By Ise-Oluwa Ige
Last Tuesday, members of the two chambers of the National Assembly passed a special resolution pursuant to section 145 of the 1999 constitution, empowering Dr Jonathan Goodluck to act as the President and Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The decision of the National Assembly was hinged on the absence of the countryâ€™s ailing President, Alhaji Umaru Yarâ€™Adua from his duty post for well over two months.
The lawmakers had used the transcript of the BBC interview granted on January 12, 2010 by President Yarâ€™Adua in Saudi Arabia where he is still receiving treatment to activate the provision of section 145 of the 1999 constitution which the judiciary refused to activate.
The contentÂ of the interview satisfied the conditions precedent to activateÂ Â Â Â Â section 145 of the 1999 constitution. The provision (section 145) allows the Vice President to perform the functions of the president in his own right as acting president.
Although a few powerful individuals, including some serving ministers knew that Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s health condition was very serious and that he could no longer discharge the functions of his office, the agreement by the cabal was that they would not allow Vice President Jonathan Goodluck to smell the number one position.
Indeed, the cabal practically seized the presidential powers for more than two months and exercised it, anyhow, under the guise that President Yarâ€™Adua, in whom the 1999 constitution vested the entire executive powers of the Federation, was invoking its section 5(1) to discharge his functions through his ministers and the vice president.
The point-man of the cabal was the immediate past Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Michael Kaase Andoakaa (SAN).
He told several stories to defend the position ofÂ the cabal publicly and courageously too for 78 days before the castle of deceit built by them collapsed on his head on February 10, this year.
That was the day when Jonathan, on assuming full presidential powers, through the resolution of the National Assembly, removed him from office.
Aondoakaa (SAN) who was redeployed to the Ministry ofÂ Special Duties confessed upon his removal that he told a lot of lies that there was no vacuum in governance. He said he had to defy all threats and insults being rained on him simply because â€œno Attorney-General of the Federation worth his salt would go on the pages of newspapers to admit that there was a vacuumâ€ even when it is evident.
Although, the controversial role of Aondoakaa (SAN) during the 78 days of absence of President Yarâ€™Adua was fingered by critics as the reason why he was removed from office, Saturday Vanguard gathered that his sack had no link with it.
According to an impeccable source close to the Presidency, Aondoakaaâ€™s selector was already considering swapping him before he fell ill and was flown abroad.
The source said that Aondoakaa (SAN) was the most controversial minister on President Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s cabinet whose continued stay in office was giving the gentle man a lot of worries.
â€œHe was removed simply because the relationship of Nigeria with some foreign countries was under threat, just because he is still there.
â€œIf Jonathan wanted to pay him back, he would have sacked him outright without swapping him,â€ the source said, adding, â€œJonathan removed him based on advice to eschew his Presidency from unnecessary controversies which he is not alien to.â€
Indeed, between 2007 and the time he was sacked, there had been dozens of calls on Chief Michael Kaase Aondoakaa (SAN) to honorably resign his office as the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
Some of the requests came from individuals resident within and outside the country, corporate organizations, civil societies and prominent politicians including members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
They advised him to resign his appointment after it was evident that President Yarâ€™Adua who hired him was reluctant to invoke his powers under section 147 ofÂ the 1999 constitution to change his duties of office in the event he is unwilling to sack him from his cabinet.
But each time the call for his resignation or sack came, he had either ignored it or declared in no unmistakable words that he would never resign his office.
It was so bad that many people, particularly lawyers, were unwilling to discuss him in relation to the performance of duties of his office for many reasons.
They said he was an irritant.
But Aondoakaa had always replied his critics that he was not begging anybody to like him.
He said the criticism he was getting was the price of the office he was holding.
He listed some of his predecessors in office and said that several negative things were said about them.
He said he would not allow such bickering to affect the performance of his duties.
But his accusers agreed with him that Nigerians had indeed suffered in the past owing to the infamous roles played by some of the Attorneys-General that served the Nigerian state in the past.
But they added that of all the Attorneys-General of the Federation that had served , Aondoakaa (SAN) was the worst and must vacate his seat for more reasons than one.
THE MANY SINS OF AONDOAKAA
Firstly, it was their case that he was not experienced to hold the exalted office.
Those who bandied that argument said the ex-chief law officer of the Federation was practicing in the rural Gboko and did not really have aÂ Â successful practice until he got the appointment.
They said he was never appointed out of exceptional performance in the practice of law but on political ground to perform what they called some â€œpolitical functionsâ€ in order to stabilize the government of President Yarâ€™Adua.
They said he ought to be removed because the demands of the Office of the Attorney_General required an experienced hand.
Again, it was the claim of his accusers that Aondoakaa (SAN) was in the habit of standing on the way of government agencies fighting corruption in the country.
They said if he was not suggesting to government how to collapse all the anti_graft agencies in the country like the EFCC, ICPC and the Code of Conduct Bureau into one in order to weaken the nationâ€™s fight against graft, he would be writing letters to foreign governments not to prosecute some Nigerians accused of corruption.
They cited the two letters he wrote to the Government of the United Kingdom to stop the trial of former Governor of Delta state, Chief James Ibori and another he wrote to French Government to stop the trial of Dan Etete as few of the instances.
