Speaking on yesterday’s protest, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) said the constitution is silent on how long the president can be away on medical vacation.
“As at the time the constitution was amended in 2010 it took cognizance of the president leaving the country without handing over hence the constitution was amended compelling the president to transmit a letter to the National Assembly. And once he does that, the Vice President shall automatically become the Acting President,” he said.
“If he does not transmit a letter after 21 days, the vice president shall automatically become the president, ditto for the states. But as to the duration the president can be absent, the constitution is silent.
“So it is therefore hoped that the ongoing review of the constitution will address that because you may have a situation where an elected president will be away for three and half years out of his four years tenure or even the entire four years tenure. It is a possibility.”
He however added that it was the members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) that could pass a resolution that the president can no longer discharge the functions of his office, adding that once it is done, a team of five medical practitioners will be constituted to examine the president’s medical condition. He said if the team finds that the president can no longer discharge the functions of his office, he shall be made to resign.
Also speaking, Mr. Yusuf Ali (SAN) said there is no provision in the constitution on any action if the president is absent for 90 days. He said the requirement is that “once he transmits the letter to the National Assembly, the country will have an Acting President.”
For his part, Abuja-based lawyer, Tawo Eja Tawo (SAN) said the office of the president is not vacant following the transmission of letter of vacation to the National Assembly.
“The only time the Constitution envisages 90 days is when the president and vice president are incapacitated. Then the Senate President would now act for 90 days and election will be conducted,” he said.
But Abeny Mohammed (SAN) said the Acting President does not wield full powers as he is being hampered in his functions, adding that he must seek clearance for whatever action he takes.