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The Constitutionality Of President Buhari’s ‘Private Visit’ And The Privacy Of A Public Servant By Festus Ogun

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It is no longer news that President Mohammadu Buhari has embarked on a 10 day “private visit” to the UK without informing the National Assembly and delegating presidential powers to the Vice President. Expectedly, this matter has since generated serious political and legal controversies. The thrust of this legal opinion, therefore, is to examine the legality of the President’s visit and make an x-ray of his right to privacy — as a public servant.

To start with, the trite position of the law is that the President cannot embark on a vacation without formally informing the National Assembly. Section 145(1)(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, amended 2011 (herein referred to as “the Constitution” or “1999 Constitution”) provides that: 

(1) 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 purport of this provision is very clear and has raised no ambiguity of any sort. As subsection 1 provides, it is mandatory for the President to formally inform the National Assembly when he wishes to proceed on vacation or when he is unable to discharge his function. Notably, the provision also wears the Vice President with the Presidential robe once the letter has been transmitted to the National Assembly, regardless of whether the President included it in his letter or not.

The word “shall” used in the section means must.  In John v. Igbo-Ekiti LGA (2013) 7 PT.1352 P.1 at 16, it was held that whenever the word “shall” is used in an enactment, it connotes imperativeness and gives no room for discretion on the part of the person whom the Constitutional duty is imposed. Importantly, the Supreme Court in Rabiu v. State (1981) 2 NCLR 293 held the need for a liberal and purposive approach in constitutional interpretation.

The question that should agitate the mind is whether the 10 days private visit amounts to vacation as captured under section 145(1). Wikipedia defines vacation to mean “a leave of absence from a regular occupation”. The President, leaving his official and constitutional duties for good 10 days cannot be regarded as a “relatively short absence” but a vacation. The unjustifiable absence from office for days cannot be given any other meaning than vacation as used in the section. It is a constitutional infraction for the President to vacate the country – leaving his official duties – to a private mission for more than a week. There is a huge difference between embarking on an official assignment that lasts for days and merely jetting out of the country for reasons best known to him. The former cannot be treated as vacation and no letter is required to the National Assembly. But, in the latter, the letter must be written and constitutes vacation.

From the above, it is clear that the deliberate refusal of the President to  follow due process stipulated by the Constitution before embarking on his trip is a Constitutional violation and gross misconduct. It amounts to a total disregard to the rule of law and a conscious attempt to return Nigeria to anarchy.

Shockingly, the Presidency in justifying the illegal vacation claimed that “the law is only infringed upon when such absence extends to 21 days”. Most respectfully, that exculpatory interpretation given by the Presidency is highly wrong and alien to our jurisprudence. The Presidency has no power whatsoever to make, twist or fabricate laws. They cannot translate their wishes and desires to law. The power to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of Nigeria is vested in the Legislature under Section 4 of the Constitution. 

It is settled that whenever a constitutional provision is to be interpreted, the sections should be read as a whole and not in isolation.  See Chief Odumegu Ojukwu v. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (1999) 7 SC (Pt. 11) 30. Hence, the interpretation of Section 145(2) cannot be complete without reading it together with Section 145(1), vice versa.  

From the words of Section 145(2), it is seen that the failure of the President to write the National Assembly after 21 days of absence,  shall warrant the National Assembly to mandate the Vice President to carry out the functions of the President and act in capacity as Acting President  by a simple majority vote. The President shall thereafter write the National Assembly whenever he is ready to resume his functions as the President. 

With due respect, the Presidency should be cautioned so as not to crucify our Constitution in the bid to defend the President at all cost. The President is a creation of law and must not act or be treated as though he is above the law. Section 1(1) of the Constitution provides that the Constitution is supreme and Section 1(3) provides that any act done inconsistent with the provision of the Constitution must be declared unconstitutional and illegal. See Military Governor of Lagos State v. Ojukwu (1986) 1 NWLR pt. 18

Sadly, President Buhari is proudly breaching the rule of law despite his Oath of Allegiance “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria” and virtually everyone seems to be comfortable with it. And it is a truism that the consistent subversion of the rule of law by President Buhari is a dangerous precedent that must be averted by all legal means possible.

