Radical Lagos lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, has said that the legal battle to compel ailing President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua to hand over powers to his Vice, Jonathan Goodluck, as Acting President has just begun.
He spoke on the day the Chief Judge of the Federal high court, Justice Dan Abutu washed off his hands from the suit he maintained against the Attorney-General of the Federation over the issue.
He said there was no way the sick President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua would remain offshore to direct the affairs of the over 150 million Nigerians on his sick bed in Saudi Arabia when the constitution specifically stated what to be done when a sitting president is unable to perform the functions of his office.
He said the verdict handed down last Wednesday by the Chief Judge of the Federal high court, Justice Dan Abutu, over the issue was useless.
He said it is so because the judgment has not only stated the obvious which no one is disputing but that it has created more problems than the solutions it was supposed to offer.
He said nobody has ever disputed the fact that a sitting President could delegate the functions of his office to either his vice or his cabinet members.
He said if anything, the judgment has stated the obvious and has not changed anything because there is still a vacuum..
Besides, he said that the issue being raised by him and his colleagues to the effect that the constitution mandated Mr President to hand over powers anytime he is unavailable to perform the functions of his office is not addressed by the Abutu judgment.
He said if the judgment were to have solved the major legal issues being raised, he told Saturday Vanguard that he would have withdrawn his case.
â€œI would have withdrawn my case from the court this morning but because the essential issue being raised by us has been left unanswered. Hence we are proceeding with this matter
â€œAnd we are going to take it to its logical conclusion. This is because it goes beyond the person of the President.
â€œEven at the state level, you know governors also do handover to their deputies.
â€œIt was only the Court of Appeal following nullification of governorship election whereby the governors and their deputies were sent packing that we began to hear of acting governor.
â€œEven a governor of a state who would go on leave while his deputy was on leave could ask the speaker to take over the state in his absence.
But if we can settle this question of section 145 of the 1999 constitution, it would have implication for the state as well. â€œThat is why this matter has to be pursued to its logical conclusion.
â€œMy case has been strengthened by the interview credited to President Yarâ€™Adua on the BBC where he himself, while appreciating the wishes of Nigerians categorically stated that he wouldnâ€™t know when he would return to the country and resumeÂ duty.
â€œThat implies that he is presently not on duty and would not know when he is going to be on duty.
â€œSo the constitution never envisaged that the President of Nigeria would not be in office for close to two months and yet not handover to the vice president who should man the country in an acting capacity.
â€œFor what Justice Abutu simply said yesterday (Wednesday) which is not disputed by anybody is that the vice president can have functions of president delegated to him pursuant to section 5 of the constitution.
â€œThat has never been in dispute in all the cases filed in court.Â In fact, all of us concede to that point.
â€œBut what I have raised in my own case is whether you can have implied delegation of duty in a constitutional matter and the decision of our court which we have alluded to in our submission is that the delegation of the statutory powers has to be in writing to avoid any abuse of power and there are a legion of cases on this.
â€œIn fairness to Justice Dan Abutu, in the case he decided yesterday (Wednesday), he never, for one moment, said that President Yarâ€™Adua has handed over to the vice president. He didnâ€™t say so. He was very careful.
â€œNo dispute has ever arisen on that matter.
â€œThe dispute that has arisen would have to be pursued to a logical conclusion so that we can have a judicial resolution on that,â€ he said.
On Justice Abutuâ€™s position that since section 5(1) and the 148 (1) did not state the manner with which Mr President could transfer or delegate his powers to the vice president or his ministers, Falana said the exercise of the powers of the president on delegated capacity could be queried by an individual contrary to what the judge said.
â€œThe delegation of power cannot be general. It canâ€™t be in the air.
â€œI am saying that even under the worst form of military dictatorship in this country where you have some penal statutes, some obnoxious decrees that stipulated,Â say for instance, Decree 17 of 1984, that the appropriate authourity or specially delegated by him could sack anybody.
â€œThe appropriate authourity was the Head of State. I handled one of the cases: Iyayi and Anya Iyayi where the Uniben authourities could not defend the dismissal of our client.
â€œSo, they now said it was the president that did it and of course the Supreme Court asked them for the evidence?
â€œAnd so, if you say you have his powers, you must show a letter or a document that you have been authourised by the appropriate authourities.
â€œSo it is not something that you say nobody can challenge it. â€œOf course, it can be challenged.
â€œThis is because that same section that his lordship was interpreting, has not given absolute powers to the president to delegate.
â€œThat provision itself is subject to other provisions of the constitution including the powers that the president cannot delegate.
â€œIn fact, the opening phrase there is: â€œsubject to the provisions of this constitution.â€
â€œThe executive powers of the federation shall be vested in the president who can exercise them directly or indirectly through the vice president, minister and other public officers.
â€œWith what they have said yesterday (Wednesday), it is just like any minister saying yes, I am exercising the powers of the president.
â€œSo, where is the evidence while the vice president too is claiming that yes I have the same power. So where is the evidence.
â€œSo, the judgment has created more problems than it has solved, I can assure you,â€ he added..
We heard Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s voice, he is too weakÂ – Umar
Colonel Abubakar UmarÂ is a commentator on public and national issues and he stands his ground that the President whose voice was transmitted is very ill and cannot continue in government . He maintains it was very obvious from howÂ heÂ sounded that he cannot continue to be in office :
We have heard President Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s voice. This shows he is alive but his voiceÂ Â equallyÂ reveals that the manÂ is veryÂ sick and incapacitated andÂ thereforeÂ must handover power. His voiceÂ proves that he is very weak and needs rest and cannot continue. It is too obvious.
We have been having protests asÂ a way of asking that the right thing should be done. Any good Muslim or Christian who heard his voice and really loves him should ask him to resign and go and take care of himself. We should stop punishing him by insisting he continues inÂ office .
If we want him to live longer, he should resign because what the voiceÂ weÂ heard confirmed is that he is seriously sick and incapacitated. He must hand over.
There are no two ways about it. The National Assembly has said it would send a delegation to Saudi Arabia to go and see things for themselves but we heard him quite alright and that is the confirmation of what we have been saying. He cannot continue. We should stop being emotional or playing politics about this.
If people really love him as they claim and want him to live longer, they should ask him to resign and take care of himself.