Besides, it is also the case of Aondoakaaâ€™s critics that he had severally compromised his office and desecrated the hallowed chambers he occupied in many ways.
They alleged that Aondoakaa (SAN) had written letters as the Attorney-General of the Federation to constituted authorities not to obey court judgments of the court as if he was an appellate court over the courts from which such orders issued.
Examples abound and Aondoakaa (SAN) always had a reason to justify his position, including the excuse that he got a petition from one of the parties in such cases.
But his critics had always said that it was not available to the Honourable Attorney-General to dabble into the arena even if a petition was written to him as he claimed.
According to a former Chief Judge of Lagos State, Chief Omotunde Ilori, what the Attorney-General of the Federation did was what he called â€œpollution of the water of justice.â€
Hear him: â€œThe attorney-general is not an appellate court over the court. It has no appellate jurisdiction over any court. The attorney general cannot exercise any appellate authority on any court. Once the court has given an order, the attorney general cannot grant stay of execution. â€œOnly the court can grant stay of execution. Only the court which gives an order can stay execution on that order. No other authority whatsoever can stay execution ofÂ that order.
â€œIf the court says go and do XYZ, and there is need to stay it, you take an application before the court and say for this reason and this reason, the order cannot be obeyed now. It is only for the court to say the order is stayed.
â€œThis unfortunate action by some people not vested with judicial powers interfering with the exercise of that powers only pollutes the judicial powers of that authority.
â€œAnybody not vested with judiciary powers but interfering with the exercise of that power is a pollutant.
â€œThe waters of justice must run without any pollution so that anybody who wants a suspension of an order ought to go back to that court for stay ofÂ Â execution. Nobody else can stay it.
â€œAnybody who wants a suspension of an order of the court will go back before that court for a stay or suspension of that order.
â€œI agree that the rule of law must be complied with as he allegedly claimed but the meaning of rule of law is that the law shall reign supreme. â€œThe rule of law does not say that anybody who is not a judge shall interfere with the exercise of judicial powers.
â€œIf somebody is an object of the ruling of a court and he does not want that ruling to be executed, all he needs do is to file an application for stay of proceedings in the deputy sheriffâ€™s office.
â€œOnce that application is there, nobody can enforce that ruling. â€œAnybody who has nothing to do with the judiciary cannot stay the order of the court,â€ the retired chief judge added.
Aondoakaaâ€™s critics also alleged that the Attorney-General of the Federation had so much desecrated his office so much that if you go to his chambers during his days, you would see all manners of accused persons facing trial in court wanting to meet with him for audience.
They said it was unfortunate that a person to whom the 1999 constitution, the basic law of the land, donates power of prosecution to is the one who allegedly debases that office by allegedly offering free legal advice on how to escape prosecution to accused persons in his chambers.
Aondoakaaâ€™s critics though argued that there was nothing wrong in any Nigerian seeking audience with the Federation Attorney-General but that when all manners of accused persons that ought to be prosecuted by his office were loitering around his chambers, they said one could not but conclude that the chief law officer was debasing the sacredness of the office and should be removed with immediate effect.
Another reason why his critics pushed for his removal was because they alleged that he was out-sourcing the constitutional duties of his office to the executive.
For instance, they quoted the Attorney-General of the Federation to have said that after the Okiro-led panel must have concluded its assignment on the probe of the $180million Halliburton bribery, he said he would not prosecute the indicted except he wasÂ given the permission by President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua to so do.
Indeed, Saturday Vanguard can confirm that Chief Aondoakaa (SAN) made the disclosure shortly after he inaugurated the five-member inter-agency probe panel headed by the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mike Okiro, with a mandate to look into the Halliburton bribery scandal.
He tacitly said that his difficulty was the 1999 constitution.
But when he was reminded by newsmen that by virtue of section 174 of the 1999 constitution, he had the constitutional rights to initiate criminal proceedings against any person before any law court in Nigeria in respect of any offence like the instant one created by or under any Act of the National Assembly without any recourse to anybody, Aondoakaa (SAN) said he admitted but that his discretion to exercise his prosecutorial powers is, unfortunately, subject to the approval of Mr President.
He fingered section 130 (1) (2) of the 1999 constitution as one that limited his discretion to exercise his unlimited prosecutorial power.
The said section 130 of the 1999 constitution states:
(1) There shall be for the Federation a President.
(2) The president shall be the Head of State, the Chief Executive of the Federation and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation.
Although a thorough reading of the cited constitutional provision did not circumscribe, in any clear term, the discretion of the chief law officer of the Federation to prosecute any person in any law court as claimed by Aondoakaa (SAN), he however laboured in vain to explain that the addition of â€œChief Executiveâ€ to the appellation of Mr President which was absent in the 1979 constitution implied that all ministers serving in his (Mr Presidentâ€™s) cabinet must take instruction from him on anything in their ministries including prosecution of criminals.
Human rights activist, Prof Chidi Odinkalu and a former Chief Judge of Lagos State , Justice Omotunde Ilori separately disagreed with Aondoakaa on this issue.
The duo said they were not interested in discussing Aondoakaa as a person but his office.
According to Justice Ilori, he said the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 has three principal concepts. â€œThe first is the separation of powers. That is you have the executive, the judiciary and the legislature.
â€œSecondly, you have division of powers. That is the division of powers between the federal, states and local governments”.