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Tuesday, 9 May 2017

‘Buhari’s letter causes confusion in the Senate as it is not clear on transfer of power to Osinbajo’


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

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.

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.


The Senator representing Abia-North at the National Assembly, Mao Ohuabunwa, said the transfer of power from President Buhari to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is unclear.

Ohuabunwa had raised a point of order after President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, separately read a letter from President Buhari informing the legislature of his medical vacation in the United Kingdom.

In the letter, Buhari said the duration of his leave was indefinite.

The President also said in the letter that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo would “coordinate” the governance of the country during his absence.

The letter read, “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 follow-up 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. Please accept, the distinguished Senate President, the assurances of my highest consideration.”

But Senator Ohuabunwa criticised the letter as not naming Osinbajo as Acting President and should be disregarded. He argued that the letter was not clear on the transfer of power from Buhari to Osinbajo.

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 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.

“Mr. President, I don’t think in our Constitution we have anything like ‘coordinating president’ or ‘coordinating vice president.’

It is either you are vice president or you are acting president and any letter (on transfer of power) should be unambiguous and very clear.

So, I am saying that this letter really does not convey anything because ‘coordinating’ has no space or any place in our Constitution.

“We have been having (receiving) letters like this in which he will tell us who is the acting president and we will 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 it should be sent back.”

But the Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, countered Ohuabunwa, saying Buhari had fulfilled the provisions of Section 145 of the Constitution by transmitting the letter.

He said, “Let me say that the point of order raised by my colleague and the explanation that subsequently followed should not 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 President of the Senate and I will read Section 145.”

After reading the section, Lawan added, “Any 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 it is not an issue. We have the budget and so many other serious issues for us to discuss and Nigerians are waiting.”

Saraki, who presided over the plenary, however, ruled Ohuabunwa out of order.

“I think it is a very clear issue and what we should be guided by is the Constitution, and I think that it is clear. The letter has referred to the Constitution (Section 145) and there is no ambiguity in the Constitution. So, I don’t think there is any issue there. Let me first rule you out of order, Senator Mao.”

Following the maneuvering, the Senate averted what would have been a serious constitutional crisis at the Chamber.



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.”

Former minister of aviation Femi Fani-Kayode in his reaction slammed persons he described as “corpsocrats” who he said are trying to prevent  Osinbajo from taking the role of Acting President since Buhari is away for medical check up.

Fani-Kayode, in a series of tweets, said that usage of the word “coordinate” is dangerous and insulting.
“The attempt by the corpsocrats to prevent the Vice President from being Acting President by referring to him in the letter to the Senate as a mere ‘co-ordinator’ is insulting and dangerous.
It is time for us to decide: do we have a nation of equals or not? If not let us break it and go our separate ways!
When you tell us that the Vice President cannot be Acting President even though the President is critically sick and on indefinite medical leave in a foreign country you are playing with fire. There are NO more slaves in Nigeria,” he said.
Source: Vanguard/Punch





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