The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) and the Action Peoples Party (APP), through their counsel, Chibuzor Ezike, on July 3, 2019 filed a suit at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court to order the sack of political appointees and aides of President Muhammadu Buhari whose appointments have purportedly expired but are still in office.
Those joined in the suit include Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff to the President; Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation; Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity; and Femi Adesina, Special Adviser, Media and Publicity; among others as 2nd to 5th defendants.
Matter for debate: Citing sections Sections 151 and 171 of the constitution, the CUPP is arguing that serving as aides prior to May 29, 2019 and still acting in that capacity without reappointment is a breach of the constitution.
At the core of the debate is the phrasing in Section 151(3) and 171(6) of the constitution which say that these political appointments shall be “at the pleasure of the president and shall cease when the President ceases to hold office.”
- Those supporting the president argue that: President Buhari won a second term, and so he has not ceased from holding the office;
- Those against the president say that: At one minute past midnight on inauguration day, his first term elapsed and he ceased to hold office. So the appointments of all those officials elapsed as well. For them to continue acting they need to be reappointed.
Throwback from the Vice President: Comments made by VP Yemi Osinbajo (a constitutional lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria) on Inauguration Day supports the argument of those who say Pres. Buhari is breaking the law.
Speaking at an inauguration dinner, the VP made a joke to tease former senate president Bukola Saraki:
- “At one minute past midnight today, the four-year term of the President and I ended by effluxion of time. So, from one minute past 12 of last night, May 29 to about 10:30 am when we were sworn in for a second term there was no President or Vice President.”
What CUPP wants: The CUPP is asking the court to not just declare those offices vacant but to also order the political aides to return and pay into federation account all their emoluments, salaries and allowances received from May 29, 2019 till the day they vacate office.
Bottomline: At the root of this issue is President Buhari’s predilection to act slow at all times. A matter like this won’t have been up for debate if he had prepared before hand to hit the ground running in his second term and make quick appointments. Some market operators were complaining about this behavior of his just this week.