Last week, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Michael Aondoakaa (SAN) was widely reported to have stated that President Umaru Musa Yaradua is permitted by the Constitution to rule Nigeria from Saudi Arabia where he has been receiving treatment for the past four weeks.
One would have ignored the highly misleading statement but for the curious reference to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by the Attorney-General. I wish to state, without any fear of contradiction, there is no law in Nigeria that allows the President to govern the country when he is on medical vacation. For the avoidance of doubt, Section 145 of the Constitution has imposed a duty on the President to transmit a written declaration to the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives that “he is proceeding on vacation or he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office”.
Once such a written declaration is transmitted to the appropriate authorities the powers of the President shall be automatically transferred to the Vice President who shall exercise them as the Acting President of the country. The latter shall continue to discharge the functions of the office until the President transmits another written declaration to the contrary.
It is common knowledge that President Yaradua has been receiving treatment in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for the past four weeks. As he has been unable to discharge the functions of his office one would have expected the Attorney-General of the Federation to advise the President to comply with the provisions of the Constitution in line with the much touted rule of law policy of the current Administration.
Instead of provoking an unwarranted constitutional crisis the members of the Federal Executive Council should, as a matter of urgency, invoke the provision of Section 144 of the Constitution by passing a resolution to the effect that the President is incapable of discharging the functions of his office. This will enable the Senate President to set up a Medical Panel which will examine the President’s health with a view to determining his physical suitability in the circumstances.
Once again, while joining Nigerians to wish the President a quick recovery the Attorney-General of the Federation and other highly placed government officials should desist from turning the Constitution upside down in their desperate bid to cover up the actual state of the President’s health.