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Handover to Jonathan – Senate

By Emmanuel Aziken & Inalegwu Shaibu, Abuja
ABUJA —THE Senate by a unanimous resolution, yesterdasy, called on President Umaru Yar’Adua to transfer his powers to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, in adherence to constitutional provisions.

In the three hour close-door session, the Senate also informally agreed that the principle of power shift to the North would be sustained in 2011.

From left: The Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in Jos for an on-the-spot assessment of last week's violence

Vanguard learnt that the Northern Senators Forum, NSF, was charged with the responsibility of reassuring Northern stakeholders on the matter. Associates of the Vice-President were also expected to intimate him on the senators’urge on him not to sustain his presidency beyond 2011.

The Senate resolution as articulated by President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, is for the President to comply with Section 145 of the Constitution which compels him to handover to his deputy and transmit a letter to that effect to the National Assembly.

Section 145 which the Senate asked him to comply with stipulates: “Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and 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.”

The Senate resolution which was adopted at the end of a three hour close-door session was upon the demand of 80 senators who were signatories to a tentative motion calling on the President to hand over to his deputy.

The motion adopted yesterday was framed by senators belonging to the Nigeria Interest Group, NIG. It did not, however, come up for formal debate in the plenary as the Senate leadership carefully ensured that the contentious issues were resolved in the close-door session.

Consideration of two bills

The tension in the Tuesday session was largely reduced at yesterday’s meeting as senators opposed to the motion were said to have submitted themselves to the inevitability of the NIG senators having their way. A little tension prior to the commencement of the day’s session was observed when the order paper listing consideration of two bills sponsored by Senators Joy Emodi, PDP, Anambra North, and Senator Teslim Folarin, the Senate leader was circulated as the only issues for the day. The NIG senators, however, protested as they saw the two bills as distractions to their objective.

In the end, the desire for an immediate close-door session prevailed as the order paper was discarded. In the session, senators across geopolitical lines were understood to have articulated the strict compliance with the constitution of the country.

The senators, Vanguard learnt, expressed regret over the President’s failure to transmit a letter to the National Assembly on his medical vacation and the need to remedy what they generally agreed was a mistake. Senators were generally agreed that the President should be called upon to transmit a letter of his medical vacation to the National Assembly to enable the Vice-President to formally assume the office of President in acting capacity.

Members of the NIG who were pushing the motion, however, drew back from giving a time limit for the President’s compliance with the motion. One frontline senator told Vanguard: “We did not stress that point today but we will take it up from there at the appropriate time, it is one step at a time.”

The resolution by the Senate, Vanguard learnt, was an opening senators said should be given to the President and members of his kitchen cabinet to enable them conform with constitutional provisions.

“This is an opening for everybody to do what is right. If they claimed that the President was not in a position to have transmitted the letter before he went, now they have an opportunity to remedy the situation and to prove that the President is a statesman and not an ethnic champion as some people want to portray him,” another senator told Vanguard yesterday.

74 signatories in support of motion

The momentum for the motion for President Yar’Adua to step down, Vanguard gathered, sustained its stride throughout meetings held by the NIG on Tuesday night. At the end of Tuesday’s session, 74 signatories were known to have been in support of the motion.

By yesterday morning, 80 senators had endorsed the motion indicative of their strength in the 109-member Senate. At the end of the close-door session at about 1.57 p.m. at least 90 senators were seated with 76 of them belonging to the PDP and 14 belonging to the minority AC and ANPP.

Senate President, Senator David Mark read out the following as resolution of the Senate during the closed door.

urge the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation, His Excellency Umaru Musa Yar‘Adua, GCFR to formally notify the National Assembly of his medical vacation pursuant to Section 145 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999;

Direct the Senate Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution to propose an amendment to Section 145 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 to resolve the flaws exposed by the present circumstances; and

Urge Nigerians to continue to pray for the speedy recovery of the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Federation, Umaru Yar‘Adua.”

The resolution was adopted unanimously without dissent. Following the close-door session, Senate spokesman, Senator Ayogu Eze briefed newsmen on the issues articulated at the close-door session.

He said: “For the past two days, five hours yesterday and about three hours today, the Senate has been engaged in very intense debate and examination of all the issues involved, constitutional, social, political and at the end of an exhaustive deliberation, we have decided to speak like statesmen, because though there are certain limitations we have in the constitution, we embody the mandate of the people of Nigeria and we try to reflect their aspirations and their desires in what ever we do and that is what has guided the decisions we took today. “I also need to emphasize that there has never been any division along the lines that have been speculated in the newspapers either politically, tribally, ethnically, or even against personalities. The Senate has been threading carefully and looking at all the issues.

The Senate has been united behind the constitution.

“We are satisfied that what we have done now is what we think is in the best interest of the country to ease the tension and move Nigeria forward. That’s why we resolved to urge the President to honour Section 145 by notifying the National Assembly that he has proceeded on medical vacation. Though it is going to be in arrears as it were, we have come to the conclusion that it is right that the spirit of that provision be respected.”


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