Buhari’s absence: Lawyer seeks constitutional review

Following the continued absence of ailing President, Muhammadu Buhari, a legal practitioner and convener of the office of citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mr Pelumi Olajengbesi on Thursday, called for an amendment of the country’s constitution.

This is even as he condemned the action of Police officers towards the anti-Buhari protesters who were calling for the resumption or resignation of the President.

Addressing newsmen in Abuja during a media parley, Olajengbesi stated that the continued absence of the President on the basis of ill-health was a major blow to democracy.

He stressed the need for proper amendment and interpretation of the section 144 of the constitution on prolonged absence of any President, adding that the call for Buhari’s resumption or resignation from different quarters was not out of place.

His words: “The protesters are demanding that the President should resume or resign, there is a relationship between the President of Nigeria and the protesters because they are Nigerians and the relationship is what we call social contract.

“They gave the President the mandate to lead and govern the country and it is expected of the President to do the job he is elected for. In a situation where the President is elected to carry out a particular assignment and the President is wanting, the people can come out and express their opinion. In every democracy, freedom is expression is sacrosanct….what they have done is not treason or treasonable but they have a right to demand and to express themselves has they have done.”

On the stance of the constitution on President Buhari’s absence, he said;”it is important in the process of the constitution amendment that the issue pertaining to the absence of any president should be addressed.

“As I speak with you today the President has complied with the requirements of the law. The law says that if you are leaving the country, he should communicate with the Senate which he has done. But we are not talking alone about the law but we are also talking about the business of social contract when you employ a person to do a job for you, the person cannot leave and just disappear.”

He further revealed that explanation in the section 144 of the Nigerian constitution did not cater for the prolong absence of any sitting President.

Olajengbesi, to this end, submitted that the section 144 of the constitution is a complete heresy that needs to be clarified by the court.

“The constitution did not contemplate a situation whereby the President will permanently relocate to the United Kingdom, the constitution did not contemplate a situation where the President will be absent on the grounds of health for over 90days.

“So what we are saying is that we are calling on the Nigerian Senate to ensure that that aspect of the constitution is revealed. We said we are going to approach the court through an originating sum for an interpretation of the section 1B of section 144, the reason is because when you look at the position of the law in section 144, the intentions of the writer did not contemplate the situation we have today, however, because of exigencies the constitution can also be interpreted to suit the president’s situation, but that is not within my ambit, it is the decision of the law.

“The constitution talked about putting up a medical committee that will examine the health of the President and the committee will take the report to the Senate but when you look at section 144 the constitution climbed the ladder from the top, the constitution is an heresy, the explanation of the constitution did not cater for the present situation we are.”

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