By Olalekan Awojodu
The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami SAN Wednesday painted a dictatorial picture of a Nigerian president in a democracy as he said the National Assembly has no constitutional power to invite President Muhammadu Buhari over spate of insecurity in the country.
Malami stated this in a signed statement dated 9th December, 2020 and made available to Gavel International Correspondent in Abuja.
Two Nigerian lawyers however put a lie into Malami’s claims, accusing the Chief Law Officer of trying to paint a picture of a president that is above the law. One of them, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo says “no Nigerian President is above the law”.
In the statement, the Attorney General noted that the President has enjoyed Constitutional privileges attached to the Office of the President including exclusivity and confidentiality investiture in security operational matters, which remains sacrosanct.
Malami added that the National Assembly has no Constitutional Power to envisage or contemplate a situation where the President would be summoned by the National Assembly on operational use of the Armed Forces.
Citing Section 218 (1) of the constitution, the Malami maintained that the management and control of the security sector is exclusively vested in the President as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces including the power to determine the operational use of the Armed Forces.
The invitation, according to him, seeks to put the operational use of the Armed Forces to a public interrogation and indeed taking the constitutional rights of law making beyond bounds.
The AGF then submitted that the right of the President to engage the National Assembly and appear before it is inherently discretionary and not at the behest of the National Assembly.
The statement read partly: “President Muhamamdu Buhari of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has recorded tremendous success in containing the hitherto incessant bombing, colossal killings, wanton destruction of lives and property that bedeviled the country before attaining the helm of affairs of the country in 2015.
“The confidentiality of strategies employed by the President as the commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not open for public exposure in view of security implications in probable undermining of the war against terror.
“The fact that President Muhammadu Buhari was instrumental to the reclaiming of over 14 Local Governments previously controlled by the Boko Haram in North East is an open secret; the strategies for such achievement are not open for public expose,”
“As the Commander in Chief, the President has exclusivity on security and has confidentiality over security. These powers and rights he does not share.
“So, by summoning the President on National Security operational Matters, the House of Representative operated outside constitutional bounds. President’s exclusivity of constitutional confidentiality investiture within the context of the constitution remains sacrosanct,” the statement added.
While speaking exclusively to Gavel International on the matter, a Lagos-based Constitutional lawyer, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo condemned an attempt to shield the President from appearing before NASS.
According to Omirhobo, the President is not above the law, reminding that the country is operating a system of Separation of Powers.
He said, “The national assembly has power to summon Buhari or any office holder before it and unless the President has something to hide, he has to appear.
“I once said the President appears to have certain medical ailment which some people are shielding away from us. Posterity will not forgive NASS and members of FEC if they continue to cover the President incapacitation,”
Also speaking on the matter, an Abuja-based lawyer, Oyeghe Seprebofa noted that NASS has the power to summon the President to appear for explanation on any issue affecting the polity.
“It is a Constitutional power of NASS to invite Buhari. Under Section 4 of the constitution, they are empowered to make law for Peace, Order and good governance of the country.
“That power cannot be appreciated if there are restrictions and inhibitions to summon the President or any occupant of political office on issues relating to national security that NASS can legislate on,” Seprebofa insisted.