May 10, 2017

Provision of the Constitution on Acting President | Adedunmade Onibokun

Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the 5th of May, 2017, transmitted a letter to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki informing the National Assembly of a Medical follow – up trip to the United Kingdom. In the said letter, the President further stated that the Vice – President, Prof. Yemi Osibajo will coordinate the affairs of government while His Excellency is away.

In the above mentioned letter, the President stated –

“In compliance with Section 145 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), I wish to inform the distinguished Senate that I will be away for a scheduled medical follow-up with my doctors in London. The length of my stay will be determined by the doctor’s advice. ‘‘While I am away, the Vice-President will coordinate the activities of the government. Please accept, the distinguished Senate President, the assurances of my highest consideration.”

This has resulted into debates on many forums about use of the word “coordinate” by the President and questions have been asked if the President erred in this regard. This post seeks to enlighten Nigerians on the provisions of the Constitution as it relates to the above mentioned scenario.

Many commentators have stated that the transmission of power to the Vice-President is not clear while other conspiracy theorists had also began to spin stories of tight grips on power. The Nigerian Senate was also not left out of the debate as deliberations were made on the floor of the Chamber.

It is important to point out that the relevant provision of the law is Section 145 of the Nigerian Constitution. It provides thus –

“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 that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Vice – President as Acting President”.

The above section of the Constitution if given its literal meaning is clear. It can also be seen from the words of the law, that it is not mandatory for the President to name the Vice- President as Acting – President. It is clear that once the President writes to the National Assembly of his unavailability, the role of Acting President automatically falls on the Vice – President. Even though the name of the Vice – President is not specifically mentioned in the letter.

From the above, it is clear that the President erred in no way and even went further than the letter of the law to name the Vice-President as the person whom will coordinate the affairs of government. Which according to the law is just a mere formality.

Adedunmade Onibokun, Esq.  

Principal Partner
Adedunmade Onibokun & Co.

Photo Credit -