Nigerians are aware that some days ago, Governor Wike of Rivers State arrested and detentioned two pilots and ordered the closure of Caverton Helicopter offices in Port-Harcourt.
It is worthy of note that the control of the air space is in the exclusive legislative list and the company got all the approvals from the federal government to fly oil workers to the state. However, even with regards matters in the concurrent legislative list, the President enjoys the privilege of hierarchy in case of any conflict between presidential directives and state directives. The presidential directive on lockdown that was issued on the 30th of March, 2020 excepted essential flights that bothers strictly on issues in exclusive legislative list. Wike’s action of challenging presidential powers in a constitutional democracy is not only tyrannical but also arrogant in total disrespect of the our Constitution and the office of the President.
For the purpose of those that are not abreast with the provisions of law, let’s take a stroll to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as Amended). Section 5 of the Constitution Provides as follows;
(1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the executive powers of the Federation:
(a) shall be vested in the President and may subject as aforesaid and to the provisions of any law made by the National Assembly, be exercised by him either directly or through the Vice-President and Ministers of the Government of the Federation or officers in the public service of the Federation.
(2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the executive powers of a State:
(a) shall be vested in the Governor of that State and may, subject as aforesaid and to the provisions of any Law made by a House of Assembly, be exercised by
him either directly or through the Deputy Governor and Commissioners of the Government of that State or officers in the public service of the State; and
(3) The executive powers vested in a State under subsection (2) of this section shall be so exercised as not
(a) impede or prejudice the exercise of the executive powers of the Federation;
(b) endanger any asset or investment of the Government of the Federation in that
(c) endanger the continuance of a Federal Government in Nigeria.
From the forgoing, it is true that Wike may have enacted Corvid 19 law of Rivers State to deal with the pandemic in Rivers. But against the backdrop of the Constitution and the defence made by the Minister of Aviation, Hon Hadi Sirika that the company had all the necessary approvals to undertake the flight, we fail to understand the basis for the heavy-handedness displayed by the Governor Wike. At best his action directly endanger the continuance of a Federal Government in Nigeria as captured in Section (5)(2)(c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
While conceding that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria vest a Governor with powers to protect the people of his state, and/or also not encouraging anybody or company to flout whatever regulations of any State Governor, Wike’s action that is in total disregard of lawfully, legally and correct directive of the President is an assault on Nigeria. Shockingly, Wike has continued to detain the pilots even after the Minister of aviation (whose powers derive from Section 5(1)(a) of the Constitution) has explained that the approvals for the flights were part of the measures put in place to ensure that the oil and gas sector perform it’s duties.
Wike’s action shows a bad precedent and encourages the abuse of power by some Governors. If the regulation of a state is percieved to have been breached by a Presidential directives, the law provides a process for redress. Besides, in event that there are two regulations: One from the president, the other from the governor, the directives of the President supercedes. It makes the matters worse that the issue Wike dabled into is the exclusive list like aviation, (not even a matter in concurrent legislative list). A Governor has no power to dabble into matters in the Exclusive legislative list: only the president can so act based on the legislation of the National Assembly. The Presidential directive is supported by Section 5 of the Constitution and Section 8 of the Quarantine Act of 1926 that gives him powers to give directives when there is an emergency that endengers public health, these laws been enacted by the National Assembly puts the President on right footings This remains the position of the law, if we are to remain an orderly society and abide by the tenets of our constitution.
Where the governor has issues with the perceived breach of his regulation by agents of the federal government, he should have sought the relevant inter-governmental mechanism to seek redress, rather than take the law into his own hands. One winders where Wike got the powers to breach the Constitution despite it’s supremacy.
Some columnist have argued that Wike acted right and in protection of the rights of Rivers people in line with the Constitution because there ought to have been adequate communication to him before encroachment into Rivers State. I differ from such mundane opinion because, evidence of approval and the explanation by the Minister of Aviation is enough communication to Wike and any Federal agency. These evidence ought to have warranted Wike to immediately release the pilot from detention and apologize to the President if he is really a lawyer with knowledge of law as he claims to be.
It is no longer democracy if President Buhari continue to seat and look while some Governors abuse powers and infringe on constitutional rights of it’s citizens. The primary function of the President is to protect the Constitution and guarantee the security and welfare of all Nigerians.
In recent days, Nigeria is gradually sleeping into a banana republic with some Governors breaching the Constitution in the most flagrant way and sometimes with the assistance of Federal agencies and the courts. Sadly Federal institutions and the judiciary have sometimes been compromised to execute illegal directives of powerful individuals as the River State Commissioner of Police and the Controller of Aviation did. The President must not continue to fold his arms and watch while such abuses continue to undermine our constitutional democracy.
Without wanting to dwell on many cases of incarceration of innocent citizens by some Governors and powerful men in power, I am appalled that beyond private persons and common men and women, the impunity of some Governors have gone to the extent of undermining our democratic institutions and federal agencies.
The tyranny of Governor Wike has reached the apogee of incarcerating agents of the Federal Government on National assignment even when they have been able to prove express approval from the presidency. My incarceration for 119 days on false allegations of terrorism and cybercrime against the Federal Government by the Cross River State Government may just be a case of an individual, but the abated arrogance of the Governors has in recent days extended to agents of the Federal Government on National assignment. It is possible that in near future someone may walk to Aso Rock to order the arrest of a constitutionally elected President as it once was the case in the arrest of Dr. Ngige when he was the Governor of Anambra.
If powers are so to be abused flagrantly, then the President would have have also ordered the suspension of Wike as Governor of Rivers State as he once did when he suspended a duly elected Local Government Chairman and Vice Chairman in Rivers State. But the President Buhari that I know will rather respect the rule of law than fall into any act of tyranny as common amongst some State Governors.
I call on the President to immediately call on the Attorney General of the Federation to exercise his powers vested on him by Sections 174 and 211 of the 1999 Constitution. (c) to discontinue the incarceration of the pilots and other incarcerations in abuse of power by State Governors across the nation. The President must act expeditiously to safe our constitution and democracy. The continued stay of the pilot in prison custody remains a threat to our democracy and emboldens tyranny.
Joseph Odok PhD Esq