A constitutional Lawyer and author, Sabastine Hon (SAN) has faulted the reaction of the presidency on the resolution by the Senate for the Service Chiefs to vacate their office over alleged non performance.
Hon who described the reaction of the Presidential Spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, on the subject matter as most unfortunate and insensitive, submitted that the practice of extending the retirement of certain public officers including military and police chiefs as unconstitutional, null and void.
In a statement in Abuja, the senior lawyer specifically said the practice of extending the retirement period of such public officers offends the clear provisions of both sections 215 and 218 of the 1999 constitution(as amended).
The statement reads;
“Recent events in the body polity have shown that the Executive Arm of government is showing scant respect to the National Assembly. While I will not comment on the others, which stink uncontrollably, I must say that the reaction of the Presidency to the resolution by the Senate for the Service Chiefs to vacate office is most unfortunate and insensitive.
In the first place, even though the practice of some Nigerian Presidents, not just President Buhari, is to extend the retirement of certain public officers, including military and police chiefs, this practice is unconstitutional, null and void. Sections 215 and 218 of the 1999 Constitution as amended have permitted the President or the Police Council (in respect of the Inspector-General of Police) to appoint service and police chiefs to head our security departments “from among serving members” of the security body concerned, not those whom the law has deemed to have retired or who are statutorily due for retirement. In respect of the police, section 215(1)(a) of the Constitution is very clear on this.
In respect of the military service chiefs, section 218(2) of the Constitution has empowered the President to appoint them from among the branches of “the armed forces of the Federation as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly.
” Now, this “Act” mentioned in the Constitution is the Armed Forces Act, 2004. Section 18(1) of this Act stipulates that the President can only appoint the Chiefs of Army, Air and Navy Staff: (a) after consultation with the Chief of Defence Staff; and (b) subject to confirmation by the National Assembly. The subsection also requires such appointees to be “officers” of the Army, the Airforce or the Navy, as the case may be. Again, there is no room for appointment of officers who, statutorily, are supposed to have left office on retirement.
Also, public officers appointed to such highly sensitive offices are supposed to produce desired results, without which they are not supposed to stay any minute further on their seats, even when their retirement ages are yet to mature. In this particular case, countless number of soldiers are being killed by insurgents and bandits; hundreds are deserting their formations; hundreds are voluntarily retiring; thousands are reportedly suffering from low morale, etc, with the attendant civilian losses of unimaginable scales.
The National Assembly qua the Senate, as the custodian of Nigerian Constitution – as per the Supreme Court in Inakoju vs. Adeleke (2007) All FWLR (Pt. 354) 3 at 123 – therefore, stood in ferma terra (on firm ground) when it unanimously passed a resolution that Nigeria’s service chiefs should vacate office. No responsible legislature will sit and watch with non-challant aloofness how Nigeria is cascading down the cliff, into an avoidable abyss.
The spokesman of Mr. President, Mr. Femi Adesina, did not therefore act in the interest of Nigerians, and was particularly insensitive, when, instead of advising the President to do the needful, raged about the appointing powers of Mr. President. Is Mr. President no more answerable to Nigerians in general, and particularly the National Assembly, which has powers of impeachment? Or is he suggesting that Mr. President is so obsessed with his appointing powers that he has scant care about the sufferings of Nigerians?
I wish to remind Mr. Presidential Spokesman that the National Assembly is made up majorly of members of Mr. President’s political party, the APC, and that from inception, they have pledged, to the chagrin and shock of Nigerians, ‘loyalty’ to the President. For them to summon courage to voice out this resolution should send some message that not only are things no more flowing in the same direction, but that they are being realistic and honest, given the scary happenings in their fatherland.
Finally, even though in constitutional jurisprudence, parliamentary or congressional resolutions are not binding on the Executive Arm of Government, they serve at least four fundamental purposes: (a) they pour out the ‘mind’ of the Legislature; (b) they tell the whole world the Legislature is not part of the ‘mess’ – for posterity sake; (c) they galvanise public support for the subject matter; and (d) they send a strong signal to the watching and ever watchful international community about snowballing events in the body polity.
The Presidency should, please, be well advised. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine.”