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Buhari legally right to address Nigerians through SGF – Lawyers

President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari when he was briefed by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19

Some lawyers have said President Muhammadu Buhari is permitted under the Constitution to delegate any person to conduct a state function on his behalf.

This is coming on the heels of criticism of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and the chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha’s announcement of President Buhari’s extension of the two weeks ease of lockdown measures.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), through its spokesman, Kola Olagbondiyan, had said the development was “a manifestation of abuse of statutory offices arising from the abdication of responsibilities by President Buhari since the last five years, which had also become more pronounced in this fight against COVID-19.”

READ: COVID-19: Buhari’s speech empty, fails to address real concerns — PDP

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Speaking on the matter, Paul Ananaba (SAN) said there is no constitutional duty that the president must address Nigerians all the time.

“If the president is disposed to talking to us, we will be willing to listen.

“I don’t believe it’s an issue.

“There are statutory days he must address the nation such as on Democracy Day and Independence Day,” he said.

Also, Obioma Ezenwobodo Esq. said there is no aspect of the Constitution which stated that only the Vice President can exercise the President’s functions on behalf of the President.

READ: Presidency blasts PDP, asks party to join COVID-19 fight or shut up

“Section 148 of the Constitution 1999 (as amended) clearly provides that the President may in his discretion assign to the Vice President or any Minister responsibility for any business of the Government,” Ezenwobodo said.

“Section 171 equally provides for the appointment of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation by the President to help him in exercising his power.

“It, therefore, presupposes that the President can comfortably, amongst other persons, assign or delegate any of his functions to the above mentioned persons,” he added.

 

Presidential address could show emotional support

Also speaking, E.M.D. Umukoro Esq. also said there is no legal impediment for the president to delegate his speeches.

Umukoro said the president, however, ought to do the address in critical periods such as COVID-19 as an emotional support to the people.

His absence could fuel further speculation about his health, he added.

“As much as Nigerians appear to criticize Mr. President, it feels better to hear him speak and address the nation.

“It is soothing and reassuring,” he said.

However, Hamid Ajibola Jimoh Esq said a further presidential address on the ease of the lockdown was unnecessary given the extensive address he gave earlier while easing the lockdown.

“‘Further more, I do not view any wrong in the Secretary to the Federation addressing or broadcasting presidential address,” Jimoh said.

“Section 5 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria is clear that the functions of the President may be performed by himself or through any of his Ministers or public servants.

“The Secretary to the Federation is appointed by the President to perform part or some of His Excellency’s functions which, in my view, includes ceremonial functions such as addressing and or conveying the address of the President to the citizens or the public.

“So, there is no wrong, legally speaking, done by the broadcast of the Presidential address by the Secretary to the Federation and Chairman of the COVID-19 Taskforce,” Jimoh added.

For his part, Nnamdi Ahaiwe Esq. said broadcast only qualifies as ‘Presidential’ if made by the President, adding that “a Minister can address the nation and that will not be Presidential Broadcast.”

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