By Simon Ebegbulem
BENINâ€”LEGAL luminary, Professor Itse Sagay (SAN), weekend lamented that the 1999 constitution of Nigeria could not provide the answer to the failure of ailing President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua to transmit a letter to the president of the senate or speaker of the House of Representatives informing them of his inability to perform his duties or that he was proceeding on a vacation.
He said the vacuum in the countryâ€™s constitution led to the adoption of the â€˜Doctrine of Necessityâ€™ which, according to him, is not in the â€œstatute books but was made popular by an English historian, Bracton, who described it as ‘That which is otherwise not lawful is made lawful by necessity.’â€
Professor Sagay stated this while delivering a lecture, titled The Doctrine of Necessity: Southern Rhodesiaâ€™s UnilateralÂ Declaration of Independence as a Case Study, at the 50th birthday celebration of the former Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly and Secretary, Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Mr Mathew Egbadon, in Benin City.
Professor Sagay, who was represented by Mr. Kingsley Obamogie, explained that the action of the National Assembly in declaring Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President was in order due to the tension generated as a result of the protracted absence of the resident which, according to him, was almost leading to anarchy.
He said â€œNigeria was already drifting; tension was being generated by the actions of a few people exploiting the vacuum for their personal benefit at the expense of the whole country. There was danger of an impending military takeover and the overthrow of democracy if something was not urgently done.â€
Admitting that the doctrine might not have been properly applied in some countries like Pakistan in the 50s, Uganda in the 60s and Southern Rodeshia, he asserted that â€œin these circumstances, we can conclude that the doctrine of necessity was validly applied in Nigeria.
“What was the situation of the law before the invocation of the doctrine of necessity? What defect was evident in this law? What remedyÂ was necessary to cure the defect? How could the defect or mischief be suppressed and remedy advanced?
â€œThe answer to all these in relation to the Nigerian situation was clearly the invocation of the doctrine of necessity. The doctrine of necessity, when invoked in the correct and legitimate circumstances, can bring succour and relief to a nation in the throes of chaos and disintegration. It is a vital back-up system to any society organized under the law and constitution.â€
Dignitaries at the colourful occasion included the state Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Dan Orbih, Director General of NIMASA, Raymond Omatseye, Messrs Friday Itulah and David Iyoha (House of Representatives members), former secretary to the state Government, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Majority Leader of the State House of Assembly, Mr Philip Shuaibu, and other PDP and Action Congress chieftains in the state.