Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Presidency: Buhari Won’t Quit
By Isiaka Wakili & John Chuks Azu
Nigeria Daily Trust
Aug 8 2017 2:00AM

The Presidency has described the calls for President Muhammadu Buhari’s resignation as an “irrational assault” on the constitution of Nigeria.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement last night, said such calls should be ignored by well-meaning members of the public.

He was responding to yesterday’s demonstration by a coalition of civil society groups who asked Buhari to either return from his London medical vacation or resign from office.

Shehu stated: “The demonstration is in the exercise of their freedom under the constitution, which guarantees their right to embark on peaceful protests. So long as they remain peaceful, we have no problem with them. What is democracy if citizens can’t peacefully demonstrate?

“On the second issue, demanding the President’s return, or resignation or certain explanations, I would say that they have over-stepped their bounds.

“The president has complied 100 percent with the constitution by handing over power to the Vice-President before proceeding on his vacation.  He has not breached any law or the constitution by staying away from office to take care of his health.

“Equally, there is nothing like a power vacuum in the country given the competence and general harmony with which the whole government is running.

“The need of the hour for this country is to rid it of corruption, reform and reinvigorate the economy and to fight crime and insurgency.

“The government is busy with the reconstruction and rehabilitation of infrastructure all over the country.  It is creating jobs for the unemployed.  It has set its sights on the larger picture of the country’s development; investing in rail and power projects and redeeming the country’s image from the mountains of corruption scandals that have marred it. We will not, therefore, be distracted by this or any other groups.”

Speaking with State House correspondents earlier in the day, Garba said the protest was baseless because Buhari handed over power to his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo and wrote the National Assembly.

“On the second issue, whether the president should resign or disclose or whatever, I think they are stepping outside the laws of this country. Anyone conversant with the constitution of this country will have noticed or seen that Mr President has complied 100 percent with the requirements of the constitution of this country.

“He has handed over power to the Vice President relying on the constitution and the Vice President is carrying out with the affairs of this country, undertaking activities of government in line with the constitution in a way that the president himself has given words of commendation.

“So, the president has not breached any law. What he has done is perfectly in line with the constitution of this country and people are looking for things to say, I think they should do their research very well”, the presidential spokesman said.

President Buhari departed for the United Kingdom on May 7 for follow-up consultations with his doctors.

Resume or resign

Protesters marched in the rain in Abuja with banners urging the president to resume work or resign.

The protesters were led by Charley Boy and some leaders of civil society organisations.

“Resume or resign, Nigerians say enough is enough,” one said, with others stating: “If president Buhari cannot return to Nigeria after 90 days, then he should resign and go home”, and “Buhari, where are you? Nigerians want full disclosure. What is wrong with our president?”

The peaceful march was organised by a coalition of civil society groups under the supervision of security agents.

Aisha Buhari returns to UK

 Meanwhile, the wife of the president, Aisha Buhari, has returmed to the United Kingdom to join her husband.

Mrs Buhari returned to Nigeria on Thursday from London and proceeded to Owerri, the capital of Imo State, where she attended the 2017 August meeting hosted by women in the state.

The Director of Information in the Office of the Wife of the President, Suleiman Haruna, also confirmed that Mrs Buhari returned to London on Sunday.

 Some of her staff hinted that the president’s wife went back to London in order to accompany her husband back home.

President Buhari departed for the United Kingdom on May 7 for follow-up consultations with his doctors.

The president had assured that he was making progress and would return to Nigeria to resume his duties as soon as his doctors advise.

Meanwhile, senior lawyers yesterday, reacting to calls for the president to resign said there is no constitution time limit for his return.

Speaking on yesterday’s protest, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) said the constitution is silent on how long the president can be away on medical vacation.

“As at the time the constitution was amended in 2010 it took cognizance of the president leaving the country without handing over hence the constitution was amended compelling the president to transmit a letter to the National Assembly. And once he does that, the Vice President shall automatically become the Acting President,” he said.

“If he does not transmit a letter after 21 days, the vice president shall automatically become the president, ditto for the states. But as to the duration the president can be absent, the constitution is silent.

“So it is therefore hoped that the ongoing review of the constitution will address that because you may have a situation where an elected president will be away for three and half years out of his four years tenure or even the entire four years tenure. It is a possibility.”

He however added that it was the members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) that could pass a resolution that the president can no longer discharge the functions of his office, adding that once it is done, a team of five medical practitioners will be constituted to examine the president’s medical condition. He said if the team finds that the president can no longer discharge the functions of his office, he shall be made to resign.

Also speaking, Mr. Yusuf Ali (SAN) said there is no provision in the constitution on any action if the president is absent for 90 days. He said the requirement is that “once he transmits the letter to the National Assembly, the country will have an Acting President.”

For his part, Abuja-based lawyer, Tawo Eja Tawo (SAN) said the office of the president is not vacant following the transmission of letter of vacation to the National Assembly.

“The only time the Constitution envisages 90 days is when the president and vice president are incapacitated. Then the Senate President would now act for 90 days and election will be conducted,” he said.

But Abeny Mohammed (SAN) said the Acting President does not wield full powers as he is being hampered in his functions, adding that he must seek clearance for whatever action he takes.

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