By Ise-Oluwa Ige
ABUJAâ€”The Federal Government, yesterday, ruled out the possibility of producing before a Federal High Court, Abuja, a certified medical report from King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Saudi Arabia, attesting that President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua isÂ fit to continue in office.
The Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Michael Aondoakaa (SAN), who made the disclosure in Abuja moments after a heated court proceedings in three separate suits asking President Yarâ€™Adua to step down for his Vice, DrÂ Goodluck Jonathan, owing to his ill-health, said the President was entitled to his private life.
‘Yar’Adua entitled toÂ private life’
â€œHow can we produce such a document? It is not fair. Everybody is entitled to his privacy. If you bring such a document here, every Dick and Harry will photocopy it. He is entitled to his private life. It is not fair,â€ he complained to the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Chief Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), while stepping out of the court room, yesterday.
What you’re doing is wrong â€” Akeredolu
But the NBA President, who is a plaintiff in one of the three suits seeking President Yarâ€™Adua to comply with Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution to enable Jonathan take over governance, told AondoakaaÂ yesterday that he was wrong.
He said President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua is a public figure who could not claim right to private life in an issue of ill-health which is affecting the lives of over 150 million Nigerians and the entire governance of the country.
President Yarâ€™Adua has, allegedly, been receiving medical attention at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Saudi Arabia over an ailment called acute pericarditis in the last 44 days.
The over 150 million Nigerians who elected him into office have neither seen nor heard from him since he was flown out of the country on November 23, last year but the Federal Executive Council to whom the Attorney-General of the Federation is a member had not only adopted a resolution on December 2, 2009 to the effect that Yarâ€™Adua is still fit to govern without exhibiting any medical report relied upon but also claimed that he would soon resume office.
Falana on medical report
In one of the three constitutional suits challenging the position of the Federal Government on the health issue of Yarâ€™Adua and which came up yesterday in court, the plaintiff and Lagos lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, is asking the court to compel the Attorney-General of the Federation to answer seven questions relating to the health of his boss.
Specifically, Falana is asking Aondoakaa to produce certified medical report relied upon by the FEC to pass a resolution on December 2, 2009 to the effect that President Yarâ€™Adua is still fit to continue governance and another medical report on the current health condition of the president, among other questions.
He said the questions, when answered, would narrow down the issues for determination to whether or not by the content of the medical reports produced in court and the answers accompanying them, President Yarâ€™Adua is still fit to continue governance or not.
He said the interrogatories were germane to his case and that it would simplify the case for the trial judge to decide.
In fact, he added yesterday that if the Federal Government could produce the document to the effect that he is certified to be medically and physically fit to govern with satisfactory explanations from the authors of such medical reports, he would withdraw his case from court.
Aondoakaa opposes interrogatories
But Aondoakaa flared up in court yesterday over what he called Falanaâ€™s radical approach to the prosecution of his case.
He said he would, no doubt, oppose the use of interrogatories in the proceedings.
In fact, he specifically told the trial high court judge, Justice Abutu that he would not answer such questions except and until the court had determined that Falana had the locus standi to invoke its judicial powers to determine the constitutional questions he posed to it.
He said he would not waste his time answering such questions until the court pronounced on the preliminary objection to the effect that his suit is competent.
Aondoakaaâ€™s position, however, conflicted with what he agreed in the open court with all the plaintiffs in the case at the last adjourned date to the effect that both the preliminary objections filed by him challenging the locus standi of Falana should be heard alongside the substantive suit.
Falana was, however, quick to point the contradiction to the court yesterday, saying at the last adjourned date, the trial high court judge had ruled that he would roll together both the preliminary objection challenging hearing of the suit on its merit and the substantive suit.
He told the court that his position, if taken by the court, would amount to overruling the verdict of the court.
He said the position of the court to roll the two together must stand except and until there is an appeal challenging the ruling of the court on the modality of hearing the case.
Although the trial judge noted that the interrogatories were yet to be filed when the ruling was made, Falana saidÂ interrogatories could not be filed until after exchange of pleadings.
He said now was the right time to file it and that the questions must be answered before trial commenced in the case.
Falana who, however, sensed a dangerous trap in insisting that the objection to the interrogatories must not be taken first later conceded so that the Attorney-General would not ask for a long adjournment.
Although it is legally available to Aondoakaa to object to the use of interrogatories if the questions are oppressive and scandalous, irrelevant or not sufficiently related to the subject-matter and if not administered bonafide, it is doubtful, however, if the Attorney-General would be able to wriggle out.
The answers to the seven questions would not only reveal the true health condition of President Yarâ€™Adua but also expose the emptiness of the resolution passed by FEC if there was no medical report relied upon in giving him the clean bill of health.
The proceedings in Falanaâ€™s case which lasted just 27 minutes really worked up the Attorney-General of the Federation, yesterday.
Aondoakaa flares up
Aondoakaa flared up twice, visibly shaking out of anger.
The first time was immediately after Falana announced appearance for himself as litigant.
He (Falana) had opposed the plan by the Attorney-General of the Federation to allow him do the case with any of the lawyers in his office.
He said since he was sued and since he was representing himself in the case, the law did not permit him to appear with any other lawyer.
“Once he is appearing as a person, he cannot announce any lawyer with himself,” Falana said
He cited the case of Gani Fawehinmi vs NBA reported in 1989, 2NWLR where the Supreme Court cleared the air on the issue to back up his position. Aondoakaa was apparently not comfortable with the submission and he did not hide it.
He said what Femi Falana was doing to him was unfair. He said the fact that he was occupying the position of the Attorney-General of the Federation today does not mean that the position would not go to another person tomorrow.
He said the authorities had been there but that no one had brought it up during the time of any of his predecessors.
Falana who was apparently happy with the tension his argument generated was busy smiling.
Aondoakaa who pointed to Chief Akinlolu Olujinmi (SAN) who was in court said all through the time he was Attorney-General, there was no time he was appearing alone in court.
Looking helpless, Aondoakaa said he would have to ask for adjournment to reply to the argument to which Falana jumped up to say that he was withdrawing his objection.
He said his case was so important that he would not want it to suffer any avoidable adjournment.
The court which had already started taking arguments on the issue struck out the objection.
…fixes Jan 14 for arguments
Meanwhile, Justice Dan Abutu yesterday fixed January 14 for hearing in another suit filed by the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, asking the court to issue an order compelling President Yarâ€™Adua to transmit to the National Assembly a letter informing it of his ill-health to enable the lawmakers empower Jonathan to take over and legally exercise the presidential powers in the absence of President Yarâ€™Adua.