Lawyers yesterday carpeted the actions of President Muhammadu Buhari, saying that governing the country from abroad is an abuse of the nation’s sovereignty. They also argued that it was wrong for the President to take vital decisions that had to do with Nigeria, outside the country.
The lawyers, who spoke against the backdrop of a statement credited to the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, who opined that the “president can work from anywhere”.
The Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, had travelled to London, the United Kingdom on Tuesday to meet with Buhari, for the purpose of assenting to a bill, an action that generated public outcry, prompting the chairman of the ruling party to make the statement.
Reacting, a Professor of Law, Ernest Ojukwu (SAN), said the president was vested with a variety of duties and powers, which were restricted to the geographical location called Nigeria, noting that aside negotiating treaties with foreign governments, these obligations include signing into law or vetoing legislation passed by the National Assembly, appointing highranking members of the executive like ministers and all judges of the federal judiciary, and serving as commander in chief of the armed forces.
“These powers are exercised under the sovereign entity of Nigeria.
The principle of sovereignty envisages that the powers of the President can only be exercised within the territorial limits of the country. “There are however certain acts that may still be intrinsically tied to the exercise of the country’s sovereignty and such acts may undermine our sovereignty and expose the country to foreign interference if done outside the territory of Nigeria. Example is signing a bill into law on a foreign land. “That is a fundamen- tal exercise of the right of a nation to its sovereignty. It should not be allowed.
I think the courts may declare such bill invalid despite the fact that there is no express provision against such act in our constitution” In his own reaction, another lawyer and human rights activist, Inibehe Effiong, also said the action of the president was unconstitutional and illegal. Faulting the act, the lawyer said it was pertinent to reproduce Section 145 (1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), which will subsequently be referred to as ‘the Constitution’, cited by him in aid of his defence.
“Section 145 (1) states 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. “(2): In the event that the President is unable or fails to transmit the written declaration mentioned in subsection (1) of this section within 21 days, the National Assembly shall, by a resolution made by a simple majority of the vote of each House of the National Assembly, mandate the Vice- President to perform the functions of the office of the President as Acting President until the President transmits a letter to the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives that he is now available to resume his functions as President. “The literal, grammatical and commonsensical reading of Section 145 (1) and (2) supra evinces the true purport of the said provisions and does not leave any room for ambiguity or debate as to the actual intention of the framers of the constitution.