By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
A group, which identifies itself as the Coalition of Concerned Nigerians, has asked the Federal Executive Council, FEC, to initiate the process of constituting a medical panel through the President of the Senate for the purpose of determining President Muhammadu Buhari’s fitness to remain in office.
Noting that the President spent 114 days of the first 180 days of the year on medical vacation, the group also called for amendment of the constitution to provide a limit to the time a president or governor can stay on medical leave.
They are also asking for another amendment to remove the power to initiate a medical examination of a president or a governor from the federal and state executive councils, respectively.
The statement was signed on behalf of the group by Alhaji Tanko Yunusa, Chairman,National Conscience Party, NCP; Mr. Ikechukwu Ikeji, lawyer and social activist; Mr. Ken Okolugbo, activist, and former commissioner in the Delta State Oil Producing Commission, DESOPADEC; Mr. Turner Ogboru, lawyer and businessman and Bala Zakkar, a chartered accountant and public affairs analyst.
The signatories claiming to represent a wider group of like minds drawn from across the professions and the country, said the continuing absence of the president had turned from a distraction into an obstacle to the smooth operation of government.
They also noted the fact that Buhari, as an ordinary citizen, had a different approach when President Umaru Yar‘Adua was ill as he called for his impeachment at that time.
They said: “Over the last six months, the President has been out of the country for a total of at least 124 days and still counting. This is exclusive of the days he failed to attend meetings of the Federation Executive Council without sufficient explanation.
“Our worry is as to the exact nature of the President’s health and the fact that this has been kept secret from Nigerians who pay his medical bills and who are entitled to know the state of health of their President.
“This situation is unprecedented. When Yar’Adua took ill, the nature of his sickness was disclosed to Nigerians. And when Yar’Adua stayed away from Nigeria for 79 days, it was the present President, Muhammadu Buhari, who called on Yar’Adua to resign or be impeached by the National Assembly.
“The chicken has come home to roost and it is now the turn of President Buhari to walk his talk. While we are not here calling for his resignation or impeachment, we are insistent that the nature and cause of his sickness be disclosed to Nigerians.
“We have noticed that there are certain elements of governance that have been on hold as a result of the absence of the President. An example is the conflicting statements emanating from the Acting President and the Attorney-General of the Federation on the powers of the Senate to confirm federal appointees.
“A President that has stayed away from his country for a minimum of 114 days out of a possible 180 days cannot be said to be ordinarily capable of performing the functions of his office especially when the absence is as a result of ill health.
“The natural sequence and logical step is to embark on a dispassionate enquiry of the nature of the aliment holding the President down. This need not be for the purposes of declaring him permanently incapacitated to carry on the functions of his office but to keep the citizenry informed as to the nature of the health of their President.
“Unfortunately, the responsibility to kickstart the process of this enquiry lies with Federal Executive Council, all of whom are the appointees of the same President.”
The group thus asked that the FEC to among others “immediately discloses the true nature of the ailment of the President to the public while it writes a letter to the President of the Senate to set up a medical panel pursuant to Section 144 (4) of the Constitution.”
“The handlers and medical team of President Buhari should immediately release the cause as well as the exact nature of his sickness.”
“The National Assembly starts the process of amending Section 144 of the Constitution to remove the power to initiate enquiry into the health capacity or otherwise of the President away from his appointees and hand over the power to the Senate or the National Assembly or to an independent body or upon the application of any Nigerian to a court of law.
“The National Assembly starts the process of amending Section 145 of the Constitution to put a clear time frame to the period within which the President can stay away on medical ground after which he or his handlers must disclose the true nature of his or her health, provided that the National Assembly shall have the power to institute its own medical investigation into the health of the President.”