Following the protracted stalemate over the appointment of a substantive Chief Judge of Rivers State, there was apprehension as to who will administer the Oaths of Office and Allegiance on the Governor-elect, Nyesom Wike, on May 29, 2015. This was laid to rest recently by the directive of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, that the function should be performed by the Chief Judge of the neighbouring Bayelsa State. Is he legally correct in giving this directive?
Firstly, it must be noted that by virtue of the provision of Section 185(2) of the 1999 Constitution, the following officers are empowered to administer the Oaths of Office and Allegiance on a Governor-elect:
(1) Chief Judge of “THE STATE”
(2) Grand Kadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal of “THE STATE”
(3) President of the Customary Court of Appeal of “THE STATE”
(4) Anyone appointed to do so who also performs the functions of those officers in “ANY STATE”
A close look at Section 185(2) as analysed above will clearly show that whilst the drafters of the Constitution were very particular in using the phrase “the State” in reference to those officers who should administer the oaths, the last part of the section which allows other persons to perform the function (apart from those stated officers) uses the phrase “in any State”. In other words, in the absence of those stated officers to administer the oaths in “the State” in question, the corresponding officers “in any State” of the federation performing the same functions can also administer the oaths.
In any event, putting politics and sentiments aside, it is inconceivable to think that the assumption of office of a public officer who has been declared winner of an election can be scuttled merely because of the absence of someone who should perform a purely ceremonial duty, when the absence of such a person is no fault of the public officer. If we set this dangerous precedent, then we shall be witnessing the kidnappings and abductions of Chief Judges, Grand Kadis, etc, in the nearest future on the day of inauguration.
I rest my case.
FESTUS KEYAMO, ESQ.