By Daniel Idonor
ABUJAâ€”THE Federal Executive Council, FEC, at its weekly meeting, yesterday, resolved to commence the process that could lead to the invocation of Section 144 of the 1999 Constitution, by setting up a six-man team to travel to Saudi Arabia to ascertain the state of health of ailing President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, who has been outside Nigeria onÂ medical vacation.
Vanguard learnt the move was a prelude to the much awaited declaration by the Federal cabinet that the President is incapacitated, as required by the constitution; and canvassed for by public opinion in the country, since the Yarâ€™Adua was declared ill by his Personal Physician, Dr Salihu Banye, on December 3, 2009.
The six-man cabinet delegation is being led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed; while other members of the committee include the Minister of Health, Professor Babatunde Oshotimehin, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, Minister of Petroleum, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman and the Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources, Dr. Sayyad Abba Ruma.
The decision by FEC to dispatch a team to visit the President is coming after two similar but futile attempts by a delegation of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly and leadership of the ruling Peoplesâ€™ Democratic Party, PDP, who returned to the country without seeing the hospitalized President.
The team which is expected to leave for the Middle-East, as soon as members obtained their travelling documents, is also to meet with King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and convey Nigeriaâ€™s appreciation to the people and government of that country over the assistance to President Yarâ€™Adua and Nigeria.
The Minister of Information and Communication, Professor Dora Akunyili, who briefed State House Correspondents, after the meeting, but refused to take any question, said after deliberation on the health of the President â€œCouncil constituted a six-man team to go to Saudi Arabia to visit Mr. President and his family.â€
Akunyili who was accompanied to the briefing by the Minister of Transport, Alhaji Ibrahim Bio, Minister of Aviation, Mr. Babatunde Omotoba and Minister of State for Interior, Mr. Ademola Seriki, added that â€œthe team will also convey a formal gratitude of the country to the king of Saudi Arabia.â€
Investigations by Vanguard revealed that the fresh debate on the Presidentâ€™s ill-health was initiated, this time, by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, who had approached Council with a memorandum seeking a probe into the lingering health crises of the Yarâ€™Adua. Prof Akunyili had presented a similar memo.
It was learnt that Maduekwe who earlier planned to present his memo in the early hours of the meeting was advised to hold on and allow it be heard under A.O.B, until after the break time when the Muslim ministers might have said their afternoon prayers.
Council’s unanimous resolution
Maduekwe who expressed surprise over how his memo was leaked to the press earlier, was, however, allowed to present the memo after the prayer break, but not until the workforce of the Cabinet Secretariat had been dismissed from the meeting, so as not quote anybody during the discussion.
It was further gathered that at the end of discussions on the matter, the Council unanimously resolved that a team be raised to travel to Saudi with a view to ascertaining the true state of the Presidentâ€™s health.
Akunyili was then mandated to write and read to members what would be presented to the press. She wrote that â€œCouncil constituted a six-man team to go to Saudi Arabia to visit Mr. President and his family,â€ but included a clause, â€œto ascertain the state of health of the President.â€
Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, it was learnt, however, advised that the clause be expunged from the press statement.
Our source said that while the resolution was unanimous, an opposition group of eight Ministers led by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Alhaji Adamu Aliero, who were not earlier disposed to the memo later backed down, and the pro-Jonathan group now led by Maduekwe had its way.