged total support of its members to the observance of the Rule of Law agenda of the President Musa Umaru Yar'Adua administration with expectations that a noble course would be charted for the legal profession and the justice system in the new dispensation."
In a similar manner, members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo, Kayode's home state, have expressed satisfaction with the appointment .They said "Jonathan had definitely read the mind of the nation correctly when he moved the former AGF and appointed a new one."
One of the party leaders, Muyiwa Asagunla, a former Special Assistant to former Governor Olusegun Agagu, said "Kayode is a pride not only to Ondo State and Akokoland, his place of birth, but to the country in general."
He added: "Kayode was good as Minister of Culture, better as Minister of Labour and now that the acting president has put him where he will do what he knows best."
Ex-envoys flay U.S. over terror list
By Francis Obinor
THE Association of Retired Ambassadors of Nigeria has criticised the United States (U.S.) government for putting the country on its terror list following the failed bomb attempt by a Nigerian, Farouk Abdulmutallab, on December 25, last year.
The association said that Washington should have used the necessary diplomatic channels available with Abuja instead of using the media to announce its decision to enlist the country on its terror list.
It, however, urged the Nigerian government to urgently put in place measures to assure the international community of its readiness and seriousness to fight terror.
At a briefing held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) Lagos yesterday, the envoys called on the government to tighten the country's airports, address issues that could spark ethno-religious strife and strengthen its war on drug and human trafficking.
"Nigeria needs to do certain things at home to assure the international community of its readiness to fight terror. The civil societies and government should ensure that the causes of strives are addressed," said former permanent representative to the United Nations (UN), Ambassador Akporode Clark.
Led by their President, Olujimi Jolaoso and Secretary, Jumoke Obafemi, the envoys welcomed the desire of the government and the U.S. to continue to cooperate in all aspects of their bilateral relations despite the failed bomb incident.
They said by the move, "it is hoped that efforts will be made to resolve the unfortunate misunderstanding which has risen recently with Nigeria being included on the U.S. watch list of countries with terrorist tendencies.
"The association hopes that the two countries will continue their diplomatic dialogue with a view to having Nigeria removed from that list in view of the positive and constructive role it has always played in the fight against international terrorism and the promotion of international peace and security."
The envoys said further that with such an opportunity, the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, would avail herself of that dialogue in keeping more with the traditional diplomatic channels of communication between two friendly countries and some aspects of her recent pronouncements which have tended to paint an unfavourable picture of Nigeria.
The envoys also noted with deep concern and apprehension the situation created in the country since the departure of President Musa Yar'Adua for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia.
They welcomed the quick resolution of the crisis constitutionally with the emergence of the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as the Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The envoys said with the resolution, they believe that "governments at all levels will now focus their attention on addressing expeditiously, the social and economic problems prevalent in the country to enable Nigeria to pull her weight in international affairs."
While urging the government to define its goals in a particular country before any ambassador is posted, the envoys said it would be in the country's interest should career diplomats be put in key countries.
The envoys commiserated with the people in Haiti over the deadly earthquake which devastated the country on January 12, killing thousands and rendering many more homeless. They commended the federal and state governments as well as the civil society for providing relief materials.
However, they said Nigeria could and should do more in future and be ready with contingency plans to enable the country respond with greater speed and effectiveness.
Meanwhile, Founder/Chairman of the Nigeria-China Friendship Association (NICAF), Ambassador Victor Chibundu, who was also at the event, said the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), including local government officials and corporate bodies would pay an official visit to Nigeria from April 19 to 21 to boost bilateral and diplomatic ties.
The Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, founded in 1954, is a parastatal of the government of the People's Republic of China responsible for promoting friendship and mutual understanding between Chinese and other people all over the world.
The association, according to Chibundu, was the link between Nigeria and China before and until the establishment of diplomatic relations between both countries in February 1971.
Meanwhile, the Senate has resolved to send its committee on Foreign Affairs to address the United States Congress on the issues generated by Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab's attempt to bomb an American Airline last December.
While receiving the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Amb. Jonnie Carson in his office yesterday, Senate President David Mark also asked America to review its decision on Nigeria regarding the issue of terrorism.
The panel to undertake that trip is the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and is to be led by its Chairman, Senator Jibril Aminu.
Mark told Carson to persuade the government of his country to exercise restraint in handling the case.
"I hope the U.S. Congress will understand our position and exercise restraint on Nigeria. Nigeria is a great nation and a friendly one at that. What happened on December 25, 2009 was unfortunate. Nigerians are not violent people and we do not support the action of Abdulmuttallab. We abhor it and condemn it in its entirety," the Senate President said.