THE PRESIDENT AND A PUBLIC SERVANT’S RIGHT TO PRIVACY

There are arguments as to whether the President being a public servant can go on a ‘private visit’. Put in another way, being a public official, does the President’s right to privacy extends to going on private missions and ‘vacations’?

The right to private and family life of all citizens are guaranteed under Section 37 of the Constitution. However, public servants and officials are public properties. In this sense, it means that once they assume political offices, they are now public personalities whose lives and activities are matter of public knowledge. Instructively, the critical moves and actions of public officials that are of national importance and relevance are not to be treated personal but public. They no longer just represent themselves but the electorates and their constituencies. So, their lives and activities, especially with regard to the office being held, should not be kept private to the public. 

The learned scholar, N. Dimgba argued that “being public figures, such citizens have freely waived their right to privacy by necessary implication”. Although, there is yet to be any statutory provision to this effect, it is humbly canvassed that public officials should by implication of their status lose their “official” privacy and this does not necessarily open the floodgate for defamatory publications against them.
Matters of public interest should not be kept private and should be seen as a strong defence to an action for breach of privacy. What, then, constitutes public interest? Our courts have made attempts to give a few answers. In Adikwu v. National Assembly (1982) 3 NCLR 398 and Tarka v. Sketch (1978) CCHC 268, the Supreme Court defined public interest to mean issues concerning the government of the day as well as its leaders. See also Nigeria Textile Mills v. Punch (Unreported Suit No. ID/768/84 of 13/61986)

Consequently, it is wrong to conceal information about the President and his activities, especially those of public importance. It is against the spirit of constitutional democracy.

The President’s vacation is not just illegal but also shows a high level of insolence and embarrassment on the persons of Nigerians. President Buhari owes the people of Nigeria explanations about his unauthorized visit since he is carrying about the emblem of the entire citizenry. Additionally, the bills of his travels, accommodation and all incidental costs are footed by our collective resources.  Why then should the vacation be shrouded in secrecy? 

President Buhari owes Nigerians deep apology. This is premised on the ground that the powers of government are delegated by the people through the Constitution. Infact, sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria – Section 14(2)(a) of the Constitution. So, the President must treat the citizens with care, dignity and proper regard. 

Let me conclude with the alluring words of the late sage Oputa,  JSC: “the fault is not in our stars but ourselves. It is not in our past constitutions but in our failure to obey law, to respect and revere the most fundamental of all our laws – Our Constitution”.

Festus Ogun, a human rights activist, is a final year Law student of Olabisi Onabanjo University. 09066324982 Festusogunlaw@gmail.com .
 

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You’re A Shameless Politician, Okorocha Fires Back At Uzodinma

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Rochas Okorocha, the outgoing governor of Imo state, on Sunday, replied Senator Hope Uzodinma,the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last general election, and Senator representing Imo West Senatorial zone, over his recent  media attacks against him.
Okorocha decribed Uzodinma as a “shameless” politician who is a pliable tool in the hands of some politicians within and outside the state who are bent on ruining his political career.
He said Uzodinma would do anything to please his political masters to be in their good books
A statement signed by Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, read that,  “within one week, Chief Hope Uzodinma, the governorship Candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), in Imo State, has had series of interviews in almost all the national newspapers. And his target in all the interviews was Governor Rochas Okorocha. He has also invaded the social media with his insults on the governor.

“Interestingly enough, the kind of courage and boldness Chief Uzodinma displayed or exercised in all his media outings against Governor Okorocha only showed that he has no shame. And he could do worst things if he has the opportunity”.

According to the statement, “Chief Uzodinma contested the governorship election in the State with the ticket of APC and he could not win in his own Oru East local government. He could not win in any of the 27 LGAs in the State, and never came second or third in all the LGAs but only came fourth and he has the audacity to be granting interviews and talking balderdash.
“He has only confirmed that he was only used as tool to destroy Imo APC. And they have promised him Ministerial appointment and that is the reason behind his current media Campaigns and to be listened to, he has to be insulting Governor Rochas Okorocha.

