Atiku v. Obasanjo: Only National Assembly Has Power to Sack President or Vice President | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Atiku v. Obasanjo: Only National Assembly Has Power to Sack President or Vice President

ObasanjoPost
Posted: Jun 24, 2016 at 6:15 am   /   by   /   comments (1)

 

For the most part, former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s second term in office was marked by the unremitting back-and-forth hauling of brick-bat between him and his deputy, Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Obasanjo particularly charged his deputy of corruption, accusing him specifically of mismanaging funds belonging to the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), which was under the direct control of the VP’s office. Atiku however did not deny being compromised by the way he dealt the PTDF fund. He however asserted that he was as guilty as Obassnjo was, given that under his directive funds from the PTDF were channeled towards PDP’s 2003 electioneering campaigns. The fact can however not be swept under the carpet that Atiku’s falling out with Obasanjo was not unconnected to his ambition to succeed him as president, which the latter was all out to frustrate. Seeing his ambition could not be actualized in PDP given the then prevailing circumstances, Atiku decamped to the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Obasanjo’s answer for his defiant move was to unceremoniously sack him by declaring his office vacant. Following this development, the then VP quickly approached the Court of Appeal, being the court of first instance, for redress. The Court granted the reliefs he sought, against which Obasanjo’s camp was displeased for which they approached the Supreme Court for redress. The Apex court, in turn, affirmed the verdict of the Court below. It declared that the power to sack the VP or indeed the President himself inheres constitutionally in no other but the National Assembly. The reasoning informing the Apex Court’s decision is here reported…..

 

In The Supreme Court of Nigeria

On Friday, the 20th April, 2007

S.C. 31/2007

 

Before Their Lordships:

Sylvester Umaru Onu, JSC

Dahiru Musdapher, JSC

Sunday Akinola Akintan, JSC (Delivered lead judgment)

Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, JSC

Francis Fedode Tabai, JSC

Ibrahim Tanko  Muhammad, JSC

Pius Olayiwola Aderemi, JSC

 

Between

Attorney-General of the Federation

Inspector General of Police                                                                      Appellants

Independent National Electoral Commission

 

And

Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Vice President, FRN

The National Assembly                                              Respondents

The President of the Senate

Speaker, House of Representatives

 

Case reviewed by: STEPHEN UBIMAGO

 

Facts of the Case:

On Thursday the 21st of December, 2006, the Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Plaintiff, travelled to United States of America (USA) on his Annual Leave, having obtained the President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s approval for the said Annual leave.

On Saturday, 23rd of December, 2006, the President, through one Mallam Uba Sanni, his Special Assistant on Public Affairs, announced the office of the Plaintiff as Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria vacant.

Mallam Uba Sanni stated the immunity conferred on the Plaintiff as the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 has also been withdrawn; and in justifying their position, Uba Sanni quoted Sections 142, 143 and 146 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as enabling the decision.

The President went on to notify the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as well as the National Assembly, among others, of his decision declaring the office of the Plaintiff vacant and to send a nominee to them to replace the Plaintiff as Vice President.

President Obasanjo also went on to withdraw all privileges, entitlements, rights and benefits of the Plaintiff as the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. All the security details attached to the Plaintiff were also withdrawn. The official residence of the Vice President was sealed off by combined team of armed military and policemen and other security agents; and all official vehicles attached to the Plaintiff’s were withdrawn. All staff attached to the Plaintiff’s office were equally redeployed.

Meanwhile the then Vice President had decamped to the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) at the time the President wielded the purported big stick against him.

The 1st respondent, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, commenced this action by an originating summons filed on 4th January 2007 at the Court of Appeal (hereinafter referred to as the court below).

The action was instituted under the original jurisdiction of that court provided for in section 239(1) of the 1999 Constitution.

His claim before the court is as follows:

“1. Whether having regard to the combined provisions of Section 135 and 142 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, the Plaintiffs term of office as Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria which commenced on 29th of May, 2003 still subsists.

  1. Whether having regard to the provisions of Section 142, 143, 144 and 146 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, or any other provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 or any law, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can declare vacant the office of the Plaintiff as Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
  2. Whether having regard to the clear provisions of Section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can withdraw, tamper or interfere with or violate the immunity conferred on the Plaintiff as the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by that section and or direct his arrest or prosecution.

