A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Sabastine Hon, has said that the declaration of a state of emergency and overthrow of elected or appointed state officials over suspected herdsmen killing in Benue state is legally impossible. He said speculations on such declaration by the presidency would be baseless. 

In a statement released on Wednesday, January 17, Hon said an attempt by President Muhammadu Buhari to remove the Benue state governor, Samuel Ortom, in order to declare a state of emergency in Benue would lack constitutional backing.

 Hon said: “The social media is agog with speculations that the Presidency will soon declare a state of emergency in Benue State. Some of the media postings are suggestive of the ‘power’ of the President to overthrow the governmental structures in that state and to replace same with a sole administrator.  

“Such speculation, through social media blogs, cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand, in view, especially, of the orchestrated violent demonstrations in Makurdi on Saturday by the Hausa-Fulani, two days after the burial of the victims of the New Year massacre. 

“The power to proclaim a state of emergency by the Presidency is provided for by Section 305 of the 1999 Constitution; and there is nothing in that provision, clear or latent, which imbues the President, or any authority for that matter, with any scintilla of power to remove or overthrow elected or appointed state officials. There being no such enabling provision, therefore, such arbitrary power cannot be implied; and if exercised, will be clearly illegal and unlawful.”

 The senior lawyer said Section 1(2) of the Constitution provides in clear terms that the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. 

Hon also said that a state House of Assembly has its constitutional lifespan, which cannot be trammeled or tempered with by any person or authority. “The phrases ‘any person or group of persons’ and ‘any part thereof’ above mean that no authority or group of persons shall, under any guise whatsoever, take control of, in this case, Benue State, except as provided for in the Constitution itself.

“And of course, the only way a state governor can be removed from office or can vacate his office is by impeachment, death, sickness of such a magnitude as to impair him from performing the functions of his office, or by resignation. 

“Under our constitutional jurisprudence, therefore, both the appointer and the appointee to the office or position of Sole Administrator of a state will be acting in flagrant breach Section 1(2) and other relevant provisions of the Constitution,” Hon added. 

It has earlier been reported that Ortom has thrown his weight behind the call for restructuring of Nigeria. The development came after leaders of the Ohaneze, Afenifere, Niger-Delta and the Middle Belt vowed to support the state when the need arises. The leaders made this promise after they unanimously declared their support for the anti-grazing law.

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