“Chief Uzodinma and co told the world that governor Okorocha had finished politically, that they were the ones holding the ace of APC in the State. And today, Nigerians have seen or known who holds the franchise of APC in Imo and in the Southeast”.

It continued that, “at least, the outcome of the 2019 election spoke volume. It showed that like Governor Okorocha had said, Chief Uzodinma didn’t contest the 2019 governorship election in the State to win. He only came to be a tool in the hands of those who wanted to kill APC in Imo and South-East in general for reasons best known to them.

“The 2019 poll also showed that Ugwumba Uche Nwosu is loved by Imo people to a very large extent and he was the most popular governorship Candidate. He won the 2019 election with the real votes of Imo people but INEC decided to announce someone with fictitious figures winner.

“Chief Uzodinma could not produce even one House of Assembly member. But Ugwumba Nwosu produced about eleven House of Assembly members, two Federal House of Representatives members and one Senator for Okigwe zone on the platform of Action Alliance, (AA). And all those who won election on the tickets of APC are all Governor Okorocha’s men.

“The truth is that falsehood does not endure. But truth endures. Even at the moment, only Governor Okorocha has the capacity to rebuild APC in Imo and in the South-East generally with the support of the AA Chieftains led by Ugwumba Uche Nwosu.

“In case men like Hope Uzodinma do not know, Governor Okorocha will outlive them, outlive their mischievous politics and their gang up. In their effort to destroy Okorocha’s politics, they messed up the entire State with their Collaborators.
Uzodinma had on Friday in an interview he granted the Nation Newspaper fired a barb at Okorocha by calling him a saboteur.

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Mark My Words, I Will Become President Of Nigeria, Okorocha Vows

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Rochas Okorocha, the governor of Imo State, has vowed that he will become the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria come what may.
Okorocha made his conviction public on Sunday during his valedictory thanksgiving service held at the Government House Chapel in Owerri.
He said  that his current political travails, particularly the seizure of his Certificate of Return as the Imo West senator-elect, were only strengthening him for the  exalted  presidential seat in Aso Rock.
The outgoing governor said the wishes of his political adversaries concerning him would not come to pass, saying “those who want me to go to prison will go to prison before me.”
 
According to him, the elite hated him because he decided to approach the affairs of the state differently.

Describing himself as “the most criticised politician” in the country, Okorocha said that all the ploy to stop him from going to the Senate will fail.

Okorocha said, “I tell you, I am the most criticised person in Nigeria today. I don’t know why the entire elite hate me with cruelty.

“My Senate ambition is still a battle. More than 30 people have joined the suit to fight me. All these, I will overcome.

“They are only preparing me for the glory ahead.”

“Mark it, I will be president of Nigeria. I said this on this altar so that the kingdom of God will rise against those fighting to stop me.

“Also, those who think they will put me in prison will go to prison before me.

“They don’t want me to be at the National Assembly, but I will be there. I know I am the last man standing, but I will not give up.”

He said that 95 percent of Imo indigenes did not understand him and his style of governance.

“Only a few of them later realised that I meant well for the state. I governed the state with passion. I broke protocols and bent the laws, but I never broke laws.

“When I took over the office eight years ago, I wasn’t unmindful that a lot of people will misunderstand me and try to distract me.

“But today, I have left the state better than I met it. I am the architect of the new Imo. I am a satisfied governor.”

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APC Is Responsible For Rising Suicide, Misery In Nigeria, Says PDP

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The Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) has described the escalated despondency, depression and misery in the country as a national tragedy caused by the All Progressives  Congress(APC) administration.
Lamenting what the party dubbed ‘rising social degeneration’,  the opposition party urged Nigerians to show empathy and brotherly love to one another at this trying time . The party also ascribed the high incidence of suicide in the country to the depression and hardship foisted on the country by the Buhari-led administration.
PDP, in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the “rising spate of suicides, slavery mission abroad, divorces, child abandonment and other social degeneration” are occasioned by the “worsening economic hardship, poverty, hunger and rising insecurity under the incompetent, corrupt, divisive and manipulative APC administration.” 
According to the statement, the PDP said Nigerians became more despondent after the electoral heist that happened in February 23, 2019 when Atiku Abubakar, the party’s presidential candidate, was robbed of his mandate
 “In the last few months, the news media has been awash with horrible reports of teenage suicide in our country.
 “Banditry, insurgency, marauding, bloodletting and kidnapping with unmentionable ransoms, have almost become daily occurrences. Our citizenry is now battling with the worst kind of siege mentality.