On the decision of the Senate to empower Goodluck Jonathan to become Acting President, Mark said that it was guided by the national interest and the need to protect democracy in Nigeria.
According to him, tension generated by President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's absence had died down since Jonathan became Acting President.
Earlier, Carson told Mark that the U.S. was proud of all measures taken by Nigeria to remain on the path of democracy and constitutionality."
The pillars of Jonathan's Acting Presidency
By Akpo Esajere
Group Political Editor
"A minority is now there; let's wait and see what he makes of it." Some politicians have been making this remark ceaselessly since Tuesday's (February 9, 2010) resolution by which the National Assembly empowered Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, who hails from Bayelsa State in the minority South-South geo-political part of the country, to assume responsibilities as Acting President. One politician put it this way: "now he (Jonathan) has it; it depends what he does with it; how he goes about it."
Although the Federal legislature's unprecedented resolution enabled Jonathan to step in as Acting President in place of ailing President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, there seems to be an unspoken assumption in several quarters that the President may not be returning soon from the Saudi Arabian hospital where he had spent 81 days today receiving treatment. Also, it seems now being taken for granted, especially in the circles of politicians, that even if the President returned this night, he would not be expected to be in hurry to resume at his desk unless he is certified well and fit.
Indeed, the National Assembly on Tuesday faced this issue during the debate of the historical resolution. At least one Senator on the floor of the Senate and several, who did not have the chance to speak, insisted that it is not enough for the President to return; that he has to be capable to carry on with the duties of his office. Mrs. Joy Emordi representing Anambra North in the Senate put it thus on the floor of the Senate: "there should be a caveat to prayer two because it was not enough for the President to return but should also be capable of discharging his duties before returning to his seat."
The "prayer two" on which Emordi demanded further "strengthening" is the second half of the two-point resolution of the Senate that read: "the Vice President shall cease to discharge the functions of the office of the President when the President pursuant to section 145 of the constitution of the Federal Republic Of Nigeria 1999 transmits to the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives in writing that he has returned from his medical vacation." The first half of the resolution was: "the Vice President, His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, GCON, shall henceforth discharge the functions of the office of President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation, as Acting President."
Emordi's concern obviously is to prevent the country from being subjected any further to the manipulations and plain lies told continuously about the President's state of health and recuperation, which characterized the 78 days before the resolution was taken. Yar'Adua's apologist and other hawks in government wouldn't let go. Hours before the National Assembly warmed up to the historical resolution, tales that the President was being brought back in an air ambulance even suddenly seized airwaves. There were stories of somebody being forced to "sign certain undertakings." Which is why some politicians acclaimed the Senate resolution as a "call to order" and "setting the stage for Jonathan to perform and prove himself," adding that the next two weeks will be crucial for the Acting President. He is expected in the period "to stamp in the character" of his Acting Presidency.
Between legality and political expediency
Many critics of the February 9 resolution argue that the Senate (and House of Representatives) ought to have acted more firmly and positively by invoking section 144 of the 1999 constitution. Although the section addresses the possibility of permanent incapacity whereby the President or Vice President would cease to hold office on account of permanent incapacity and spells out the procedure for determining permanent incapacity, critics of the National Assembly argue that the body should have "used it pragmatically to address the situation once and for all."
Pragmatism here means that the President should have been declared permanently incapacitated and impeached (removed from office). The argument here dismisses the doctrine of necessity based on section 145 of the constitution as the Senate did. The section requires the President to "transmit" in form of a "written declaration" to the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives that he is proceeding on vacation or for whatever reason he will be temporarily absent and unable to discharge the functions of his office-a declaration which automatically enables the Vice President to take up discharging the functions of the President's office as Acting President.
The argument here is that the Senate basing its resolution on section 145 instead of 144 acted "circumspectly and self-servingly to protect the Yar'Adua Presidency" rather than "go for a clear, tidy and forthright solution to the situation." That the BBC interview of January 12, 2010 said to be granted by Yar'Adua from his sick bed is not a written declaration, contrary to the Senate logic. That from day one of Yar'Adua government, the whole world, and in particular, Nigerians knew or have been aware, despite attempts by government to make it a hush-hush affair, that the President was unwell and un-fit. And that a President who took off abroad on health ground without a written declaration and had spent 78 days and it continuing to stay abroad, without information about exactly where he is or his exact condition should be declared incapacitated and removed-all of which, it is argued, adds up to gross misconduct as to necessitate impeachment.
It is the reason the pan-Yoruba organization Afenifere leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, for example, rated the Senate resolution as a "first step." He argues that the Senate would need to apply another resolution to concretize its action by declaring the President incapacitated and in effect remove him from office.
