In Senate letter, Buhari fails to name Osinbajo Acting President

In Senate letter, Buhari fails to name Osinbajo Acting President
May 09 18:46 2017

President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter meant to inform the National Assembly of his medical trip in London caused confusion on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday.

In the letter read by Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, the President said that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo would “coordinate” the governance of the country during his absence.

Senator Mao Ohuabunwa criticised the letter for not specifically naming Osinbajo as Acting President, saying it should be disregarded.

The letter read, “In compliance with section 145 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended): While I am away, the Vice President will coordinate the activities of the government.”

The letter transmitted to the Senate when the President travelled in January had however read: “In compliance with section 145 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), I wish to inform the Senate that I will be away on a 10-working day short vacation as part of my 2017 annual leave, from January 23 to February 6, 2017 and while I am away, the vice president will perform the functions of my office.”

Ohuabunwa, raised a point of order, quoting the section 145(1) of the constitution thus: “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.”

He continued: “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, disagreed with Ohuabunwa, saying Buhari had fulfilled the provisions of the section without ambiguity .

Saraki also ruled Ohuabunwa out of order, saying the President had satisfactorily done the needful by transmitting a letter to the National Assembly.

The President in a statement signed by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, on Sunday night had also not named Osinbajo as Acting President.

“The length of the President’s stay in London will be determined by the doctors. Government will continue to function normally under the able leadership of the Vice President,” the statement read in part.

The statement signed by Adesina when the President travelled for his last medical vacation in January had however read: “While away, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, will perform the functions of the Office of the President.”