Sunday, February 14, 2010

Jonathan's Installation Now Backed By Nigerian Law

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Jonathan's Installation Now Backed By Law

From Alifa Daniel (Asst. Political Editor, Abuja)
Nigeria Guardian

ACTING President Goodluck Jonathan has had his elevation backed by "a force of law."

This is sequel to a letter that was sent to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Alhaji Mahmud Yayale Ahmed, from the National Assembly.

The Assembly exalted Vice President Jonathan to Acting President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation on Tuesday.

The contents of the National Assembly letter were expected to be conveyed to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ignatius Katsina-Alu, the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) and the Acting President.

The letter, which a legislative source said is tantamount to a law being passed by the National Assembly, is referenced NASS/C5/R/05/III/92 and dated February 10, 2010.

It came from the Clerk of the National Assembly (CAN), Mr. Yemi Ogunyomi, to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

Titled, 'State Of The Nation And The Way Forward - National Assembly Resolutions, Of 9th, February, 2010', it reads in full:

"On Tuesday 9 February, 2010, the Senate and House of Representatives adopted Resolutions on the State of the Nation occasioned by the prolonged medical holidays of the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, His Excellency, Alhaji Umaru Yar'Adua in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

"Members of the National Assembly noted that Nigerians fervently prayed for the speedy recovery of Mr. President and his early return to Nigeria.

"However, on 12 January 2010, Mr. President informed Nigerians through the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), that he was receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, and would only return to Nigeria to resume his functions as President when his doctors so certify.

"Satisfied that this declaration by Mr. President amounts to substantial compliance with the provision of Section 145 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, the National Assembly resolved that:

(i) the Vice President, His Excellency Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, shall henceforth discharge the functions of the Office of the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation as Acting President; and

(ii) the Vice President shall cease to discharge the functions of the Office of the President when the President, Commander-in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation, transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives in writing, that he has returned from his medical vacation.

"Kindly convey these National Assembly Resolutions to His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the Chief Justice of the Federation for his information, and Members of the Federal Executive Council for compliance.

"Find attached hereto, the Votes and Proceedings of the Senate and the House of Representatives in this regard, please.

"Accept the assurances of my highest regards for your office."

A knowledgeable source said last week that because the resolutions of both Houses of the National Assembly were similar, it could pass of as a law and be tendered as such.

The source said: "Perhaps unknown to both Houses, that is the way to give a force of law to their resolutions. Pass the same resolution and it has the same force as a law.

"But when you pass resolutions intermittently and they are not similar, the other arms of government can afford to ignore them and nothing will be done."

The battle to be Vice President

By Elor Nkereuwem
Nigeria Next
February 14, 2010 12:23AM

Despite the jostle for an imagined vacancy in the office of the vice-president by cronies of ailing president Umaru Yar'Adua, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan could run a one man presidency until 2011, legal experts and political insiders say.

Highly connected sources, who spoke on conditions of anonymity, told NEXT at the weekend in Abuja that the friends of Mr. Yar'Adua, now notoriously called the ‘cabal,' are actively seeking to insinuate a friendly party into the presidency.

Mr. Jonathan, who only became Acting president after 78 days of obstructionist politics by the cabal, has through some obscure arrangement, been allowed a 40-day window to select a deputy from a list of Yar'Adua loyalists. The five frontrunners for this job, whenever it becomes viable, are the governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Shema; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Yayale Ahmed; Aliyu Gusau, Nigeria's former army and intelligence chief; and Sule lamido, the incumbent governor of Jigawa State, our source said.

But while the group continues to ignore the constitutional implications of their ambitions, lawyers argue that Mr. Jonathan does not have the powers to select a vice president as no vacancy currently exists for the seat.

According to the lawyers, while Mr. Jonathan now serves as the commander-in-chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, there currently exists no vacancy in the vice presidency, the position Mr. Jonathan occupied until last week when a resolution by the National Assembly declared him the Acting President of the country. The lawyers said that Mr. Jonathan will continue to run the presidency without an official deputy until 2011 unless the ailing president, Umaru Yar'Adua, ceases to be president as a result of his impeachment or permanent incapacitation.

"It is envisaged that the president is alive; it is envisaged that the President is not permanently incapable; it is envisaged that he is only temporarily incapable and so whenever he comes back, he becomes the president while Jonathan returns to the position of Vice President. So if the president does not come until the 2011 elections or whatever, there will be no Vice President, that office becomes permanently vacant," said Bamidele Aturu, a prominent Lagos based human rights attorney.

A senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ricky Tarfa, described the scramble by the politicians for the office of the Vice-President is ‘an act of illegality and unconstitutionality'.

