Interim Govt : Sagay, Agbakoba, Falana others speak on position of the Law
Senior legal practitioners in Nigeria have condemned the call for an interim government, describing it as an aberration to the country’s constitution.
It will be recalled that since the end of the February 25 presidential election, the opposition parties in the country have been asking the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to cancel the result of the poll and have an interim government in place should the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari complete its eight-year term before the Supreme Court rule on the various petition sent to it by the agrrieved members of the political parties concerning the presidential election results.
But in an interview with The Nation on Thursday, senior legal practitioners in the country said those aggrieved with the outcome of the presidential election won by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu should allow the judicial process to run its course.
Those who condemned the plot, in separate interviews with The Nation, are Prof Itse Sagay, Dr Olisa Agbakoba, Femi Falana, Mba Ukweni, Ahmed Raji, Chief Ajibola Aribisala, Babatunde Fashanu, Adekunle Oyesanya and Emeka Etiaba, all of them Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs).
The Directorate of State Service (DSS) on Monday said it identified “some key players” in the plot for an interim government.
Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong said those advocating an interim government after the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari were daydreaming.
National Democratic Coalition Renewal Group said anti-democratic forces must not be allowed to truncate civil rule.
The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) rejected the idea of an interim government, saying such a selfish scheme would not work.
A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State, Charles Idahosa, said an interim government would set Nigeria backwards
The Igbo Senior Citizens Affairs Foundation (ISCAF) said the idea should not even be entertained.
Former Governor of Enugu State, Chimaroke Nnamani, said Tinubu’s victory was irrevocable.
The Labour Party (LP) Presidential Campaign Council said it was not behind any such plot.
It described the call as a “conspiracy against the state” in which the LP has no part.
Sagay: no to ‘bloody, horrible experience’
Sagay said those behind the plot must be desperate losers, warning against a return to a past he described as bloody.
He said: “It is obvious that there can be no constitutional basis for an interim government.
“The very first section of the constitution says no government can be formed other than under the provisions of the Constitution.
“An interim government does not exist in our constitution. We don’t know what it means or what kind of animal it is, who constitutes it and how it is constituted.
“It’s just an act of desperation by people who have lost the normal electoral battle and are looking for anything to cause confusion so that any government can come in, except the one that defeated them. That is the way I see it.
“Those behind the plot should be fished out. It’s not a joking matter.
“We know how the last experience we had with the imposition of an interim government, how the late Sani Abacha used that as an excuse to jump in, and how we ended up with bloody, horrible years between 1993 and 1998.
“We pray to God never to see that again. We must not step out of this constitutional cocoon that God has managed to put us in since 1999. God has placed us there, and we must sustain it, otherwise, we’re doomed.
Agbakoba said it was shocking to learn about secret plans to undermine the democratic process and transition through an interim government.
“This will be a major setback and we must all resist,” he said.
The former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) president added: “I suggest that the gravest possible consequences must be applied to all who are associated with this treasonable intent.
“The general elections have held, albeit under the most challenging circumstance. But a president-elect has emerged and we must respect and accept this as fact, at least, for now.
“All leading presidential candidates have approached the courts with grounds of complaint concerning what they consider as electoral irregularities.
“If the presidential candidates have accepted the democratic process by lodging petitions before the courts, then it is very difficult to understand upon what basis anyone considers that an interim government is a viable and legal alternative.
“We must all reject this nonsense and respect our constitution, which has no provision for interim arrangements.
“As the President-elect is sworn into office on May 29, the judicial process will ultimately render a decision. As Nigerians, we must turn to the courts to render a decision on the petitions before them.
“The judicial process will certainly carry a huge responsibility in the process of democratic consolidation. The notion of the contraption referred to as interim government has no place in our lives and our constitution. We must all say no!”
Activist lawyer Falana described an interim government as an aberration.
He said: “There is no provision for the creation of an interim government in the 1999 Constitution. It is an extraconstitutional measure that may be set up by a military junta.
“The last interim government hurriedly put in place by the Ibrahim Babangida military junta in August 1993 after the annulment of the June 12 presidential election collapsed like a pack of cards after 82 days.”
The SAN doubt whether those behind the plot would be arrested.
“From the statement credited to the State Security Service on the matter, it does appear that the characters behind the interim government are well known to the Federal Government.
“Since they are influential members of the ruling class, they will neither be arrested nor prosecuted,” he added.
Ukweni: anyone with a grievance should approach the court
Ukweni advised those mulling the idea of an interim government to perish the thought, saying it was unconstitutional.
He advised them to approach the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal if they wish to challenge the election results.
Ukweni said: “Interim government is unconstitutional. It is not provided for in our constitution
“I am a political party member, but I have to speak as a lawyer because first and foremost, that is my constituency. Who is talking about interim government? Where is it provided for?
“The INEC, which is authorised to conduct elections, has made a declaration of someone as the winner. Rightly or wrongly, that is the person that will be sworn in.
“The people with grievances, there are constitutional provisions making arrangements for the remedy they need to seek.
“So, they have to seek those remedies. Let them go to the tribunal. That is the avenue that is available to them to vent their grievances.
