Three Senior Advocates of Nigeria have faulted the order of Aisha, the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, that all members of staff in her office should proceed on an indefinite leave.
They said the President’s wife acted illegally as she had no right to give such an order, adding that only the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Folasade Yemi-Esan, was empowered by law to make such a pronouncement, Punch writes.
The three senior lawyers interviews are Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, Lekan Ojo and Ifedayo Adedipe.
Amid pregnancy rumours, the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Health and Development Partners in the First Lady’s office, Mohammed Kamal, had on December 21, 2021, announced that Aisha ordered all members of staff in her office to proceed on an indefinite leave.
Buhari, 79, was in Turkey with Aisha, 50, between December 16 and 19, 2021 where they attended the 3rd Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit. Photos of the President’s wife released by the Presidency after the trip had sparked pregnancy rumours as she was shown with what looked like a bump.
Reacting to Kamal’s directive, Adegboruwa said the Presidency and the Head of Civil Service must do the needful quickly to prevent a bad precedent from being set for governors’ wives and spouses of other government officials.
He said, “Under the relevant civil service rules, the people engaged by the Federal Government are working for the people of Nigeria; they do not work at the pleasure of either the President or the wife of the President.
“So, in law, they have employment that is covered by statutes – their employment enjoys statutory flavour and if there is any infraction or allegation against them, it has to go through the normal system that is recognised and approved in line with civil service procedures.
“The directive from the First Lady asking those working for the Federal Government to proceed on indefinite leave compulsorily is illegal; it is beyond her powers. Even though they may be her domestic workers, as long as they are in the employment of the Federal Government of Nigeria, she has no power over their employment in the manner in which she has done.
“The issue of whether the wife of the President is pregnant or has any ailment has nothing to do with the employment of her domestic staff under the law. I believe that the Presidency, at the appropriate time, will look into this so that the wife of the President is not allowed to take the laws into her own hands, because what she has done is ultra vires and beyond her powers.
“I believe that the Head of Service should immediately recall those workers as that may serve as a bad example for even the wives of governors or wives and other officials, who may be treating their staff members as if they are their personal workers, whereas they are the staff of the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
Ojo, on his part, said the office of the President’s wife was not recognised by the Constitution in the first instance, noting that the mother of four acted illegally.
Ojo stated, “The office of the wife of the President is certainly not known to civil service rules, not even known to the Constitution. It would have been a different thing if those are aides she appointed herself; those are political appointees and they owe their tenure to her pleasure, but not the federal civil servants. She has no such powers.
“Federal Civil Service rules govern their employment. So, it is the Head of Service of the Federation that can do such a thing; even in doing that, the law must be followed.”
Adedipe agreed with his colleagues that only the HoS could make such a declaration as ordering workers to go on indefinite leave.