It was an unusual Federal Executive Council meeting yesterday, Wednesday 26 April as President Buhari, for the third consecutive time did not show up. But even more unusual was the fact that only 15 ministers turned up at the meeting from a cabinet of 33 serving ministers. It is unclear if the “absentee” ministers were aware that the President would not be at the meeting.
But Vice President Yemi Osinbajo showed up at the council chambers a few minutes to 11 am. At 11 am while council members waited for the arrival of the President, his Chief Protocol Officer showed up and briefed the Vice President, obviously explaining that the President may not be able to make it. This was also the signal for the Vice President to preside over the meeting as it was apparent that he too had no foreknowledge that the President would not be coming for the meeting.
Since returning from a medical vacation in the United Kingdom, where he spent almost 50 days, Buhari has attended and presided over three FEC meetings. At the last FEC meeting he attended, the President launched the country’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan. He has hardly been seen at public functions, raising concerns over the true state of the President’s health.
Last week Wednesday, the President also failed to show up, raising concerns about his health. No reason was given for his absence but the minister of information and culture later told journalists that the President was attending to other matters.
Last week, the FEC shelved its meeting on grounds that the secretariat had not resumed. Presidential Media Aide, Garba Shehu told journalists that the President was not sick.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed on Wednesdays still insisted that the president is not sick but has asked to be allowed to rest and work from home.
“The President asked that he be allowed to rest and asked the VP to preside. He asked that all his files be taken to him at home that he will work from home,” Mohammed said, adding that Osinbajo would be meeting with Buhari later in the day.
BusinessDay, however, gathered from an in-house source that the President actually planned to be at the meeting but could not cope with a flu and constant sneezing. This, he said is why the VP was only informed at the last minute.
In the absence of the President and most of the ministers, the FEC meeting still went ahead for two hours and approved N9 billion in new contracts.
While governance seems to have run into a hitch at the executive arm, at the National Assembly anger reigned. Members of the National Assembly on Wednesday gave the Nigeria Police 24 hours to return Budget 2017 documents that they allege were carted away from the residence of Senator Danjuma Goje, chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation on the 20th April, 2017.
The lawmakers alleged that the “missing report” was scheduled to be laid before the Senate and House for consideration and passage during the week.
An angry House of Representatives issued a 24-hour ultimatum to Ibrahim Idris, Inspector-General of Police to return all the documents relating to the 2017 Appropriation Bill carted away from the residence not later than tomorrow, Thursday 27 April 2017 in order not to jeopardize the passage of the 2017 budget.
The resolution was passed sequel to the adoption of the motion on the “Need to check the excesses of security agents with regard to invasion of residences of law abiding citizens,” sponsored by Abubakar Ahmad.
The lawmakers who described the action of the Police as “unlawful”, maintained that the invasion of the Abuja residence of Senator Goje amounted to a gross violation of his fundamental human rights.
Ahmad noted that the security agents destroyed doors, bags, ceiling and septic tanks and carted away documents, including reports of the 2017 Appropriation Bill scheduled to be laid before both chambers of the National Assembly during the week.
While condemning the level of impunity being exhibited by the security agencies and disregard for law and due process, he noted that such action portray the Federal Government as lawless to discerning observers and commentators, both at home and abroad.
The House also to set-up an “Ad-hoc Committee to invite the Inspector-General of police to appear before it to explain what warranted the invasion and the laws that backed the Force to carry out such operations and report back in two weeks for further legislative action.”
From the proceedings in the house, it is clear that budget 2017, already four months late, is now going to be delayed further. It also signal further escalation of the executive legislature conflict with both parties increasingly looking irreconcilable, putting governance on edge.
Elizabeth Archibong and Ayanfe Akintola