Nigeria: Fresh Concerns In Parliament Over Constitutional Breaches By Buhari

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President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

There are growing concerns at the moment within the legislative arm of the Nigerian government over continued constitutional breaches by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration that came into power in May 2015, promising to depart from such vices.

The House of Representatives is not comfortable with some of the alleged constitutional breaches.

Before now, Chief Mike Ahamba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, had said that the deployment of troops in ‘peace time’ by President Buhari and former president, Olusegun Obasanjo were in breach of the 1999 Constitution.

Senator Anietie Okon had expressed worries that the basic points that sustain Nigeria as one unified nation are being in danger by Buhari’s approach to ruling saying “even in the attempt to people his administration, what we have had is a clear breach of the Constitution.

“The very foundations of this country are very clear. The foundations demand recognition of the differences that have ensured the emergence of a country and it is unacceptable where you fail to recognize the federal character of our make up as a country. This is not only condemnable but poses real danger for the future of this country. In a nutshell, President Buhari is operating in breach of the constitution, he is in breach of the Nigerian Constitution by the way and manner he is approaching governance and that is an impeachable offense.”

Similarly, the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law equally denounced President Buhari, alleging 60 constitutional sins and breaches which they divided into Electoral Sins & Breaches, Political Sins & Breaches, Judicial Sins & Interferences, Economic Policy Sins & Blunders and Security & Safety Policy Sins & Blunders.

According to the group, these sins and breaches are all contrary to or in gross breaches of the relevant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and its subsidiary laws of the federation including relevant international rights treaties entered into by Nigeria through the instruments of ratification or domestication.

They referred to them as constitutional sins because they violate the spirit of the Constitution and constitutional breaches because they violate the letters of the Constitution.

For the Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara, while the legislative arm of government recognise the need to tackle the problem of corruption with renewed vigour in our society, as we fully subscribe to the dictates of the Constitution which enjoins the State to ‘abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power’ Section 15(5), ‘’we must, however, be conscious of doing things and implementing our laws in such ways and manner that will portray us as a democratic society conscious of the Rule of Law and Fundamental human rights.”

Dogara, spoke while explaining that the House is probing the Special Presidential Investigation Panel to ascertain where it got the powers to investigate public officers as it is not listed among the agencies listed to discharge that function in the constitution, pointing out that the probe became imperative because of the confusion of roles which has been identified even by the Executive arm of government.

According to the Speaker, the constitution which is the supreme law governing the affairs of Nigeria vests the respective powers of investigation and eventual trial of public officers in breach of the code of conduct on the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Code of Conduct Tribunal, in addition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), established by two extant laws and copiously vested with powers and jurisdiction to investigate allegations of crime and to charge possible offenders to the Federal High Court.

He added that while it is the responsibility of the Judiciary to give final interpretation on the legality or otherwise of any question of law, it is also the constitutional responsibility of the National Assembly to make laws, or to plug defects in any existing law, or to amend any laws as it deems fit, especially to protect Nigerian citizens from the possibility of double jeopardy of facing different laws and different judicial and executive agencies on the same subject matter.

“This investigation is further strengthened by the confusion of roles which has been identified by the Executive branch itself. It is public knowledge that the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, had waded into these matters in a letter titled, ‘Re: Directive in Respect of Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, Chairman of the Special Investigation Panel on the recovery of public property,’ which has not been denied.

“According to Malami’s letter to Obono-Obla: I have received a letter Ref. SH/OVP/DCOS/FMJ/0424 dated 20th October, 2017 in respect of the above subject from the Office of the Vice President. In the said letter, the Vice President expressed his concerns on the activities of the Special Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property which runs contrary to the enabling Act establishing it. He also noted that the activities of the Panel run foul or contrary to established administrative procedures and protocols in the Federal Civil Service Structure.

“The spirit, if not the letter, of Section 36(9) of the Constitution guaranteeing a right to fair hearing and outlawing double trial by Courts or Tribunal set up by law, should guide our attitude on this matter, especially now that the Supreme Court has decided that the Code of Conduct Tribunal has a quasi-criminal jurisdiction,’’ Dogara said.