Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), constitutional lawyer and human rights activist on Wednesday said the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria empowers the National Assembly to summon President Muhammadu Buhari to address them over the state of the nation.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has said the National Assembly lacks the power to invite President Muhammadu Buhari to speak on security matters, arguing that the right of the President to engage the National Assembly and appear before it is “inherently discretionary in the President and not at the behest of the National Assembly.”
However, speaking in a chat with Daily Independent, Ozekhome said the constitution in Section 88 and 89 empowers the National Assembly to compel the President as a public officer to appear before it.
He said “It depends on the angle you are looking at it. if it is from the angle of presenting a national budget, the constitution requires the President to lay the budget directly before the National Assembly, which will be sitting as a joint House presided over by the Senate President who is the chairman of the National Assembly. In such a case, the President must come directly and present his budget”.
“In America, once every year, the President is compelled to give a State of the Union address to the American people. We do not have such a provision in Nigeria. But in Nigeria, under Section 88 and 89 of the constitution, the National Assembly has oversight function on matters having to do with the well-being and security of the country”.
“If the national assembly feels that the security of the country has become so parlous and the economy has become so poor that we have entered a second recession, then they can use their powers in Section 88 and 89 because the constitution says “any public officer”. It did not mention that the president is excluded”.
“They can also use Section 4 of the constitution, which mandates them for the peace and order of Nigeria, they can summon him that they want to know the state of insecurity or the economy or why corruption is increasing. They can say that they need his appearance so as to get his information to enable them make laws for the peace, order and stability of the country”.
“In addition to this, even if it is not constitutionally provided for, is it not moral and ethical for the President who has only appeared before the National Assembly few times since he became president six years ago to appear before them to explain to them why the country is in topsy-turvy, upside down and why things have becomes so poor, why prices of petroleum have gone up three times in less than six months”.