Nigerians, the country over, have been divided in their opinions over the request of President Buhari for emergency powers to stimulate economic growth. Even the legislative chambers are undecided in their opinions, as their informal statements show. These 6 opinions show the whole spectrum of Nigerian opinion, from approval to neutral and sharp dissent.
Prof Tahir Mamman, SAN and Vice Chancellor of Baze University believes it is necessary
‘It is actually a misnomer to call those legislative amendments ‘emergency powers’ because there is nothing emergency therein. Nothing in it too confers on the president any specific powers per se. They are amendments designed to reduce bureaucracy in the services of the organizations affected. Much of the problems affecting the development of Nigeria are the suffocating procedures and times lost in the operations of government activities. It has contributed immensely to Nigeria’s lack of competitiveness in the international scene. Again, Nigerians are urging the president to move fast on the economy. These desires for quicker development can only be achieved through fast and efficient procedures in Nigeria. It is my view that the president is well on track with these procedures. It was a mistake on the part of the drafters to have used the word ‘emergency’ in the amendments’.
Prof Bankole Sodipo, former Dean of Law at Babcock University thinks the President is overstretching the Law
‘Emergency powers presuppose powers that can be exercised in situations that are regarded as emergency. These powers may include powers to pass laws through the National Assembly without the prescribed number of readings and public hearings of the bills. The Nigerian Constitution only recognises the possible emergence or existence of such presidential powers if they are in line with section 305 of the constitution. Section 305 of the Constitution vests President Buhari with powers to declare a state of emergency. Where this is validly declared, the powers outlined in the Act declaring the state of emergency can be exercised by the President. However, this presidential power can only be exercised subject to following prescribed constitutional procedure that includes the approval of the Senate and the House of Representatives and the power can only be exercised within the prescribed conditions enumerated by the Constitution. Failure to follow the prescribed procedure will make the declaration of a state of emergency procedurally ultra vires.’
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Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, right activist thinks it is an attempt to restore dictatorship
Emergency powers to do what? To further impoverish an agonizing populace of helpless Nigerians with dictatorial policies that no one can challenge? I don’t support such maximalist and dictatorial powers for an authoritarian all-knowing government that has shown utmost intolerance of opposition, dissent of opinion and plurality of ideas as to how to move Nigeria forward. Let them sell off three-quarters of the presidential fleet, reduce their funny and phoney budget for the State House, etc, then we will know they are serious.
Mr Lawal Pedro SAN thinks that it could be useful if used properly
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The emergency power may be used for good intentions, but if it is abused, what do you do? Nigeria is in a serious economic recession now and anything that will lift us out of it is welcomed. My only fear in it is it’s abuse. With the way things are now in the country, I think there is need for emergency power to be granted to President Buhari because we cannot continue the way we are now. We must find a way out.
Chief Morah Ekwunoh thinks the President is leaving the problem unattended to.
Certainly, solemn, but hard, distillation of the present quest for presidential economic emergency powers presents same as a legal and, even, extra-legal non sequitor, which calls for serious worry and concern by, and amongst, well-meaning Nigerians. In the main, donation or devolution of such sweeping powers, including powers to set aside some extant laws and deployment of executive orders, is not only unprecedented but completely antithetical to our nascent democracy, constitutionality and rule of law, such that it can unwittingly lend itself to wide abuses, as was the rule, rather than exception, during Obasanjo’s era, when governors on the black books of the central government were hunted, hounded and removed, under the guise of exercise of emergency powers… What are needed, I posit, include, without limitation to, serious rejig of the current economic team, focus, with all eyes on the economic ball, and deepest of thought, even from outside the box, all being done without allowing dusts from raging fights against corruption cover the government’s eyes in these respects.
Mr Monday Ubani supports the idea totally
If you see what we are suffering now as a result of economic problems, I think some of our laws have become hindrance to the actualization of reviving the economy. What I understand President Buhari wants to do is that, like the issue of Procurement Act, remove the number of days before you can award contract. Emergency power that the president is seeking for won’t be forever but a certain time to enable him carry out acts that would actually revive the economy. People are suffering and price of food items are very expensive. If the emergency power will make President Buhari take any action that will cut short all those processes in awarding contract and make Nigerians have enough food on their table, then I am totally in support of it.
Parts of this article originally appeared in Vanguard Newspapers