Adamawa Court Verdict: Profiting From One’s Own Perfidy By Nasiru Suwaid
“The notice of resignation of the Governor and of the Deputy Governor of a State shall respectively be addressed to the speaker of the House of Assembly and the Governor of the State.”
-Section 306(5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, [emphasis mine].
It is said that law is most often bereft of commonsense, though for it to be propounded acceptable, it must always be expressed with logic, well, I don’t see why this is not a pure legal spin, because clearly, there is no difference between the two, as logic is nothing except the rational situating of things to make perfect sense, but, isn’t that common sense also. Legally, one of the principal foundation upon which the actions of human beings are assessed and pronounced upon is the presence or absence of intention, before the ‘act’ in judicial review is committed and primarily, intention is usually a thing that is intangible and not easily verifiable and determinable. Intention is seen as these, until when one did the action, we can settle down to decipher what could have been the intention, which might have caused an individual, to have acted in a particular way, that is a deviant crime or at best, an abnormal specific action, which must have raised the necessity for starting a litigation.
While within the realm of theology and religion, a person could announce his intention to perform a certain task, silently even openly, in law, generally and normally, an individual does not need to publicly pronounce ‘intent’ to act in a certain way, as it is the accompanying action, which defines the earlier motive of acting in a particular way. Thus, it is almost unheard of, for anyone to announce an intention that is not followed by an action, especially, as to do that means, what was pronounced is not the ‘real’ intention of the individual, which clearly signifies a premeditated attempt at fraud, being the presentation of false state of mind to defraud the other party. Surely such a scenario should not be allowed to be tolerated, talk less of it ever being propagated, in a place no less as eminent as the temple of justice. Unfortunately, that is actually happened at the Federal High Court, Abuja, when the purportedly resigned Deputy Governor claimed and the court agreed with him, that indeed he never resigned from office.
Accordingly, the letter he presented to the Adamawa State House of Assembly, was merely a proposal of intent of an intention to resign, pending his having access to his principal, who is the former Governor Murtala Nyako, who as at the time had been away on leave, with nobody being in position to state where he was. It is pertinent to note here, the main crux of the judgment, was that the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 has made it mandatory for a resigning Deputy Governor, to present the letter of resignation to the governor and equally obtain his approval of such an act, before he is considered to have legally resigned from office. But, by virtue Section 306(5) of the same self constitution, what the provision said that is required of a Deputy Governor to make available to the Governor is a ‘notice of resignation’. Here, to understand what is at stake to be performed, we have to know what constitutes a ‘resignation’ and what is a ‘notice’.
While there is not much dispute as to what a ‘resignation’ entail, which is defined as by Webster Dictionary as: “the ‘act’ of resigning from office”, however, it is what constitutes a ‘notice’ that seems to be in dispute, also and unfortunately, it is the fulcrum base upon which the judgment restoring the Deputy Governor and even elevating him into the Office of the Governor of Adamawa State was built. Here, the same Webster dictionary comes to the rescue, where ‘notice’ is defined as: “notification or warning of something, especially to allow preparation to be made”. It is noteworthy that ‘addressed’ is defined as: “(of mail) marked with a destination”, not necessarily physical delivery. From the above definition, it could be easily seen that there is no way a ‘notice’ or indeed any ‘notice of resignation’ could require an approval, in order to be effective, indeed, for any individual in such a highly responsible position, taking such a momentous and need I say, an all important act, could not have been made lightly, especially, when one considers the perks attached to the office and the fact, many would literally die to get into it. Thus, where such a decision is taken, it is purely done as a fait accompli act of intent.
However, it is the preceding provision in the section, which laid the general procedure for ‘resignation’ in every constitutionally recognized office in Nigeria, whether it is attained by election, selection or appointment. While section 306(1) expressly required of anyone wishing to resign, that it must be through a handwritten document, to the ‘authority’ or person who made the appointment. Section 306(2) stated that the ‘resignation’ shall take effect, when “the resignation is ‘received’ by the ‘authority’ or person to whom it is addressed or by any person ‘authorized’ by the ‘authority’ or person to receive it”. The fundamental issue to juxtapose here, is what is the normal ‘procedure’ for the receiving of mails addressed to the Governor of Adamawa State and the question here is who is to accept written official correspondences of the Governor, because, such ‘notice of resignation’ could not be a personal business, but strictly official government activity. The poser here, is it Murtala Nyako who normally but physically and personally, that receives his official mail or is it the institutional and constitutional Office of a State Governor, which does it on his behalf.
Constitutionally, what is in issue is what constitutes a Governor, is it the ‘person’ or rather, the ‘office’ and most importantly, as at the time the ‘notice of resignation’ was submitted, who was the Governor, if it is still Murtala Nyako, then, if it is submitted to his office or brought to its notice, ‘it’ being the Office of the Governor of Adamawa State, there is no need to submit it to the governor personally, because the Nigerian constitution only knew of him in his official capacity, by virtue of his occupying the ‘Office’ at Adamawa State Government House. Besides, it is a notorious fact known to all, that as at the time, the Governor and his Deputy are facing the ire of impeachment. They are also collaborating with each other to defeat it, thus convenient disappearance is a very logical thing to do.
Most particularly, the restored Deputy Governor was himself under the fire of impeachment process, thus could not have acted without a ‘necessary’ reason, in fact, his ‘notice of resignation’ was simply issued to avert a likely, if not probable impeachment. The problem here is if it is legally appropriate, to reward such an ingenious perfidy and yet it would be hailed as the restoration of a proper constitutional order, more so as, what the greater judgment represents is the restoration of a legal entity called Adamawa State, which could in the future be required to sign hundreds of letters of agreement on behalf of the state, yet were the Governor to later feign ignorance and state, it was not his will as such did not enter into any agreement intentionally, he would be castigated and condemned as irresponsible public official. Surely, this is not a recipe for having a sound constitutional order, but a route to the making of a state, which gladly celebrates pure criminal behavior as a virtuous normality.
And finally, this is the necessary question anyone who knows the trial judge, should please ask him, that he should endeavor to enquire from his ten year old child, what is the usual procedure for receiving mail in his house, does it have to be him standing at the gate, who must receive it personally, in order for the mail to be said to have been duly served or is the security by the gate not also ‘authorized’ to receive it on behalf of the family and even ‘acknowledge’ such receiving, by signing the taking delivery of the mail.
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