On the other hand, however, Senate President David Mark had pointed out that impeaching the President or declaring him incapacitated would amount to criminalizing illness. Both the Mark-led Senate and governors of the 36 states, a very powerful group among various stakeholders who made landmark representations to the Assembly came across that nothing must be done to humiliate the President.
Thus, some have rated the resolution as an act of compromise: the President is ill; obviously seriously ill; illness is not gross misconduct and must not be made to look like one; the President had left without a written declaration, he have been in no position to write and sign; if the President were going into his toilet and accidentally fell and broke his head and went into coma for one year, would you be expecting him to write a written declaration?
Jonathan and politics of necessity
Since the Tuesday resolution, the airwaves have been seized by analysis of the doctrine of necessity, which Senate President Mark cited to justify the Assembly action. It is a common law device and lawyers are apt to refer to it as a "judicial prerogative of the courts" to adopt a practical, reasonable and sensible approach in applying the law in a manner consistent with justice and equity.
They also refer to it as applicable to a situation or circumstance where "there is no other solution" or "every known solution has been exhausted." Thus, some argued that the resolution was faulty and dangerous in that all known solutions were not exhausted. The Senate had passed a resolution on January 27, 2010 urging the ailing President to transmit a vacation letter.
When no vacation letter was foreseeable, the Senate passed another resolution giving the Federal Executive Council (FEC) seven days within which to write the House to formally underscore the President's illness-a requirement stipulated under section 144 of the 1999 constitution. That, too, was not forthcoming. Members of FEC, called Executive Council by the constitution, were playing safe and maintaining their stand that the President was fit to govern even when he is clearly unwell and continuing to be unwell.
Thus, some argued that from that point the Senate's "action" should have been to "get somebody to go to court-up to the Supreme Court, all of which could be done in one week, and the basis of the Senate could then either resolve as it did or impeach the President." Which is why some described the Senate resolution as akin to a military coup. When the military stage a coup to take over the reins of government, they employ (doctrine of) necessity; thus, their first act is to suspend the law of the land-the constitution- whereby they would proceed to justify the illegal act by describing the "unacceptable situation in the country." Which is why some said Mark's remarks on why the Senate took the resolution read like a coup broadcast.... "the last 78 days have been very challenging to us as a nation. We have come under intense pressure, stress and pain. However, we have examined all the options available to us and today rightly concluded that it is necessary to take this stand and allow the country to move forward..."
Before the Senate resolution, there had been a court ruling. Wittingly or unwittingly, however, the ruling merely served to satisfy the well-advertised preference of Mike Aoandoakaa, the former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice (moved to special duties on Wednesday) that Vice President Goodluck Jonathan should continue to function in a "delegated" capacity and not as Acting President.
Even so, the Assembly resolution is still rated as saddling Aso Rock under Jonathan with "legal burden." In any case, the debate about legality is mostly about the steps stipulated in the constitution handle the President or Vice President incapacitation, which the Senate had side stepped in dealing with the problem. And the bottom line is that President Yar'Adua should have been impeached and "not to allow his shadow as President to be hovering over Jonathan."
Those arguing on legality insist that the National Assembly is a law-making body and not a court. That if concluded, as it did, that the situation the nation was plunged was not contemplated by the constitution, it should have "got the court to say so." Jonathan is however taking charge. It is, seriously speaking, up to Jonathan as Acting President proclaimed by the National Assembly to charge although he may choose not to act too differently from the way he has been as Vice President under President Yar'Adua.
His critics had often seen him as lacking political clout. They are inclined to compare him to Atiku Abubakar who would take "full charge" when Olusegun Obasanjo was temporarily absent. But unlike Atiku, Jonathan has the burden of applying himself to a Presidency, which under the informal arrangement of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) "the North," it is assumed, "should also have two terms or eight years." He could probably have to look over his shoulder all the time. And he could simply be content acting on behalf of his ailing boss, settling down to play the role of facilitator among the majorities.
Yet, he is faced with other tricky political considerations. If he were to finish the Acting Presidency, what will he do: go home? Can he run in 2011?
There seems to be an unspoken assumption in several quarters that the President may not be returning soon from the Saudi Arabian hospital where he had spent 81 days today receiving treatment. Also, it seems now being taken for granted, especially in the circles of politicians, that even if the President returned this night, he would not be expected to be in hurry to resume at his desk unless he is certified well and fit.
His critics had often seen him as lacking political clout. They are inclined to compare him to Atiku Abubakar who would take "full charge" when Olusegun Obasanjo was temporarily absent. But unlike Atiku, Jonathan has the burden of applying himself to a Presidency, which under the informal arrangement of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) "the North," it is assumed, "should also have two terms or eight years."