The Federal High Court, Abuja on Thursday declared that President Muhammadu Buhari cannot legally double as the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
The court gave the ruling while delivering judgment in a suit filed last year by Maritime lawyer and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN).
The senior advocate had, in the suit, urged the court to restrain Buhari from continuing to hold the office of the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
He had contended that Section 138 of the 1999 Constitution forbids the President from “holding any other executive office or paid employment.”
Agbakoba in a statement on Friday released by his office said the court in deciding the case held that Buhari had not violated Section 138 since he is not directly in charge of the day-to-day running of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
The court, according to the statement, said there would have been a violation if Buhari had not appointed someone else — Dr Ibe Kachikwu —to oversee the day-to-day running of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
The court explained that the phrase “hold” in Section 138 of the constitution “meant to preside, act, to possess, occupy or conduct the actual day to day running of the office.”
“Merely proclaiming/announcing that he (the President) was the Minister of Petroleum is not enough to conclude that he holds the office of minister,” the court reportedly declared.
In the suit, Agbakoba had said as a legal practitioner with 40 years’ experience and having checked the Constitution, he was convinced that President Muhammadu Buhari cannot legally hold the office of the Minister of Petroleum Resources and thus urged the court to sack him.
He contended that Buhari was not screened for the ministerial job by the Senate, as required by the constitution.
He prayed the court to determine “whether, by virtue of Section 147(2) of the 1999 Constitution, the President can hold the office of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, without confirmation by the Senate of the National Assembly.”