Some rare occasions see both the President of a country and the deputy have to be out of the nation at the same time.
Such is the case with Nigeria at the moment as both President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo are at the moment, both out of the country.
JitekMedia reports President Buhari is in New York, USA to participate in the 77th United Nations general assembly (UNGA) while Osinbajo is representing Nigeria at the burial ceremony of Queen Elizabeth II in the United Kingdom.
With Nigeria’s number one and two citizens out of the country, some people have raised questions about who is piloting the country’s affairs.
Who Is In Charge Of Nigeria?
It is understood that the ability of the President or the Vice President to discharge their constitutional duties is not affected by their geographical location
The country’s constitution only mandates the transmission of power when the President is unable to discharge his responsibilities due to vacation, ill-health or death and such vacuums need to be filled.
However, when the President (or the Vice President) is not affected by any of these conditions, he doesn’t have to be physically present to carry out his functions.
According to Section 145(1) of the 1999 constitution: “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.”
By implication, though both Buhari and Osinbajo are currently out of the country, governance has not been stopped and they are still in charge.
It Is Not A Must To Transmit Power
A lawyer, Timi Olagunju quoted by TheCable to shed more light on the matter explained that Nigeria’s constitution does not mandate the President to hand over power simply because he is travelling out of the country.
He said no vacuum exists except the President declares it and communicates such to the National Assembly in writing.
The lawyer agreed that the President can virtually preside over the affairs of the nation from any location without considering geographical barriers.
In his words, “The constitution does not specifically state that any travel means that the president must transmit power. That is why there is a clamour for the parliament to review the law according to global standards, because section 144 talks of incapacity, while section 145 talks of vacation or ill-health, and sticks it to the parliament. That implies transmitting the power to the vice-president as acting until he sends another letter to say he is back.
“The constitution does not provide for a vacuum, except the president says there is a vacuum. The president has to transmit an official letter. There are two instances in which this section has been raised — Good luck Jonathan and Buhari’s excessive stay in London. In the case of Goodluck, there was no transmission from Yar’Adua to him, but the parliament had to use the doctrine of necessity.
“If the president does not transmit officially, there cannot be said to be a vacuum. It means by implication that the president is still acting even though he has travelled. On a lighter note, he can preside virtually.
“If you say ‘every time the president travels abroad, it becomes a geographical thing rather than a legal matter — that means if he goes to the Niger Republic, he has to transmit power.
“For presidential decisions, that is why we have the federal executive council (FEC).”
In The Case Of Emergency
However, it is further understood that should there be an emergency that makes the President or the Vice President unable to rule the country, section 146(2) of the constitution already makes a provision for the Senate President to assume leadership and set necessary steps in motion.
But in this particular case, though both President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo are out of the country, they are still able to fully discharge their responsibilities and there is no vacuum in governance.