The Legal Implication of Document Signed by the President after Invoking Section 145 of the Constitution

Oliver Gift Chukkol

Reports from Premium Times Newspaper of October 11th 2017 revealed that President Buhari approved N640 billion oil contracts from his sick bed in London. According to the newspaper report, The head of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Maikanti Baru said President Buhari approved at least two separate oil contracts on July 10 and July 31 worth $1 billion and $780 million, respectively.

Though to the best of my knowledge, the president has not officially responded to the Baru/Kachukwu saga, but I am relying on same to review the  legality of the contracts approved by the president on his sick bed when he had validly transmitted power to the vice President in line with the provision of Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria  (as amended).

By section 145 of the constitution whenever the president transmits a written declaration to the National Assembly that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, the functions of his office shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President. Put in another way, though in such a situation he remains the president of Nigeria, the exercise of his powers shall be in abeyance. This also means he cannot validly sign any document. He has transferred all executive powers to the Acting President. In the Unreported case of ONWUEKE v A. G, FEDERATION FHC /ABJ/ CS/10 /2010, Justice Abutu of Abuja Federal High Court held:

“when the Vice President is exercising the powers of the President as an Acting-President, he is exercising that (sic) powers in his own right as acting president and not on behalf of the president.”

Following from the above, I am of the firm view that since there cannot be two presidents in a country, every documents signed by the President during the pendency of the vacation period were donde ultravires and therefore unconstitutional.

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G. Chukkol (LL.B in view) Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State. 08032470318


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