28 January 2009

Nigeria: Senate Rejects Goodluck as Acting President

Abuja — The not-too- cordial relationship between the executive and the legislature turned frosty yesterday, as the Senate said it would not recognise Vice President Goodluck Jonathan as the acting president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The upper legislative chamber presided over by senator David Mark yesterday, also maintained that President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua did not formally write it to inform it that he was proceeding on a two -week vacation, contrary to the provision of Section 145 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria.

As a result, a statement from the office of the secretary to the government of the federation said that Vice President Jonathan would act as the president. But the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Communications, Mr. Segun Adeniyi told State House correspondents yesterday that the president did not hand over to the vice president 'per se'.

Coming under a constitutional point of order, and citing Section 145 of the 1999 constitution and Order 40 ( I ) of the Senate Rules, Senator George Thompson Sekibo [PDP-Rivers] wondered why the president could not officially inform the Senate and the House of Representatives that he was going on leave and that the Vice president would be the Acting president.

Senator Sekibo also questioned the rule of law propaganda of the president when he can not abide by the provisions of the 1999 constitution which he swore to protect and obey.

According to Sekibo, who displayed copies of LEADERSHIP and THISDAY newspapers that reported that the Vice President took over as Yar'Adua goes on leave.

"I don't know whether the President has transmitted message to the Senate president to the point that he is going on leave.

"I want to know if he has written and the Senate is not aware. We are talking about rule of law. We must abide by constitutional provision. Last year speculations abound about his where about and suddenly he appeared. Senate must protect Nigeria and the symbol of authority is the president"

Mark now responded, " I really don't see the point you read in section 145 of the 1999 Constitution. What is the issue here is that of transmitting to us that he is going on leave or that the vice president is acting"

The senate president then called on Senator Sola Steven Akinyede [PDP-Ekiti] who objected to Seikibo's point of Order, saying that it was not mandatory for the president to transmit such a letter.

In his own contribution, the Senate Leader, Senator Teslim Folarin said, "The point is that he has not communicated to the Senate president."

Mark however said, "He has not transmitted to me, well in the event that he does the Vice president is the Acting president.

Section 145 of the 1999 constitution states: "When ever the president transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President"

Order 40(i) of the Standing Rules of the Senate equally states: "The president of the Senate shall immediately after prayers or as soon as any new senator -elect has taken the oath affirmation of allegiance read to the senate any message addressed to the Senate by the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria".

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