• Tony Igele

Major Constitutional Crisis Averted As Senate Names Osinbajo Acting President

A major constitutional crisis was averted on Tuesday, May 9 as the Senate confirmed that Yemi Osinbajo is now the nation’s acting President in Muhammadu Buhari’s absence.

There was ambiguity in President Buhari’s letter informing the Senate that he was proceeding on a follow up medical leave to London, United Kingdom.

Relying on Section 145 of the Constitution which was also quoted in President Buhari’s letter, the Senate said Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is Acting President since there is no provision for Coordinating Vice President in the Constitution.

President Buhari had in letter dated May 5, 2017 which was read by Senate President, Bukola Saraki, informed the Senate that he would be away for a scheduled medical follow up with his doctors in London.

The President also told the Senate that while he was away, the vice president will “coordinate activities of the government.”

Ohuabunwa, who represents Abia North Senatorial District, noted that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has no provision for a coordinating president of a coordinating vice president.

He said the presidential letters to the Senate, the highest legislative body of the country “should be direct and unambiguous.”

Ohuabunwa said, “Whenever the President transmits to the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or otherwise that he is unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such function shall be discharge by vice president as acting president.

“Mr. President I don’t think in our constitution we have anything like coordinating president or coordinating vice president. “It is either you are vice president or you are acting president and any letter should be unambiguous and very clear. “So, am saying that this letter really does not convey anything because coordinating has no space or any place in our constitution. “We have been having letters like this and you tell us who is the acting president and we know who to deal with as a Senate.

“This is the highest legislative body of the country and if you are sending us letter, it should be direct and unambiguous. So, I am saying that this letter for me is not right and maybe should be sent back.”

Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan, disagreed with the Point Order and asked the Senate to disregard it. Lawan noted since President Buhari cited Section 145 (1) of the Constitution in the letter, he was very clear on who should act in his absence.

The Yobe North lawmaker said any other word contained in the presidential letter was irrelevant. Lawan said, “Mr. President, let me say that the Point of Order raised by my colleague and the explanation that subsequently followed shouldn’t have been.

“I still rely on the first paragraph of that letter which Mr. President wrote to this Senate and read by the President of the Senate and I will read section (145) which reads whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation…”

“Àny other word in this letter or indeed anywhere else is irrelevant. I therefore feel that Mr. President has done what the constitution requires him to do and I urge this Senate not to go ahead to discuss this because it is not an issue.”

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