By Daniel Idonor
ABUJAâ€”VICE President Goodluck Jonathan Sunday laid to rest, the controversy surrounding the recent swearing-in of the new Chief Justice of Nigeria by his predecessor admitting that, “As the Vice President, based on our laws, I do not have any powers to swear in the Chief Justice of Nigeria,” but added that, “by divine intervention, the invitation to chaos, should one arm of government not have a leadership, was prevented.”
The former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, had on Wednesday December 30 2009, sworn in Justice Aloysius Iyorgyer Katsina-Alu as the 11th Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Kutigi had justified the action by saying that the Oath Act of 2004 has the provision where the CJN, justices of the Supreme Court, President of the Court of Appeal and the justices of the Court of Appeal, among others, are all listed in a column, all of them, according to the Act, are to be sworn in by the President or the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
What the Oath Act of 2004 says
â€œIf you also look at the 1999 Constitution, it also makes it clear: that the person who has the responsibility of swearing in the new CJN is the Chief Justice of Nigeriaâ€¦The provision is there and it has always been there.
That the outgoing CJN has never done it does not make it wrong. The law is clear,â€ he had said.
In his remark at the Thanksgiving Service at the Redeemed Christian Church, Central Parish, Abuja, the Vice President stated that he was very worried that there would be a vacuum leading to chaos should an arm of government be left without a leadership.
â€œWe have a lot of challenges. Look at what happened during the swearing in of the Chief Justice of the Federation. Before then, when we were confronted with that situation, few days to December 31, the Thursday the Chief Justice of Nigeria was supposed to retire, we were worried.
Possibility of vacuum worries VP
“Ceremonial responsibilities and ceremonial functions are sometimes more serious than the real work we do. I do not have the powers to swear in the Chief Justice of the Federation.
“I was worried that if we get to that Thursday and the Chief Justice of Nigeria is not sworn in, that means one arm of government has no leader and that would have been an invitation to chaos. As at that time, even the lawyers around, because the tradition has been there for 51 years where Mr. President swears in the Chief
Justice, no Nigerian or even senior lawyers cared to look at the other aspect of the law.
“In fact, I even had to approach the former Chief Justice, that, ‘look, I have the powers to extend your period of stay in the office. Since I cannot swear in a new Chief Justice, canâ€™t I extend your stay in office so that there will be no vacuum?’ But he said it was not possible because the Constitution says at the age of 70 he must go.
â€œBut he promised he was going to re-examine the laws. I got back to my office; I was terrible worried within that period. Few days to the time (expiration of the tenure of the former CJN), the Attorney General came and showed me the Act that says either the President or the Chief Justice of the Federation can swear in the new Chief Justice of the Federation. That law was there but nobody saw it.
â€œSo, what I am saying is that as a nation, as individuals, we might have challenges, sometimes when we have major challenges it helps us to look more into our lives, look more into whatever there is. Even as Christians, there are times we think, when things are going well, we think it is because of our ability, our intelligence, our background, because of whatever. You donâ€™t know it is the grace of God that those things are happening to you. Sometimes it is good to have challenges even as individuals, even in sickness. I believe God wants to tell us that He is the only person who is keeping us alive, that whatever we are, it is by His grace,â€ he said.
VP thanks Nigerians
Jonathan, who thanked Nigerians, especially Christians, for praying for the nation at this challenging time, assured that there is a brighter tomorrow for Nigerians.
â€œI want to specially thank all of you for the prayers you have been offering for this country, especially within this time that we have a lot of challenges, as a nation and as a government. Because the Christians pray no matter the turbulence, no matter the challenges we have, God will see us through.
â€œAnd of course you know our President has been out of the country for about 39 days today (yesterday) on health ground and those of you who bother to read the papers, sometimes you feel as if the whole country is sinking.
People call me and wonder if I even sleep after reading the stories in the papers.
â€œWhatever we are facing as a nation within this period is because God wants to tell us that he is in charge and that nobody, no human being is in charge.Â I want to sincerely thank you on behalf of the Government of Nigeria that you have been praying for Mr. President, the country and I pray that you continue to pray. Thank you very muchâ€.
Earlier in his sermon titled, 2010: Multiple Grace of God, Pastor Elijah Olukayode Daramola, Regional Pastor, Northern Region 10, assured that God is going to release His grace on the country. He said grace means, Godâ€™s Riches at Christ Expense and that if individuals as well as the nation will ask for Godâ€™s grace, He will make us great, He will nullify disgrace like He did in the days of Queen Esther in the Bible. He will connect us to glory and peace.