Vice-presidency for the North

In the miasma of events leading to the political arrangement that saw Mr. Jonathan become Acting President is an obscure pact that the Acting President should pick a deputy from a myriad of names, all northern elites, in the event that the vice-president slot does become open.

While it is not clear in what manner such a position will become vacant, politicians are frenetically pulling strings in Abuja, positioning themselves for the job.

Mr. Yar'Adua's friends continue to push forward names of close allies and in a bizarre move, some have even nominated the wife of the president, Turai, for the No.2 position.

Sources say that the unconstitutionality of the selection of a vice-president is a matter which the absent president's kitchen cabinet had not initially put into consideration.

"There now exists a renewed challenge in the wake of the Goodluck presidency," our sources said, adding that there is the likelihood that Mr. Jonathan may remain as the Acting President until 2011, when the next presidential elections will take place, because of circumstances beyond his control.

Still, reluctant to lose their influence, Mr. Yar ‘Adua's allies who have been worried that power appears to have slipped from the northern elites following the crucial memo from the National Assembly, continued their manoeuvres at the weekend, narrowing their options around Mr. Shema, the youthful governor of Katsina State and an acolyte of the ailing president.

Mr. Shema is believed to have the backing of the northern governors who, in a desperate need for political survival, threw their considerable support behind Mr. Jonathan's presidency, effectively negating the Yar ‘Adua presidency.

The Shema candidacy

All this however comes with its own complications and embarrassment. Already, an intense political warfare is raging in Katsina, home state of Mr. Yar Adua. Political insiders suspect that political fratricide is destined to consume Mr. Yar Adua's own three political godsons of whom Mr. Shema is the most prominent at the moment. The two others are Tanimu Yakubu, the economic adviser of Mr. Yar Adua, and Abba Ruma, his agriculture minister, both of whom are also eyeing the governorship of Katsina State.

If Mr. Shema ultimately loses it, People Democratic Party insiders told NEXT last weekend, the only reason will be because "he was marginalised these past 78 days and Tanimu and Ruma were closer to the first lady who never really wants Sherma for a second term as governor let alone something as high as the vice presidency.

Shema too, may be a victim of the principle of elimination by prominence since his early promotion as a candidate may be a strategy destined to sideline or even damage his candidacy" said our source.

There are other contenders however, and the name of the current secretary to the federal government, Mr. Ahmed had been promoted with the same fervour as that of Sule Lamido, the current governor of Jigawa. Both men are credited with experience and good judgement. Mr. Ahmed comes from Bauchi, which together with Jigawa shares the same zone with Katsina in the country's geo-political zoning block.

Constitutionality or Unconstitutionality

Some lawyers however condemn not only the current quest for the vice presidency by the politicians but also the very resolution that has made Mr. Jonathan the Acting President.

"Mr. Jonathan can continue as Acting President till next elections or until either President Yar'Adua comes back or until after the elections, or until a court declares his emergence unconstitutional. Because the way he was appointed is not legal, strictly speaking, it's not constitutional. The constitution was not followed, because no letter was written. The National Assembly said the broadcast on radio is deemed to be a letter. I do not know how you can do that, but they said the doctrine of necessity is a constitutional necessity," said Charles Musa, another human rights lawyer.

Like Mr. Musa, the opposition Action Congress (AC), has also condemned the National Assembly resolution.

"Our party, the AC, believes in constitutionality and the rule of law, hence our stand is not determined by what is popular but by what is legal and Constitutional," said the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Lai Mohammed.

The opposition against the constitutional propriety of Mr. Jonathan's emergence is currently running askance with the popular mood. "If the opposition can just take time to read the currents well" said Hassan Ado Ibrahim, an Abuja policy analyst, "they will see that the currents are so strong that even our parliamentarians and the governors have read the trend so accurately, and have opportunistically grafted their own interest into the mix."

Mr. Ibrahim believes that the Jonathan presidency will ride this wave of popular will long enough to make the question of a deputy needless, adding that "no one caused this problem anymore than the Yar' Adua people who abused the intelligence of the whole nation for so long that they whipped up so much negative sentiments against their patron and their platform."

He said, "from all indications the governors were genuinely angry that they got no access to the ailing president, and had no credible report on his status forcing them to switch loyalty to Mr. Jonathan" but added that they, "craftily yoked this objective grounds for outrage with their selfish desire to get someone that will sign off on the excess crude account which is their main motivation; and their selfish desire to change some of the people they had nominated to the federal cabinet."

Additional reporting by Idris Akinbajo and Ifedayo Adebayo

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