Commentaries

Can the President be summoned by the NASS?

The short answer to this question is Yes. Indeed, the president can be summoned by the members of the National Assembly for questioning.

The longer answer, though, is that in practice, the members of the National Assembly are nothing more than puppets of the executive: they live and breathe to please the executive body. Thus, summoning the president, whom by virtue of his position is the head of the executive arm, would amount to gross insubordination, and might lead to the senators losing favour in the eyes of the President. In the event that a senator is so emboldened that he places himself in the opposition to the executive, he becomes dispensable and is ousted as soon as possible. Covertly, of course.

Mid 2017, as the final curtains closed on the failure that had been the Goodluck-Jonathan administration, he was summoned by the lower house of the National assembly. The summons from the House of representatives came barely days after the Ex-Governor of Lagos State and present Minister of Works & Housing, Babatunde Fashola, had been summoned. Fashola, whom is known for never letting an opportunity slip by him, immediately lambasted individuals whom questioned the constitutionality of the summons.

 He insisted, rather fervently I believe, that the public officials had a duty to the electorate to be accountable for their actions. At this juncture, I would ask that we please, and rather conveniently, forget the charges of embezzlement, fraud, laundering and illegal importation of goods labeled against his Excellency that have been swept under the rug. It should be noted that Fashola has been with the APC right from the period before the merger of ACN, CPC, ACPP- and that he originally belonged to the Action Congress of Nigeria {ACN}. Naturally, with the PDP being at the helm of affairs, he stood in the opposition. I am of the opinion that public statements such as these reflect the party’s position on certain matters.

 It’s quite sad that political parties with a significant background, such as the APC, are ever-ready to shift the goalposts as they deem fit. Apparently, Goodluck Jonathan’s summons should be regarded as obligatory and binding, but PMB’s summons are not only unconstitutional, but he is also quite shy and prone to embarrassment

Now, it is hard to imagine a fully grown individual dissolving into a bundle of nerves when asked to state his opinion. Even more so, when the man in question has not only served the country {in the military and as a civilian} but has delivered dozens of speeches without batting an eyelid. Avoidance, is that you I see approaching?

Farooq Aliyu, an ex-minority leader of the House of Representatives, and an APC chieftain, all but said the President is being babied and cannot be allowed to go into the public without his mummy there to wipe his drool. “The president could embarrass himself, you know, and we would not want that” he said with all the bravado of a swollen tomato. Segun Sowunmi, a PDP official, whom also shared the talk panel with Farooq, was obviously infuriated. “What do mean embarrass himself? You are practically saying the president is unaware of the state of the nation and cannot make decisions by himself”. His eyes shooting daggers at the screen separating the both of them.


A little backstory…

Killings and illegal persecutions in several parts of the country grew to an alarming rate in the past weeks. Videos circulated the social media platforms of extrajudicial killings, and plundering of towns by bandits, supposedly under the umbrella of the “Boko Haram” insurgents. In past years, the insufficient response of governors has led to the death of thousands of individuals in various affected communities across the nations, predominantly in the north. History still repeats itself now.

The killing of 43+ farmers in the Borno state was obviously the last straw; the usually inefficient House of Representatives swung into action and summoned the President to appear before a joint session {House of Representatives, and the Senate} to speak on the state of security in Nigeria.

Remember that he agreed? Days later, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, issued a statement denouncing the rights of NASS to summon the president. Malami, whom is apparently just another pawn strategically installed by the president, has taken it upon himself to be a personal lawyer to the president; rendering unsolicited advice on issues unconnected to his person or position; strategically getting PMB out of gigs, such as these, which he feels could compromise the alliance; and shamelessly terminating fraud cases against the other coven members that were too inexperienced to cover their tracks.

He based his contention with the summons on the basis of the high probability of the President, whom is supposedly educated, spilling out crucial information pertaining to the military deployment in the nation.


