While some agreed that it was constitutional for the Bayelsa Chief Judge to carry out the exercise, some others were of the opinion that it was non-constitutional.
In his view, Festus Keyamo said the directive was legal, arguing that following the protracted stalemate over the appointment of a substantive Chief Judge of Rivers State, there was apprehension as to who would administer the oaths of office and allegiance on Wike on May 29.
“This was laid to rest recently by the directive of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, that the function should be performed by the Chief Judge of the neighbouring Bayelsa State.
“Firstly, it must be noted that by virtue of the provision of Section 185 (2) of the 1999 Constitution, the following officers are empowered to administer the oaths of office and allegiance on a governor-elect: Chief Judge of the state, Grand Kadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the state, President of the Customary Court of Appeal of the state and anyone appointed to do so, who also performs the functions of those officers in any state.
“A close look at Section 185 (2) as analysed above will clearly show that while the drafters of the Constitution were very particular in using the phrase “the state” in reference to those officers who should administer the oaths, the last part of the section which allows other persons to perform the function (apart from those stated officers) uses the phrase “in any state.
“In other words, in the absence of those stated officers to administer the oaths in the state in question, the corresponding officers in any state of the federation performing the same functions can also administer the oaths.
“In any event, putting politics and sentiments aside, it is inconceivable to think that the assumption of office of a public officer, who has been declared winner of an election, can be scuttled merely because of the absence of someone who should perform a purely ceremonial duty, when the absence of such a person is no fault of the public officer.
“If we set this dangerous precedent, then we shall be witnessing the kidnappings and abductions of Chief Judges, Grand Kadis, etc, in the nearest future on the day of inauguration,” he said.
Also reacting, Chief Robert Clarke (SAN) said “what is important is not the person that administers the oath of office, but whether such person has the capacity to do so. Knowing the present situation in Rivers State, government must go on. So, whoever administers the oath of office is immaterial, so far as the person has the capacity to do that.
“The oath can even be administered by a commissioner for oath. On the argument that such directive should have come from the Chief Justice of Nigeria. There is a difference between the executive and the judiciary arms of government. Such directive should not have come from the AGF.
“He could have allowed the CJN to give such directive. Therefore, the AGF has no power under the law to so direct. My opinion, however, remains that whoever must administer the oath of office must have the capacity under the law.”
On his part, Deacon Dele Adesina (SAN) said “if the offices of the state Chief Judge, the acting CJ, or the President of the Customary Court of Appeal are vacant, we have to recognise that there is no vacuum in nature. My opinion is based on three points.
“As of today, there is no Chief Judge, neither is there an acting CJ nor the President of the Customary Court of Appeal or acting President of the Customary Court of Appeal in Rivers State. Secondly, the tenure of the incumbent governor expires on the midnight of May 28. Third, it must never happen that the state exist without a leader exercising executive authority of that state.
“Based on these parameters, there is the necessity to swear in the governor, and I believe that a Chief Judge of another state can do that. This is because, the intention of the drafters of the constitution is that in assuming the office of the executive of the state, the person must duly take the oath of allegiance and oath of office.”
However, opposing to the constitutinality of the order, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana SAN decribed as uncontitutional, the directive by Adoke that Wike be sworn in by Bayelsa CJ.
Falana described the directive as unconstitutional, without a nexus between the AGF and the CJ.
“The CJ of the state is independent of the executive and cannot give the former orders. No law supports this and I believe that the AGF was mis-quoted by the media,” he said.
Also, the past chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja branch, Monaday Ubani, described the proposed action as a sure recipe for disaster.
Ubani pointed out that there was no law backing the order, adding that “I have searched and cannot find any law in the constitution that backs that order.
“I believe that apart from expediency, I believe the order is illegal. Except there is an ex parte motion from Abuja directing the CJ or any judge to swear in the governor-elect, it is unconstitutional and a sure recipe for crisis and chaos.”
Also reacting, a human rights lawyer, Ebun Adegboruwa, said “I have read the directive by the AGF and is nothing but a continuation of the impunity that has characterised the outgoing administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
BAYELSA State Chief Judge, Justice Kate Abiri, on Wednesday, cleared the air on her involvement in the inauguration of Rivers State governor-elect, Chief Nyesom Wike, on May 29.
In an exclusive telephone chat with the Nigerian Tribune on Wednesday evening, she disclosed that it was the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, that directed her to conduct the constitutional exercise and not the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke.
Adoke had personally issued a statement on Tuesday, disclosing that the Federal Government had directed her to conduct the swearing-in, to forestall imminent constitutional crisis in Rivers State on May 29, when the tenure of incumbent Governor Rotimi Amaechi would lapse.
Rivers State judiciary has been in crisis over the choice of CJ, with the state president of the Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Peter Agumagu, also suspended by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The involvement of Adoke as the directing authority had been generating controversy, though it was generally agreed that the directive was constitutional.
Apparently not comfortable with the media reports that she was directed by Adoke, she explained that it was the CJN that wrote to her to carry out the constitutional duty, while the only involvement of Adoke was writing to the CJN to point out the imminent constitutional crisis and the position of the law on the political situation in Rivers State.
When asked if she received two separate directives from both the CJN and Adoke, she said “what do you mean by two directives? Don’t you know what the constitution says about it? Do you know the constitutional provision on this matter? So, is it for the AGF to direct me? Maybe you media people didn’t get him correctly.”
When the Nigerian Tribune insisted that Adoke was not quoted out of context, she said “what I am saying to you is that I didn’t get any directive from the AGF. It was the CJN that wrote to me. The only involvement of the AGF was his letter to the CJN, pointing out the constitutional provision on the issue.
“Even the CJN attached his letter to his own letter to me. So when did that become directing or ordering me as reported in the media. It is you media people that were saying what didn’t happen. You were asking me which of the directives I would obey. There was just a directive and it came from the proper and constitutional authority and that is the directive I am obeying.”
She did not take kindly to inquiry from the Nigerian Tribune on how the mantle fell on her for the exercise, as she asked rhetorically: “What do you mean by saying why Bayelsa CJ.”
When the Nigerian Tribune responded that because the matter was political and she is from the home-state of the outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan, she blamed the media for always conjuring things up, instead of engaging developmental journalism.
According to her, “it is you people that are always coming up with such insinuations. You said because the issue is political. What is political in a pure constitutional issue? Why must every issue become political? Why must we bring politics into everything we do in this country? Instead of talking about how to improve our infrastructure, build our roads and make life better for everyone, we are always bringing problem where there is none.
“Other Chief Judges are doing inauguration on that day, but there won’t be inauguration in Bayelsa State and Bayelsa is a neighbouring state to Rivers.”
When asked if she would speak on the controversy in her speech on the occasion, to set records straight, she said there was nothing to set straight, as there was just a directive from the appropriate authority.