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Legal reasons PDP must approve Jonathan’s choice of new VP

THE provisions of the Constitution, if properly interpreted, will reveal that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) must approve the choice of the new Vice President before he can assume office. Because we are in a developing constitutional democracy, these new situations must confront us and we must properly apply the law for future purposes.

The procedure for picking a person to fill the vacant office of the Vice President is provided for in Section 146(3) of the 1999 Constitution, which states as follows:

Where the office of Vice-President becomes vacant –

* By reason of death or resignation, impeachment, permanent incapacity or removal in accordance with Section 143 or 144 of this Constitution;

* By his assumption of the office of President in accordance with subsection (1) of this section; or

* For any other reason, the President shall nominate and, with the approval of each House of the National

Assembly, appoint a new Vice-President”.

The necessary question here is whether, in nominating a person as Vice President under section 146(3), to be approved by the National Assembly, the discretion of the President is circumscribed in any way. In other words, can the President nominate whoever he likes irrespective of age, party affiliation, criminal record, among others? It cannot be disputed that the framers of the constitution could not have intended that the type of Vice President to be nominated under Section 146(3) should be different from the type of candidate to be nominated as Vice President to stand for election with the President under Section 142 of the 1999 Constitution. Anything to the contrary will surely lead to absurdity.

Section 142 of the 1999 Constitution states as follows:

“142. Nomination and election of Vice-President

* In any election to which the foregoing provisions of this part of this chapter relate, a candidate for an election to the Office of President shall not be deemed to be validly nominated unless he nominates another candidate as his associate from the same political party for his running for the office of President, who is to occupy the office of Vice-President and that candidate shall be deemed to have been duly elected to the office of Vice-President if the candidate for an election to the Office of President who nominated him as such associate is duly-elected as President in accordance with the provisions aforesaid;

* The provisions of this part of this chapter relating to qualification for election, tenure of office, disqualification, declaration of assets and liabilities and oaths of President shall apply in relation to the Office of Vice-President as if references to President were references to Vice-President”.

By the provisions of Section 142(2) of the 1999 Constitution, the provisions relating to the qualification for election to the Office of President also applies to the Office of the Vice President. The relevant provision in this regard is Section 131 of the 1999 Constitution, which states as follows:

“131. Qualification for election as President:

A person shall be qualified for election to the office of President if –

* He is a citizen of Nigeria by birth;

* He has attained the age of 40 years;

* He is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party; and

* He has been educated up to at least school certificate level or its equivalent”.

The provisions of paragraphs (a), (b) and (d) above are very straightforward. But then how can paragraph (c) above be read in conjunction with section 146(3)? This is where the problem lies. In other words, does the PDP have a role to play in the nomination and approval of the new Vice President?

Strictly under section 146(3) the PDP has no role to play. But if we agree that Section 146(3) must be read in conjunction with Section 131 above, then we must come to the inevitable conclusion that unless the person that is to become the new Vice President belongs to PDP and he is actually sponsored by the PDP, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan cannot nominate him and forward his name to the National Assembly for approval.

In practical terms, therefore, I submit that before the new Vice President is sworn in, it is either,

* Goodluck Jonathan must write to the PDP informing them of his choice of a new Vice President and the party must write back confirming the membership of that person as a party man and expressing their approval of the choice before the name is forwarded to the National Assembly for approval, or

* The PDP must sponsor, approve and forward a number of names to Jonathan from which he will nominate a person to be the new Vice President and forward the name to the National Assembly for approval, or

* The National Assembly, upon receiving the name of a person nominated by Jonathan to be the new Vice President, must write to the PDP seeking for confirmation of the person as a member of the PDP and the party’s position regarding his nomination before going ahead to approve such nomination.

Anything to the contrary will breach the provisions of the constitution.

* Keyamo is a Lagos-based lawyer and human rights activist.



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