I just read the press statement released by the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Aliyu, Israel Ebije, claiming that the Governor did not contravene or violate any law by handing over to the Speaker, instead of his deputy as the Governor has a discretion in assigning his power. The CPS in arriving at this conclusion relied on the provisions of section 193 (1) of the 1999 constitution as amended.
My reaction to the position of CPS is as follows:
It is important to first remind the CPS and other political actors that any discretion created by law must be exercised strictly accordingly to law. Section 193(1) of the constitution which the governor is relying upon does not apply in this case. However, assuming without conceding that the section applies, nowhere in the said section was the Speaker mentioned as one of the officers that the Governor can assign his responsibility to. For ease of reference, I have reproduced the section below:
“The Governor of a state may, in his discretion, assign to the Deputy Governor or any Commissioner of the Government of the State responsibility for any business of the Government of that State, including the administration of any department of Government”. EMPHASIS MINE.
It will be correct to say that the discretion of the Governor to assign responsibility as provided in section 193 is limited to the Deputy Governor or any Commissioner of State. Except if the chief press secretary is informing us that the speaker of the state is a commissioner of the Government of Niger state, after all this is Nigeria where anything is possible.
More importantly, I refer to section 190(1) of the constitution which provides thus:
“whenever the Governor is proceeding on vacation or is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, he shall transmit a written declaration to the Speaker of the House of Assembly to that effect, and until he transmits to the Speaker of the House of Assembly a written declaration to the contrary, the Deputy Governor shall perform the functions of the Governor as Acting Governor.”
This provisions of this section is crystal clear and one does not require any special knowledge to come to the conclusion that section 190(1) above is the correct constitutional provision to refer to in this case. I will take the pain to discuss briefly the import of section 190 as it relates to the case at hand. The governor (Babangida Aliyu) is mandated by the constitution to transmit to the speaker (Adamu Usman) a letter informing him of his decision to proceed on vacation (lesser hajj) and until the governor transmits another letter to the contrary, the Deputy Governor (Mr Ibeto) shall automatically perform the functions of the Governor as Acting Governor.
It is clear from the above that the Governor’s action is in gross violation of the constitution and in a state where the rule of law prevails, the action of the Governor is obviously an impeachable offence. I therefore advise the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Niger state to always seek in-depth professional advice before rushing to issue statements.
Michael Akinleye Esq