President Muhammadu Buhari has endured several backlashes, following his ‘private’ trip to the UK, without writing to the National Assembly to formally hand over power to his vice, Prof Yemi Osinbajo.
However, presidential spokesperson Mr. Garba Shehu said his principal broke no law for travelling to the UK without formally writing to the National Assembly.
He said that the president wouldn’t be the first to embark on a ‘private trip’, as some leading democracies in the world even mandate their leaders to engage on a vacation where he/she stays away from public duties.
Is Buhari right Does the constitution agree?
According to the 1999 constitution provided for occasion when the president should transfer powers to the vice-president before leaving the country. Its section 145(1) states the vice-president would be acting in his stead whenever he leaves on vacation or is unable to discharge his duties.
According to the subsection, “whenever 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. ”
Subsection two states thus: “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. ’’
A constitutional lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, says the president was supposed to have written to the National Assembly, regardless of whether he was going to be out of the country for up to or more than 21 days or not.
What he wrote
“The Constitution does not say that the President should transmit a written declaration if his vacation externs to or exceeds 21 days. That is a strange and indefensible attack on the spirit and letters of Section 145 (1) of the Constitution.
Mr. Shehu’s proposition is with respect, an invention of his imagination. The Constitution expressly says ‘’whenever’’ (every time or any time). The fact that the president is proceeding on vacation for less than 21 days does not derogate from his duty to transmit a written declaration to the National Assembly.
“Section 145 (2) only becomes operative and applicable if the President violates his constitutional duty under subsection (1) of Section 145.
In other words, the National Assembly is authorised to intervene and pass a resolution empowering the Vice President to become the Acting President where the President violates subsection (1) by refusing or failing to transmit a written declaration as enjoined for a continuous period of 21 days.
“There is no legal or moral justification for the President to commit such grave constitutional infraction even for one day. A grave violation of the Constitution amounts to gross misconduct which is an impeachable offense under Section 143 of the Constitution. ”