The Plaintiff sought the following reliefs:

  1. A Declaration that the term of office of the Plaintiff as the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which commenced from 29th of May 2003 still subsists and does not terminate until 29th of May 2007.
  2. A Declaration that the President has no power under the Constitution of    the    Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 or any other law to declare the office or seat of the Plaintiff as the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria vacant.
  • A Declaration that the purported declaration by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of the office of the Plaintiff as Vice President of the Federal of Nigeria vacant is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void, and of no  effect whatsoever.
  1. An Order setting aside the withdrawal of all the rights, privileges, entitlements inclusive all security details, staff of the Plaintiff as directed by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
  2. An Order restoring all the rights, privileges, entitlements and or benefits howsoever of the Plaintiff as the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
  3. An Order of perpetual injunction restraining the Defendants whether by themselves, agents, privies, servants, or otherwise howsoever from impugning or violating constitutional immunity conferred on the Plaintiff as the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
  • An Order of perpetual injunction restraining the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Defendants whether by themselves, their agents, privies, servants or otherwise howsoever from considering any nominee from the President to the office of the Vice President.
  • An Order of perpetual injunction restraining the 6th Defendant whether by itself, its agents, privies, servants or otherwise howsoever from considering and or giving effect to the President’s letter informing them of the declaration of the seat and or office of the Plaintiff as the Vice President of the Federal Republic of   Nigeria vacant.”

By way of a counter-claim the 1st Defendant, now the 1st Appellant had sought the following reliefs:

  1. Declaration that for actualisation of the policies of the sponsoring party and effective running of the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and pursuant, to Section 142 (1) of the Constitution, a Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria must belong to the same political party with the President.
  2. Declaration that the special relationship between ‘the Vice President, the President, and the sponsoring party by the combined effect of Sections 14, 130, 131 (c), 136and 146 (c) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is one of one mindedness, loyalty, trust and mutual confidence and good faith which does not permit double loyalty.
  3. Declaration that the office of the Vice President under Section 146 (3) (a) can become vacant on the resignation of the Vice President.
  4. Declaration that the dumping of a sponsoring party for another party by a sitting Vice President coupled with condemnation of the President and the Government by a sitting Vice President is a breach of one mindedness, loyalty, trust and confidence expected of the Vice President and therefore constitutes constructive resignation, withdrawal and/or abandonment of the office of the Vice President.
  5. Declaration that by reason of the facts stated in (4) above, a sitting Vice President is estopped from denying that he has by his conduct resigned, withdrawal and/or abandoned the office of the Vice President.
  6. An order of injunction restraining the plaintiff by himself, his servant, privies or otherwise from parading or further parading himself as Vice President of Nigeria.
  7. An order of injunction restraining the to 6th Defendants jointly and or severally by themselves, their agents, servants, privies, or subordinates, whosoever described from recognizing, treating or addressing the plaintiff as the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The matters thereafter came up for hearing before the court below presided over by the President of the Court.

In its reserved judgment delivered on 20th February 2007, the court granted the plaintiffs claim in part and dismissed the 1st defendant’s counter-claim.

In the lead judgment delivered by Abdullahi, J.C.A., the learned President concluded, inter alia, as follows: “All   the   questions   formulated   by   the plaintiff having been resolved in his favour, his claim succeeds and the reliefs sought by him are granted as follows: –

  • It is hereby declared that the term of office of the plaintiff as the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which commenced from 29th of May 2003 still subsists and does not terminate until 29th of May 2007.
  • Secondly, it is further declared that the President has no power under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 or any other law to declare the office or seat of the plaintiff as Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria vacant.
  • Thirdly, it is declared that the purported declaration by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of the office of the plaintiff as the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria vacant is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.

The 1st appellant, as 1st defendant, in the court below, was dissatisfied with the judgment and has filed an appeal against it to this court. The 2nd defendant (Inspector-General of Police) was also not satisfied with the judgment and he has also filed a notice of appeal against the judgment. A third notice of appeal was also filed by the 6th defendant (INEC) as the 3rd appellant in this Court.

Issues for Determination:

Having regard to the combined provisions of section 135, 142, 143, 144, 146, 308 and other relevant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and admissible materials placed before the lower court, whether or not the lower court rightly granted the 1st respondent’s   relief and dismissed the appellants’ counter-claim.

Judgment:

On the relationship between the President and Vice President, it is submitted that the relationship is not that of master and servant as each of them is a creation of the Constitution and neither employs the other.

While the Constitution specifically created the office of both the President and that of the Vice President it went ahead to vest the executive powers of the Federation in only the President.

Unlike the Ministers, the President cannot remove the Vice President. The process of removal of the President or the Vice President is provided for in section 143 of the Constitution.

It is through the process of impeachment, which is to be conducted by the National Assembly as set out in that section. Section 143(10) of the Constitution specifically ousts interference of the court from the proceedings leading to the impeachment of the holders of the two offices.

It is clear from the above provisions of section 143 of the Constitution that the process leading to the removal of the President or Vice President is entirely that of the National Assembly.

I believe that the unity contemplated by the arrangement transcends the election. I also believe and hold that their relationship should be throughout their joint term.

I hereby dismiss the appeals and affirm the judgment of the court below relating to the three declaratory claims of the 1st respondent granted by that court. This is because the term of the 1st respondent as Vice President has not expired and he cannot be removed by the President except through impeachment by the National Assembly.

 

Comments (1)

  • Jul 17, 2016 at 9:48 pm ollyman

    Knowing what the constitution says make you a will help you and make you a true citizen of this country

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