- Popular lawyer Festus Ogun has weighed in on the constitutionality of President Buhari’s failure to hand over to Osinbajo before flying out to the UK
- Ogun argued that the president’s failure to transmit power to his deputy before leaving the country is against the constitution
- The legal analyst also described as misleading the presidency’s argument that it is unnecessary for the president to hand over to his deputy
- Another lawyer, Dotun Sotonade, said the president can only travel out without handing over to his deputy when he travels for an official duty
Popular legal analyst and human rights activist, Festus Ogun, has disagreed with the presidency over the claim that President Muhammadu Buhari did not contravene the constitution by not transmitting power to his deputy before travelling out of the country.
President Buhari on Tuesday, March 30, departed Abuja for his routine medical check-up in London, United Kingdom.
The Nigerian leader will spend two weeks abroad and is expected back in the country in the second week of April.
Many Nigerians were outraged that the president did not hand over to his deputy, Vice President Osinbajo, before leaving the country.
However, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said it is unnecessary for President Buhari to hand over to Osinbajo, arguing that the president’s action does not violate the constitution.
He said when he appeared as a guest on Channels TV on Tuesday:
“The requirement of the law is that the President is going to be absent in the country for 21 days and more, then that transmission is warranted. In this particular instance, it is not warranted.”
However, legal analyst Ogun disagreed with the presidential spokesman, saying the president’s failure to transmit power to his deputy is “unconstitutional, arbitrary, contemptuous and unconscionable.”
He told Legit.ng:
“By virtue of Section 145(1)(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2011 as amended, the President is under a constitutional duty to transmit power to the Vice-President “whenever” he proceeds on vacation or his usual medical tourism.”
The human rights activist added:
“Section 145(1) of the Constitution unambiguously provides that: “WHENEVER the President is proceeding on vacation or is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, he SHALL transmit a written declaration to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives to that effect, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, the Vice-President shall perform the functions of the President as Acting President.”
Ogun submitted that, considering the cited Constitutional provisions, it is “crystal clear that the President does not have the discretion to cherry-pick which of the Constitutional provisions to obey”.
“President Buhari is under a constitutional compulsion to always transmit power to his deputy every time and anytime he is embarking on his rather fruitless tours.”
The legal analyst also stated that Shehu’s argument that the president need not hand over power when his stay is less than 21 days is “lame, misleading and fictitious”.
“What the law simply implies is that the failure to transmit power within 21 days would clothe the National Assembly with the jurisdiction to declare the Vice-President as Acting President.
“That is not to mean that the President is not under a legal duty to transmit power whenever he is embarking on vacation. Remember, the operative word here is “whenever” and not “when he spends over 21 days.
“Our courts have consistently maintained that where the wordings of the Constitution are clear, direct and unambiguous, the literal canon of interpretation should be adopted.”
Ogun called on the presidency to desist from turning the law upside down in satisfaction of its political interests.
When Buhari can travel without handing over to Osinbajo
Also, Dotun Sotonade, a legal practitioner and human rights activists based in Abeokuta, the Ogun state capital, said the president is mandated to write the Senate any time he is going on any form of vacation while the vice president will act in his stead till he comes back.
The lawyer also made reference to Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution as amended to back up his position.
Sotonade explained further:
“So based on this (Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution), 21 days does not even come in. Once it is deemed he shall be leaving for any reason, he should hand over.”
The lawyer stated that there should never be a vacuum in governance. However, he explained that the president is not mandated to hand over to his deputy when he travels out of the country on official duty.
“The only exception is where he leaves for an official duty. In this wise, he remains the President. But if he wants to go to Daura (his hometown) on leave or vacation for any length of time, (even 24 hours).He should hand over. There should never be vacuum in governance.”
Dino Melaye reacts
Meanwhile, former Kogi West senator, Dino Melaye, has also reacted to President Buhari’s medical trip to the UK.
In a tweet on Tuesday, March 30, the former lawmaker taunted President Buhari, asking when the UK prime minister Boris Johnson would be coming to Nigeria for medical treatment.
"Buhari is going to UK for medical treatment, when is the UK prime minister Boris Johnson coming to Nigeria for medical treatment? SDM."
In other news, a former Kaduna lawmaker, Shehu Sani, has explained why medical tourism can’t be banned without an enabling law to back it up.
He made this claim on his Twitter page on Thursday, April 1, two days after President Muhammadu Buhari flew to the United Kingdom for a routine medical check-up.