In Nigeria, attorneys for the government are seeking clarification in court on the decision by President Olusegun Obasanjo to declare vacant the position of the vice president. This comes after embattled Vice President Atiku Abubakar filed a motion in an Abuja court Wednesday seeking to restrain the president.
Shehu Garuba is the spokesman for Vice President Abubakar. He said the vice president filed a suit to seek an injunction to restrain President Obasanjo from declaring the position of the vice president vacant.
“It’s first of all to issue an interim injunction to restrain the president from taking away the rights and privileges that he enjoys as the vice president, and he is also seeking a determination by the court that the president of Nigeria cannot unilaterally without recourse to the national assembly declare the position of the vice president vacant. This is not consistent with the constitution of Nigeria,” he said.
Garuba said the country’s constitution does not forbid the president and his vice to belong to different parties.
“The Constitution of Nigeria says yes, the president and his running mate must be nominated by a political party to run for election. After that the constitution is silent about the status of a president or the vice president who decides to move to join another political party,” he noted.
Garuba continued, “What we are saying is that if the constitution is silent on a given matter, nobody can import anything new and inject it into the constitution. But besides all these, there was precedence in 1999. The losing ticket was made up of candidates coming from two different political parties and the constitution did not frown at that,” he said.
Garuba said the presidency has shown that its action had been illegal and that is why they are seeking for a clarification to remove the vice president from his position.
“Well the thing is that this is an admission by the president’s people that what they have done in the last few days are unlawful. If they were sure they were on solid legal ground to have declared vacancy the office of the vice president, why are they now in court asking that the court do the same thing? Garuba asked.
He added the vice president has been vindicated by the government’s action of seeking the courts advice.
“For the vice president it’s a vindication that in all of these things that the president had been doing in the last few days, they have been operating outside the constitution of Nigeria,” he said.
Garuba said the vice president is solely focusing on his campaign for next year’s presidential elections.
“The vie president’s major preoccupation at the moment is to campaign for the office of the president for which he got a nomination from the opposition Action Congress party,” Garuba said.
He added that President Obasanjo had reduced the vice president to doing nothing by stripping him of all his powers and assigned them to other ministers to perform those functions.