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‘Buhari’s letter not clear on transfer of power to Osinbajo’

ABUJA- Last minute chamber maneuvering by the Senate leadership, Tuesday saved President Muhammadu’s letter from being returned to him.

The letter was the official communication to the Senate informing the Senators of his medical leave to the United Kingdom which the wordings were faulted by the Senators as being defective.

President Muhammadu Buhari

But the timely intervention of the Senate leader who advised his colleagues to ignore the wordings which described the new role of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as that of the Coordinating Vice President and rather rely on provisions of section 145 of 1999 Constitution (as amended) which accords him the statutory position of an Acting President.

The Senate faulted some parts of the letter by the President, saying that in line with the Constitution, Osinbajo cannot be described as Coordinating Vice President, but Acting President when the President is away or absent.

Following the maneuvering, the Senate averted what would have been a serious constitutional crisis at the Chamber following the reading of the letter from President Muhammadu Buhari by Senate President Bukola Saraki on the medical attention abroad by the President.

President Buhari had prior to his medical leave, written a letter to the Senate, intimating it of his intention to travel to London to seek medical attention from his doctors, just as Saraki Tuesday read the letter to his colleagues at plenary session.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Sunday evening departed the country for the United Kingdom for continuation of his treatment for undisclosed ailment, making it the fourth medical vacation to the United Kingdom the President would be undertaking since he was inaugurated as President May 29, 2015.

President Buhari’s letter dated 7th May, 2017, read in full, ” In compliance with section 145 {1) of the 1999 constitution as amended. I wish to inform the distinguished Senate that I will be away for a scheduled medical followup with my doctors in London. The length of my stay will be determined by the doctor’s advice.

“While I am away the vice president will coordinate the activities of the government. Pls accept the distinguished senate president the assurances of my highest consideration.”

Shortly after Senate President Saraki read the letter, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, PDP, Abia North raised a point of order objecting to some sections of the letter which he described as vague and ambiguous against the backdrop that the letter did not indicate properly the person to be in charge of the country in his absence.

According to Senator Ohuabunwa, there was no provisions in Section 145 of the 1999 constitution( as Amended) that says coordinating authority in the President’s absence, adding that the President in his letter would have been very clear in explaining the roles of who should take over by saying that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo should be in acting capacity and not the use of the word, coordinate.

He said,” Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or is otherwise that he is unable to discharge the functions of his office until he transmits to them the written declaration to the contrary, such function shall be discharged by the vice president as acting president.”

Senator Ohuabunwa continued saying,” Mr. President, I don’t think in our constitution we have anything like coordinating president or coordinating vice president. Is either you are a vice president or you are acting president and any letter should be unambiguous and very clear.

“So, Iam saying that this letter really does not convey anything because coordinating has no space on any place in our constitution. We have been having letters like this you tell us is the acting president and we know who to deal with as a Senate. This is the highest legislative body of any country and if you are sending us a letter, it should be direct, unambiguous. So, I am saying that this letter for me is not right and maybe should be sent back.”

Responding, the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, APC, Yobe North who took a swipe at the position of his colleague, Senator Ohuabunwa, however asked his colleagues to jettison the position of the former, against the backdrop that a Senate, there were very serious issues to discuss which include the 2017 Appropriation Bill.

Senate leader said, “Mr president, let me say that the point of order raised by my colleague and the explanation that subsequently follows shouldn’t have been and my reasons are simple.

“I still rely on the first paragraph of that letter which Mr president wrote to this senate and read by the president of the Senate and I will read section (145) reads whenever the President transmits to the president of the Senate and the speaker of the house of representatives a written declaration but he is proceeding on vacation…

“Àny other word in this letter or indeed anywhere else is irrelevant. I therefore feel that Mr president has done what the constitution requires him to do and I urge this senate not to go ahead to discuss this because its not an issue. We have the budget and so many other serious issues for us to discuss and Nigerians are waiting.”

In his remarks, Senate President Bukola Saraki who noted that there was no issue there in what was raised, however rule Mao Ohuabunwa out of Order.

Saraki said, “I think it is a very clear issue and what should be guided by is the constitution and I think that it is clear, the letter has referred to the constitution and there’s no ambiguity in the constitution. So, I don’t think there’s any issue there. Let me first rule you out of order senator Mao.”


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