Justice A. O. Faji of the Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos will on Friday deliver judgement in the suit against President Muhammadu Buhari on the legality of his refusal to hand over power to the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, during his private visit to the United Kingdom in 2019.
Recall that President Buhari had travelled out of the country on April 24, 2019, on a private visit to the UK.
The President and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, were challenged by a Nigerian lawyer identified as Inibehe Effiong.
In the suit with number FHC/L/CS/763/2019, Effiong demanded that the Court determine four issues.
These are: “Whether in view of the extant provisions of Section 145 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the 1st Defendant can validly proceed on vacation for any length of time without transmitting a written declaration to the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to that effect, which will empower the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to perform the functions of the President in an acting capacity.”
“Whether the 1st Defendant’s action in proceeding on vacation to the United Kingdom from the 25th day of April, 2019 to the 5th day of May, 2019 without transmitting the written declaration envisaged in Section 145 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) to the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not in conflict with the provisions of Section 145 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).”
“Whether the 1st Defendant in refusing to adhere to the clear and unambiguous provisions of Section 145 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) has not by that singular action violated his oath of office and the Provisions of the Constitution which he swore to uphold.”
“Whether the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) or any other law for that matter, permits the 1st Defendant to exercise presidential authority over the affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from any country outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, save when he is out of the country on official diplomatic engagements.”
President Buhari while reacting to the bill noted that the Nigerian constitution does not make it mandatory for him to transmit a written declaration except when his vacation would exceed 21 days.
Buhari’s counter-affidavit, deposed to on his behalf by Mr. Friday Atu of the Federal Ministry of Justice, read in part, “It is a fact that the 1999 Constitution (as amended) regulates the performance of the duties of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in situations where the President is proceeding on vacation or is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of office.”
“That it is a fact that where the President embarks on a vacation or otherwise is unable to discharge the functions of his office and fails to transmit a written declaration to that effect, he will be considered not to have complied with the constitution (as amended).”
“That the time within which the President has to transmit a written letter to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is 21 days.”
“That the President’s foreign trip lasted for nine days from April 25, 2019 to May 5, 2019. The President did not exceed the 21-day period required by the constitution. It is in the interest of justice to dismiss the claims of the plaintiff.”
Buhari asked the court to strike out the suit because the lawyer lacks the locus standi to institute the case.
Commenting ahead of the judgment, the applicant, Effiong said: “I do not know what the court will decide. But I am confident that tomorrow’s judgment will have far reaching implications for Nigeria’s constitutional democracy and the rule of law.”
“I believe that the sacred role of the judiciary as the Guardian of the Constitution will be reshaped, one way or the other by this case.”
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