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QUESTION: Can Buhari officially resume work while the senate is on recess?
President Muhammadu Buhari returned to Nigeria on Saturday, and he has already written to the National Assembly to signify his readiness to return to work.
“In compliance with Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), I write to intimate that I have resumed my functions as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with effect from Monday, 21st August, 2017, after my medical follow-up in the United Kingdom,” the President wrote in the letter, according to Femi Adesina, his spokesman.
But there’s one problem: the Senate that should receive Buhari’s letter is actually on recess. On July 27, the upper chamber adjourned sitting for seven weeks, meaning it won’t be back till September 19 and the red Chamber cannot entertain the President’s missive.
Can it therefore be said that Buhari has formally resumed?
WHAT ADESINA SAID
Asked on Channels TV if the Senate’s recess would stall the President’s resumption, Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, said: “Transmitting it is what the Constitution requires. Once it is sent, he becomes the President.
“They [the Senate] don’t have to read it and debate it, no. What the constitution requires is for him to send it; once it is sent, he assumes office.”
WHAT THE CONSTITUTION SAYS
The guidelines for the President’s stay away from office and return are stated in Section 145 of the 1999 Nigerian constitution as amended:
Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President.
To return to power, all the President needs is to “transmit” a letter to the National Assembly. The law doesn’t state that the National Assembly has to accept or reject it. This, therefore, implies that the letter is just for the legislature’s information — not authorisation.
In any case, the offices of the leaders of the two chambers of the assembly are always open, recess or no recess. The ICIR has confirmed that the letter is already in their possession; the only implication of the recess — and it is immaterial — is that the letter won’t be read on the floor of the two chambers until September 19.
The President can resume work while legislators enjoy their recess. Buhari has breached no constitutional procedure by returning to work in the absence of the legislature.