“Constitutional violations, human rights abuses, arbitrary arrests, extra-judicial killings, assault on perceived dissenting voices and attempt at annexation of our institutions of democracy, particularly the judiciary, signposts a nation in dire strait. “Misery has set in. This is evident in the shrinking of our nation’s Gross Domestic Produce (GDP) to 2.1percent in the first quarter of 2019. “It is saddening that at the time Nigerians ought to be celebrating, they are rather forlorn, committing suicide and exiting the country in droves. 
“Most Nigerians have become downhearted in the face of an administration that wrecked our once robust economy and divided our people; in the face of worsening joblessness, piling bills, hunger and diseases; in the face of incompetence, lies, and unfulfilled promises of free homes, monthly allowance to unemployed youth and the poor, bringing the naira to the same value as the US Dollar, creating of 5 million new jobs, ending of insurgency in three months and myriad of other false promises. 
“Instead, what our nation has witnessed is an official entrenchment and elevation of incompetence, deceit, propaganda, failure and cabal mentality on the corridors of power; a situation where the only achievement is the foisting of economic recession and mortgaging of the future of our nation with the accumulation of N24.39 trillion debt, with no tangible project to show. 
“It is instructive to state that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration has obstinately refused to allow any scrutiny of its books, knowing that they are catalogues of corruption, treasury looting, violations, impunity and acts that have brought our nation to its knees.” 

 

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Trailer Crushes Female LASTMA Officer To Death In Lagos

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Arogundade Remilekun, a female officer of the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency(LASTMA), has been crushed to death by a trailer.
It was gathered that the tragic incident occured  in Apapa area of Lagos on Sunday morning
The late Remilekun was said to be from Apapa Zone 36 station base
It was gathered that the officer was at the back of the truck when the tragedy occurred.
 The trailer crushed her to death as the driver  was trying to reverse.
Eyewitnesses said the driver of the trailer was oblivious of the deceased’s presence.
She was said to have died right on the spot.
Her remains have been evacuated from the scene of the tragedy

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Lagos Task Force Officers Assault Journalist, Detain Him For Hours

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Abdul-waheed Usamah, a journalist , was assaulted  on Saturday by officers of the Lagos Task Force for  confronting  the officers to stop harassing innocent people.
The incident occured at the Police College in Ikeja during a victory party organised for the Lagos Governor-Elect Babajide sanwo-Olu on Saturday. 
Usamah, who is the Managing Director of  an online news portal called ‘The Guild’, was not just beaten black and blue but also bundled into a Black Maria and taken to the Task Force Headquarters in Oshodi. He was detained at the headquarters for two hours
According to Usamah, “I attended the Victory party organized for the Lagos Governor-elect, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Kadri Hamzat, by Sanwo-Olu’s ICG, and held at the Police College in Ikeja. During the event, I noticed how police officers attached to the Lagos State Task Force have been harassing and embarrassing APC party members and other guests who were trying to access VIP session of the party, and I drew the attention of the organizer and the ICG’s security to the men.

“During the process of trying to advise and made suggestions to the ICG’s security so as to save guests from the embarrassment coming from the police officers, one the officers, violently pushed me and we got into arguments, and others, including their superior started threatening.

“While I was trying to talk them out, one officer came from the crowd, and punched me in the face, and the next thing I knew, five of the officers started dragging me and forcefully pushed into the Task Force truck. I was kept in the Black Maria for an hour, and was later driven, inside the Black Maria to the agency’s office where I was kept inside cell.”

He explained further: “When we got to the agency’s office, I was handed over to the officers on duty who after, seizing my two phones, asked me to removed my belt and shoes, and locked me inside a cell where I met about 17 people in bad condition.

“After about an hour and half, one officer came in announcing my name and directed his colleagues to open the cell iron gate for me and led me to the Task Force Chairman’s office, where I met him. He ordered for my belongings in agency’s care and released me.”

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