By Akinwale Aborisade and Toyosi Ogunseye:
Divergent views have continued to trail the call for invocation of section 144 of the constitution on ailing President Umar Yar‘Adua following his confinement since his return from Saudi Arabia.
The conflicting positions by some prominent lawyers in the country came against the backdrop of lack of access to the President since his return. While some said section 144 should apply in the prevailing circumstance, others suggested outright removal of the president.
Yar‘ Adua, who was flown into the country last Wednesday after his three months treatment in Saudi Arabia, has remained incommunicado as people, including the Acting President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan have allegedly been prevented from seeing him.
Yar‘ Adua who had been critically ill left the shores of the country last November 23 for medical treatment at King Faisal Hospital , Saudi Arabia without transferring power to his deputy.
Among prominent lawyers who gave their views on the controversies trailing Yar‘ Adua‘s return are Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Dr. Koyinsola Ajayi, Mr Emeka Ngige and Mr. Paul Uzoro, all Senior Advocates of Nigeria.
Prof Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, who expressed doubts about the President‘s purported return said a greater uncertainty has been introduced by his return and suggested that the Federal Executive Council should start a process of enquiring about his health. Osinbajo said, ”Now that he is available, it shouldn‘t be difficult for the Federal Executive Council to start a resolution to constitute a medical panel. It is important now that section 144 be invoked.”
Mr. Emeka Ngige, SAN, however pointed out that section 144 was not the solution to the problem but outright impeachment. He alleged that Jonathan was standing on a very slippery ground and stressed that the position of acting president that was given to him was an aberration which was not supported by the constitution.
Ngige said, “A solution to all these problems is for Yar‘Adua to be impeached and let Jonathan take over. Travelling for medical vacation without notifying or communicating with the National Assembly is an impeachable offence. If this is done, this crisis will be over.”
Expressing doubts over Yar‘ Adua‘s purported return, Dr. Koyinsola Ajayi, SAN, said that the issue was whether the president was back in the country or not. He recommended that the cabinet should pass a resolution on the president‘s incapacity.
Mr. Paul Uzoro, SAN, argued that section 144 could be triggered by the Federal Executive Council. He said what was happening at the moment was rather strange adding, “The presidency needs to let us know what is happening about Yar‘Adua‘s health. I agree with the National Assembly. Since we have an Acting President, he should exercise all the powers he has been vested with.”
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