Let’s Avoid A Constitutional Crisis

Within the last few days, a controversial issue that has dominated the national discourse has been the refusal by the Speaker of Parliament to swear the Presidential Oath to fill the vacuum created, due to the absence of both the President and his Vice from the country.

The two most important citizens have travelled outside the country on official duties, and Article 60 (11) of the Constitution stipulates that “where the President and the Vice-President, are both unable to perform the functions of the President, the Speaker of Parliament shall perform those functions”.

Article 60 (12) further states that “the Speaker shall, before commencing to perform the functions of the President under clause (11) of this article, take and subscribe to the oath set out in relation to the office of the President”.

Although the Chief Justice, Mrs. Georgina Theodora Wood, was in the chamber, as required by the Constitution, to administer the oath to him, the Speaker declined to swear the Presidential Oath.

The Speaker rather announced his assumption of office to the law makers, explaining that he was not required to subscribe to any Presidential Oath taking because the Chief Justice, sometime last year, swore him into office under similar circumstances.

That is an issue yet to be clarified.

The President, travelled to Nigeria enroute to the Vatican in Italy, at the weekend, while the Vice-President is still in India, participating in the Industrial Forum there.

The questions that arise are: Who is now in charge? Is it the Speaker who had declined to swear the Presidential Oath?   Is he acting in accordance with the Constitution?

This matter needs to be clarified in order to set the record straight.

This country is being governed by a Constitution, and we need to abide by its tenets in order to avert a potential crisis.

It is important for the country to take a second look at some of the provisions of the Constitution dealing with issues concerning the oath of office, during the absence of the President and his Vice.

In order to avoid some of these situations, the Times would suggest to the Presidency to ensure that the two most important statesmen do not travel outside the country at the same time, to create such a vacuum.

For now, these petty arguments should cease as we devise ways of smoothening the edges of the constitution that deal with such matters.

Meanwhile, can this matter be taken to the Supreme Court, for the highest court of the land to make a pronouncement on it?


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