PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has been accused of breaching Nigeria’s constitution for failing to hand over to the vice president Professor Yemi Osinbajo before embarking on a two-week private visit to London.
In what is now becoming an annual routine, President Buhari takes his annual leave in the UK, where he comes for medical check-ups and for treatment on an undisclosed ailment. In August 2017, President Buhari spent 105 days in the UK recovering, during which period he stayed at Abuja House in London and in April this year, he spent 10 days in London after a four-day holiday in 2018.
This month, President Buhari embarked on his leave from the 2nd to the 17th of November, visiting London on his way back from an investment summit in Saudi Arabia. However, Monday Ubani, a former vice president of the Nigerian Bar Association, said the move is unconstitutional, faulting the claim that the president was not mandated to hand over power to the vice president unless he will be away for more than 21 days.
Earlier this week, President Buhari signed into law the Deep Offshore Act from London after it was brought to him from Abuja by his chief of staff Abba Kyari. Mr Ubani also condemned this, saying those claiming the act was constitutional were misinterpreting Section 145(2) of the constitution.
According to Mr Ubani recalled that Subsection 2 was introduced to Section 145 of the constitution in 2010 to forestall a repeat of what happened when the late President Umar Yar’Adua embarked on a foreign medical trip without transmitting power to the vice president. He added that the signing of a bill by President Buhari in London did not speak well for Nigeria’s sovereignty.
Mr Ubani said: “The sum total of that subsection is that if the president fails, refuses and or neglects to transmit power to the vice president, the National Assembly is mandated after the period of 21 days to pass a resolution empowering the vice president to start to act automatically ‘as the acting president of Nigeria. That section did not and never provided that it is only when the president will spend more than 21 days outside the shores of the country, that he will be required to hand over power to his vice president.
“The 21 days provision is meant to give the maximum period the president will be allowed to be in breach of Section 145 of the constitution as the National Assembly will come in to do what the president ought to have done in the first place by mandating the vice president to act in the place of the travelled president. The president has breached the 1999 constitution, no doubt by his inability to transmit power to the vice president of the country for the 19 days or less that he wants to spend for his private visit in the UK.
“His private visit has no place in Section 145 of the 1999 constitution in the first place. He is only allowed outside the shores of Nigeria for official visits, medicals and or vacations.
“More troubling is the signing of the Offshores Bill in the UK, outside the shores of Nigeria. The act of signing the bill outside the country, politically sends a signal to our friends that our sovereignty as a nation is in doubt.
“Some acts attract dignity, some do not and this one certainly does not. If I were the president, who loves and respect my country, I will instruct that the bill should wait until I come back and sign it in our shores.”