President Muhammadu Buhari has continued to be silent as pressure mounts on the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo SAN, to resign from office over allegations of corruption. The rising pressure from stakeholders in the polity also extends to accusations of the Vice President of attempting to intimidate critics through filing libel suits in court. The vice president has come under intensified pressures to resign since he volunteered to waive his constitutional immunity to pave way for thorough judicial process to clear himself from the N90 billion Timi Frank, former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) had alleged was given to Vice President Osinbajo by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) during the 2019 general elections. The FIRS has since refuted the allegation.
Timi Frank, former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of APC, had alleged that VP Osinbajo was given N90 billion for electioneering campaign in the 2019 general elections by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
The FIRS refuted the allegation, threatening legal action against Timi Frank.
Vice President Osinbajo, perhaps, under pressure, subsequently subscribed to taking an unconstitutional but ethical process to defend himself. “I will waive my constitutional immunity to clear my name,” VP Osinbajo had said.
A statement on Wednesday from the Office of the Vice President indicated that the VP in a tweet declared: “in the past few days, a spate of reckless and malicious falsehoods have been peddled in the media against me by a group of malicious individuals.
“The defamatory and misleading assertions invented by this clique had mostly been making the social media rounds anonymously.
“I have today instructed the commencement of legal action against two individuals, one Timi Frank and another Katch Ononuju, who have put their names to these odious falsehoods.
“I will waive my constitutional immunity to enable the most robust adjudication of these claims of libel and malicious falsehood.”
However, several stakeholders in the country, including legal practitioners, have declared that the vice president lacks the power to unilaterally set aside his immunity; arguing that it is a right protected by the constitution. They acknowledged that the vice president can be investigated but cannot be prosecuted while in office. They maintained that the only way the vice president can waive his immunity is to resign.
Professor Faroop Kperogi, in an analytic: “Osinbajo Cowardly SLAPP”, was reported to have expressed that VP “Yemi Osinbajo is being disingenuous when he said on twitter… that he’d waive his “constitutional immunity” to allow for a fair probe of allegations of humongous corruption against him.”
Kperogi had reportedly declared: “he can’t legally waive his immunity while still in office. That’s unconstitutional. He should resign and the immunity he enjoys will be gone by default.”
The Professor also protested: “what he is doing by suing his critics is what we call SLAPP in American media law;” explaining that the acronym stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation”. Kperogi explained that it’s a type of frivolous lawsuit whose ultimate goal is to intimidate critics into silence and self-censorship, not necessarily to seek redress for injury to reputation. “it won’t get him anywhere,” Kperogi declared.
Timi Frank, speaking on Channels Television on Thursday, had challenged Vice President Osinbajo to resign, saying that the vice president cannot remove the immunity he didn’t give to himself. “The vice president must resign first to pursue his case. He cannot remove what he did put. He cannot just make yahoo yahoo statement. If Vice President Osinbajo wants to pursue this case and waive his immunity, he should resign,” Timi Frank had said inter alia.
Timi Frank insisted that he stands by his statement, saying that he has been fighting corruption over the years, and that he has sufficient information. “I was former deputy National Publicity Secretary of APC. I have been fighting corruption for many years. I have too much information about this country; I have too much information about this system. I will not reveal my source; I will meet him in court,” Timi Frank had said. He also noted that the Office of the Vice President has strong propaganda structure.
The common denominator across the country, however, is that the only way the vice president can set aside his immunity is to resign. Some stakeholders, however, observed that since the FIRS had responded to the allegation by Timi Frank on the N90 billion election fund, the vice president could have left it at that.
It would appear that Vice President Osinbajo may have come under attack, beginning from the Presidency to other institutions of government and beyond.
Meanwhile, President Buhari is yet to consider the normal inquiry process or issuance of white paper by the federal government to put most of the allegations to rest – positive or negative.