The letter, written by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly, to inform the lawmakers of his medical leave and to transmit power to his deputy, is generating controversy.
Buhari had stated that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo would coordinate the affairs of the nation while he was away instead of writing that Osinbajo would act as the President.
Senate President Bukola Saraki, at the plenary on Tuesday, read the letter from Buhari, informing the legislature of his medical vacation in the United Kingdom.
Buhari said his stay in the UK would be determined by his doctors.
While the President said in the letter that Osinbajo would “coordinate” the governance of the country during his absence, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa criticised the letter as not naming Osinbajo as Acting President and should be disregarded.
Three Senior Advocates in Nigeria – Prof. Taiwo Osipitan, Femi Falana and Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe – however, explained that the word used by Buhari was unimportant even though strange to the constitution of the country.
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 Ohuabunwa, while raising a point of order, argued that the letter was not clear on the transfer of power from Buhari to Osinbajo.
He said, “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 this letter really does not convey anything because ‘coordinating’ has no space or any place in our Constitution.”
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 stated, “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.
“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, ruled Ohuabunwa out of order.
Following the controversy generated by the use of ‘coordinating’ President employed by Buhari to describe the transmission of power to Osinbajo, the Presidency said it had nothing to add to the letter.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Mr. Ita Enang, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents.
Enang stated, “Therefore, I don’t have anything to add to what is written in the letter. I also have nothing to add to the provisions of the Constitution that were referred to in that letter.”