By Barrister Ayah Paul Abine
Did the legislature grant the President of the Republic the prerogative to secure the prorogation of parliament more times than once? Can it be construed that more extensions of parliament than one were intended by the legislature?
One may take the liberty to begin by decrying that the constitutional revision of 1996 was littered with such incredible loopholes that seem not to match the personality of the author of the revision who is often paraded as an authority in the constitutional law. Quite apart from being skeletal, the constitution is devoid of the usual inevitable provisos. The maker of the revision either overlooked the elementary traditional canons of drafting or he deliberately insidiously accommodated loopholes for subsequent self-serving manoeuvres. One is even tempted to contemplate his letting loose a certain degree of conceited deceit.
If we limit ourselves just to the realm of the prorogation of parliament, not only is the Constitution mute as to how many times the prerogative of prorogation can be exercised in one parliament, but it stopped short of providing for the next line of conduct where, at the end of the prorogation, the ‘serious crisis’ have not come to an end. Nor did the author draw any distinction between crisis and war. It is common knowledge that CRISIS fall below the magnitude of WAR. In the event of the latter, does prorogation, limited in time, apply; or does the President have to call in aid emergency powers to confront election with the war situation?
Some of the foregoing questions are more of a digression from our present purpose. They could well be of prospective utility. The relevant issue at hand is whether the President of the Republic was within the law (constitution) in calling on the Parliament to enact a law, proroguing parliament a second time in one parliament. The answer to that indirect question seems to lie in the interpretation of the intention of the legislature in enacting the provision relative to the prerogative in question within the conspectus of the general principles of interpretation; particularly the principal of general import and application that the law does not intend an absurdity.
It is highly unlikely that Parliament would grant the President such prerogatives as a blank cheque. We do not think our Parliament so crude as not to contemplate that a certain president tomorrow, with a comfortable majority, could, under such circumstance, keep proroguing parliament indefinitely for the fear of losing the comfortable majority in the event of election.
Such apprehension is discernable for a society like Cameroun where SERIOUS CRISIS can be purposefully wrongly qualified or even invented by the President. And the exercise of the present prorogation is seemingly a case in point. Quite outside of the definition of ‘serious crisis’, SEROIUS CRISIS, must objectively be brought about by events extraneous to the conduct of the President: events not of his doing. Another essential ingredient is that the crisis must be ungovernable in nature with an uncertain denouement. In contemporary Cameroun, the war in the Far North and the war against Ambazonia could be so qualified.
BUT the President rather invoked as serious crisis the need for a smooth November budgetary session of parliament, and the harmonization of the dates relative to the twin general and municipal elections. From what has already been stated, the events the President qualifies as SERIOUS CRISIS here are the consequences of the absence of or inadequate foresight; and/or the absence of planning. Such a situation being the consequence of his own conduct, the President cannot invoke both or either to justify prorogation on the ground of SERIOUS CRISIS. That would be absolutely self-serving.
Again, at the time of proroguing parliament and the terms of municipal councils last year, the President knew or was presumed to know the laws applicable. The one law provided that general election would hold after the expiry of the prorogation. The other law provided that municipal election would hold not less than twenty days BEFORE the expiry of the prorogation. By making each prorogation last for an identical period of time of one year, and virtually parallel as to the commencement and the ending, the President was both without sufficient thought or foresight. Taking undue advantage of his own wrongful conduct today to secure the second prorogation in the name of serious crisis is, therefore, anything but consistency.
And if even wars do not as much as amount to SERIOUS CRISIS, how can the President be heard to invoke the ever facetious examination of the finance Bill and the correction of his error in the previous prorogation as SERIOUS CRISIS that warrant the second prorogation? The answer to that rhetorical question superfluously buttresses our holding that the second prorogation is not within the spirit of the constitutional prerogative granted to the President of the Republic to obtain the prorogation of parliament where SERIOUS CRISIS do so warrant.
Except, as usual in Cameroun, the law is treated, even in the context of the Constitution, as discretionary!
NA SO ARH SEE’AM OH!