GOVERNOR WIKE MUST NOT PRECIPITATE A CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST COVID 19 PANDEMIC IN RIVERS STATE
Governor Wike of Rivers State is a warm and outspoken public office holder but he can also overdo things.
Let’s keep it this simple!
You cannot ignore him in the comity of current Nigerian Governors but he must watch it, lest he precipitates an avoidable constitutional crisis in the way and manner he is handling the fallouts from the COVID 19 epidemic in Rivers State where he is Governor.
Aside being a lawyer and being married to a serving High Court Judge, Wike had been so many things politically in the past including being a Federal Minister, Chief of Staff to then Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State. Earlier, he had been an elected Chairman of a Local Government to name a few things he had done outside legal practice.
It is irrefutable that Governor Wike’s primary training as a lawyer and the myriads of powerful positions he had occupied cumulatively place him above the precarious or vulnerable position where he can claim ignorance of the law or ill-knowledge on how the affairs of state should be run at the Local, State and Federal Government levels.
Pointedly, Governor Wike ought to know the laws of the country and the interrelationships between a State and the Federal Government.
He ought to know the powers donated by the Constitution to the Federal Government in the Exclusive legislative list and avoid clashes therein either because of exuberance, overzealousness or outright indiscretion.
He ought to know that’
aviation, including airports,
safety of aircraft and carriage
of passengers and goods by air
is listed as item 3 in the Exclusive Legislative List etched in Part 1 of the Second Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended.
In view of the above crystal clear constitutional provision, why the recent controversial arrest, detention and prosecution and remand of “Caverton Helicopter Pilots” for flying oil services personnel into an airline facility in Portharcourt?
Governor Wike ought reasonably to know that the Rivers State Government is subordinated to the Federal Government of Nigeria in matters listed in the Exclusive and or the Concurrent Legislative Lists.
Governor Wike cannot claim ignorance of all these strong but elementary constitutional provisions on devolution of powers and competences between the Federal and State Governments as tiers of government.
In or out of office as Governor of Rivers State, as a lawyer, the law fixes him with the knowledge of the law as NO lawyer can claim ignorance of the law!
As Governor of Rivers State, Wike swore an *Oath of Office of Governor* and he is bound by it while he remains in office.
Does he need to be reminded? We think not although many State Governors pay scant or no regard to their Oaths of Office!
Twice, Wike has taken that Oath of Office as a two term elected Governor of Rivers State swearing inter alia-
That I will to the to the best of
my ability preserve, protect and
defend the Constitution of the
Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria that Governor Wike swore to uphold in its 7th Schedule specifically deals with the Oath of Office of Governor of a State and places the imperative duty on the Governor of a State to subjugate himself to the President.
Just in the unlikely event that Governor Wike has forgotten, let him be reminded again that the exact wordings of the Oath of Office he swore among other things are to the following effect-
That I will exercise the authority
vested in me as Governor so as
not to impede or prejudice the
authority lawfully vested in the
President of the Federal Republic
of Nigeria and so as not to
endanger the continuance of
Federal Government in Nigeria.
In legal circles, “you ought to know” is the greatest form of indictment.
Governor Wike cannot claim not to know the requirements of the Oath of Office of a Governor of a State which mandates him to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Clearly, in the current “Caverton Helicopter Pilots saga”, Governor Wike has overstepped constitutional bounds as the Governor of a State as aviation and carriage of passengers by air is a matter within the Exclusive Legislative List.
Governor Wike ought to know the limits of the powers of a State Governor as donated under our constitutional order and he must therefore quickly retrace his steps.
The need to fight the dreaded COVID 19 pandemic with vigour in Rivers State in particular and Nigeria in general is imperative but it does not require provoking a constitutional crisis or sustaining an avoidable showdown (political or otherwise) with the Federal Government.
Nigeria and the world at large is in a big mess now with the COVID 19 pandemic and this calls for synergistic cooperation between all layers and tiers of government and not bickering or ego tripping or even sabotage.
Let common sense and good wisdom prevail in the “Caverton Helicopter Pilots saga” even as the Nigerian Constitution remains supreme and its provisions continues to have binding force on all the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria in line with the requirements of section 1(1) of the self-same Constitution.
A new normal is possible!
Prof Obiaraeri, N.O., Ph.D (Law), B.L., etc.