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Sinister Senate

AFTER 65 days, during which all that  Nigerians knew about their President were speculations, the Senate last Wednesday moved a motion asking the President to comply with Section 145 of the Constitution. Today marks the 71st day of the President’s absence. He reportedly receives medical attention in Saudi Arabia.

Section 145 states: “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 Nigeria Interest Group, NIG, a set of Senators, whose numbers had grown to 80 last Wednesday moved the motion which is meaningless. There was no time frame for compliance nor a stated line of action if the President ignores the Senate.

Senate President, David Mark read out the following as resolution which “urged 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.”

Senator Mark would not conclude the matter without providing a defence for the Senate’s failure to act more promptly. The Senate directed “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,” Mark said.

More defence for the poor showing of the Senate came from Senator Ayogu Eze, Chairman, Senate Committee on Media, “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 is why we resolved to urge the President to honour Section 145 by notifying the National Assembly that he has proceeded on medical vacation.”

Nigerians would want to know how the Senate intends to enforce compliance. The lack of bite in the motion is obvious in the fact that a window for escape was provided for the President since without the Senate fixing a time frame, he can decide to comply with Section 145 by January 2011.

Does the Senate know if the President is in a state to write a letter? This motion without movement could be one of the orchestrations to sustain a limpid presidency without a thought for Nigeria’s daily retardation without a President.

References to the North retaining the presidency in 2011 are bland manifestations of how power mongering is rated above larger national interests. The Senate should stop insulting Nigerians after giving th e President more leeway to desecrate the Constitution.

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