Eniola Akinkuotu, Abuja
A Federal High Court in Lagos has said the President, Maj.Gen Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), broke no law when he travelled to London on a private visit from April 25 to May 5, 2019, and did not to handover to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
Justice Ayokunle Faji said since the President spent less than 21 days outside of the country, he didn’t need to transfer power to his deputy.
The judge, however, faulted the argument made by lawyers to Buhari that the nine-day “private visit” was not a vacation.
According to the judge, there was no evidence that Buhari was on official assignment or had performed official functions during the nine days he spent in London.
A Lagos-based lawyer and activist, Mr Inibehe Effiong, had sued Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, in suit No: FHC/L/CS/763/2019 when President Buhari travelled out of Nigeria to the United Kingdom in April 2019 in what was termed “a private visit” by Presidential Spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina.
Effiong had asked the court to determine “whether in view of the extant provisions of Section 145 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic, 1999 (as amended), the President can validly proceed on vacation for any length of time without transmitting a written declaration to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives to that effect, which will empower the Vice President to perform the functions of the President in an acting capacity”.
In his defence, Buhari and Malami argued that the time within which the President had to transmit a written declaration to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was 21 days.
President Buhari also stated that his “private foreign trip” lasted for only nine days.
Delivering judgment in the suit on Friday, Justice Faji held that Buhari was not under a duty to handover to Osinbajo since his private visit was less than 21 days.
Reacting to the judgment in a press statement, Effiong, who was present in court on Friday when the judgment was read, expressed fears that the decision of the court may be exploited by President Buhari and future presidents to undermine the interest of the country.
He, therefore, asserted that he was going to test the judgment at the Court of Appeal on the merit and also appeal against the decision of the court that he lacked the requisite locus standi to file the suit.