“I, as a lawyer, and democrat cannot subscribe to that type of arrangement.”
Raji reiterated that there is no constitutional basis for an interim government.
“It is a gross violation of the constitution. It is totally outside the constitution,” he said while advocating for the merits of national unity in forming the government.
Aribisala believes the plot amounts to calling for a coup.
He said: “It is madness, pure madness to be calling for an interim government. They are just people who cannot accept defeat. They are pained.
“I believe with time they will be healed because it is barbaric to be asking for an interim government. It is an aberration and it is tantamount to asking for a coup.”
It’s uncalled for, says Fashanu
Fashanu emphasised that the provision in the constitution for change of government is by election.
He noted that the way to challenge the declaration is to go to the constituted court or tribunal, which the aggrieved parties have done.
“No other body has the power to pronounce on the legality of the election except the Court or Tribunal.
“It is nauseating to hear people who ought to know better call for an interim government which is blatantly illegal and uncalled for.
“The law is clear; they are calling for a change of government by unconstitutional means which is treason.
“As the main government intelligence body and having identified such people, the DSS is expected to move against them immediately, investigate and prosecute where necessary, which is the appropriate thing to do.”
Oyesanya said the alleged plot, if true, is quite unfortunate and should be condemned by all well-meaning people.
“It is not only unconstitutional, but it could also amount to treason. Such persons, if any, who are touting the idea ought to be careful. Yes, it is lawful to reject the outcome of the recent polls.
“It is even lawful to demonstrate against it peacefully without causing any riots. But it is certainly unlawful to call for any other form of government that is inconsistent with the provisions of Section 1 (2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which stipulates that the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall anybody take control of its governance, except by the provisions of the said Constitution…
“You will not find any provision in that constitution for an interim government. Therefore, any call for an interim government is an attempt to subvert that constitution and is, therefore, unlawful.
“The constitutional remedy to a grievance against the outcome of elections is to approach the courts/tribunals set up by virtue of the same constitution.
“The protesters may yet achieve their goals in court. The tribunals set up by the constitution are also a part of the electoral process. That is what is known as the rule of law. And that is the decent thing to do,” Oyesanya said.
Etiaba said to avoid bickering, agitations and demonstrations, the election tribunals should quickly dispense justice to assuage the people’s concerns.
“Interim government is not the answer to the lingering problems and concerns foisted on the people by INEC. It is an aberration and should be avoided,” he said.
Nnamani, in a statement, said: “Tinubu has won the election. If anybody has any reason to think otherwise, the courts are there to adjudicate. The courts are there as part of the electioneering process.
“What I expect our people to do is to align with the incoming administration, negotiate like others for national resources and political largesse for the benefit of our citizens”.
ISCAF, at a briefing in Owerri, the Imo State capital by its President/General Overseer, Friends of Jesus Global Mission (INC), Rev. Maglorious Enyioha, said an interim government will only trigger more problems.
“I am neither calling for interim nor military government because none will solve the problem facing the nation. I am calling for peace and justice because I believe a new Nigeria is possible,” he said.
The NADECO Renewal, in a statement by its National Leader, Prof Adeeyo Atilade, said that the DSS should spare no efforts in arresting elements pushing for interim government.
“We must not allow some selfish, greedy and unpatriotic elements who place their selfish interests above the popular and patriotic interests of the nation to truncate this transition process and plunge our dear nation into a chaos that would take donkey years and another June 12 like a bloody revolution to rebuild,” it said.
NANs, in a statement by its Vice President (External Affairs) Akinteye Babatunde Afeez, deplored what it called devilish plots by some scrupulous elements to truncate the Nigerian political system by stopping Tinubu’s inauguration.
“This (interim government) will be unacceptable by all and sundry. The entire Nigerian students would go against this with every power within and without.
“Gone is the era of June 12, 1993, when Nigeria was still in a dark age and most Nigerians didn’t know their rights and privileges as citizens.
“Gone is such an era of militarization and affront impunity, where someone or a group of few people can just come up with plans and actualise them against the will of the people.
“Gone is the era where the Nigerian Students and youth would sit and watch some people decide for us to our detriment as citizens and as a nation. We are all wiser now. This will not work,” the student body said.
Lalong, in a chat with State House correspondents, said the interim government would be against the principle of democracy, which the President has vowed to uphold.
He expressed confidence that Tinubu would meet the expectations of Nigerians and hit the ground running immediately after his inauguration on May 29.
LP PCC: We’re not part of plot
Chief Spokesperson, Labour Party Presidential Campaign Council, Yunusa Tank, said the party was not plotting an insurrection.
Speaking on Channels, Tanko described the development as a “conspiracy against the state” in which the LP had no part.
He said the LP would exercise its rights to protest, but would not engage in any illegality.
“For us, we are following the due provisions of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Protests are part of the democratic system.
“The DSS and the security agencies should come out and protect us even if we are on the streets protesting.
“We are ready to follow the rules of engagement in our democratic setting. That is why we went to court.
“We are not making any inflammatory statements or mobilising anybody to come out on the streets to fight.
“We are not part of any insurrection plans whatsoever.”