Taking it back to the roots…

Since it has been proven that the Attorney General of the Federation is a less than scrupulous man, it is necessary to examine the relevant constitutional provisions to ascertain if, indeed, the NASS was within its ambits of power with the summoning of the President. It should be noted that a widely accepted notion in law is that, when an exclusion is not explicitly pronounced, it cannot be inferred. With this knowledge in mind, sections 82 and 89 of the 1979 and 1999 constitutions respectively apply to the president. This, of course, does not negate the immunity conferred on the President which protects him from civil or criminal processes.

Sections 83 and 89 of the 1979 and 1999 constitutions respectively, although different by virtue of additions, subtractions and terminological variations, are contextually similar. The major gist is that the Houses of Assembly reserve the rights to carry out investigations into the conduct “anybody” or ministry suspected of misappropriation of funds, or to compel attendance of a defaulter and even the rights to levy fines on such people. Nowhere in either of these sections was an exclusion made to any office holder.

Section 63 and Section 67 of the 1979 and 1999 constitutions respectively states that the President, by virtue of the separation of powers, exists as a body independent of the legislature. The situations which would require the president appearing before the house is if there is need to deliver an address on national affairs, present the budget, or to make a statement on a policy considered to be of national interest. Still, nowhere is it expressly prohibited for the NASS to summon the President.

Of a truth, I admit this would have been the right opportunity for the opposition to take their guns out of the boxes and fire to their hearts delight, but that is a minor concern. We live in a country where our president is babied and protected as though he were a toddler. In this country, the President hosting a live broadcast is a rarity. The few times he has spoken up on the issues plaguing the citizens, he has managed, in less than an hour, to trivialize, threaten and gaslight the citizens. If the APC wanted a redemption, this should have been it.

A moment to prove that they are on the side of the citizens, and at least cited some other reason for the insecurity- funds, lack of manpower, poor knowledge of the region, or the insurgents’ unfettered access to ammunition. We would have known it was a lie but, at least, it was an attempt, albeit a weak one.

PMB ended up not responding to the summons. Farooq Aliyu had called it. To him, the President might have embarrassed himself when asked a question by the reps. The shy, ignorant, innocent president is a sharp contrast from other accounts of the President’s outgoing, funny, boisterous persona. How a politician and a retired army general has managed to conceal his shyness all these years is a mystery to me; even more of a mystery is the sudden resurfacing of this trait.

 A twitter user, whom had sworn to walk naked in the event that PMB acknowledged the summon and attended the joint committee, was not put to shame by his country. In a country as predictable as ours, with even worse politicians, it did not take a genius to figure out that the shy President would have found a way out of the commitment. The next issue to tackle would be the vagueness in certain sections of the constitution.

An action expressly prohibited, or thought to encroach on the independence of a particular body should be explicitly stated; such an absence leads to people making subjective guesses as to the intent of the law makers.


An end is not in sight to the nefarious deeds of politicians, neither is there one to their careless highandedness- and we know better than to hope. And in a country such as ours, we know better than to hope. As the final feelings from the recently concluded inauguaration ceremony in the US tapered off, one of my favourite susbtack newsletter authors made a comment that resonated deep within me.

It was not so much the comment she made as the metaphorical examples she gave to back it up. She stated that there was not so much of a difference between the democratic and republican governments and that it was only a matter of picking the lesser evil. Either way, someone gets hurt but we atleast with one party, we get to pick the instruments that does the hurting.

This is my exact feeling towards the Nigerian government. No candidate is truly interested in national development. Everyone that takes a political seat comes into that power solely with plans of self-aggrandizement. The worst of the lot are those that don the pretentious cloak of “messiahness” and attempt to brainwash the disillusioned citizens of Nigeria.

With this in mind, it is safe to say that we probably would never get the “president of our dreams”, neither is the political messiah coming to our aid. We simply have to pick a government that atleast is interested in 75% of the country. Hoping for 100% is like willingly setting ourselves up for disappointment. Hopefully, we get a president that is empathetic to the struggles of the everyday Nigerian and whom can atleast pretend to be sympathetic to our plights.

Featured Image: Source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *