8 August 2017

Nigeria: No Power Vacuum in the Country, Presidency Insists

Photo: Premium Times
President Muhammadu Buhari.

The presidency has insisted President Muhammadu Buhari has not breached the constitution or any law by handing over power to his deputy in order to take adequate care of his health and as such, there is no vacuum in government.

It was reacting to protest in Abuja yesterday by a group known as Concerned Nigerians against the president's continued stay in the United Kingdom.

Our sister publication, LEADERSHIP Sunday, had trashed out the debate on the president's continued absence when it engaged legal experts in the country on insinuations that since Buhari clocked 90 days yesterday since he left the shores of the country for medical vacation on May 7 this year, he may be flouting the provisions the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Constitutional lawyers and members of the inner bar who reacted to the development declared categorically that there is no constitutional provision mandating President Muhammad Buhari to return to the country from his current medical vacation in the United Kingdom before the end of 90 days.

They told the paper exclusively that the president has not violated any constitutional provision or any other law of the land because the 1999 constitution (as amended) does not give a time limit for the president to resume office when on vacation as long as he has transmitted a letter to the National Assembly, informing it of his intention to proceed on vacation so that the vice president can temporarily take over power.

The presidency yesterday towed the same line of argument when it warned that such calls being made by the group or any other group was an assault on the constitution.

In a statement by the senior special assistant to the president on Media and publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, the presidency said the protesters have overstepped their bounds, even as it urged well-meaning members of the public to ignore the call for the president to resign.

Shehu said, "I wish to respond to media enquiries following demonstration by a few citizens this morning in Abuja. 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. Any such calls as being made by this or any other group represent an irrational assault on the constitution and should be ignored by well-meaning members of the public".

The presidential spokesman observed that what the country need at the moment is to rid it of corruption, reform and reinvigorate the economy and to fight crime and insurgency.

Shehu continued: "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".

President Buhari had been on medical vacation in the United Kingdom since May 7 and his wife, Aisha Buhari, yesterday went back to London to meet her husband.

She had returned to the country last Wednesday and proceeded to Imo State where she attended the 2017 August meeting hosted by women in the state.

A coalition of civil society groups along with Charles Oputa, popularly called Charly Boy, staged a protest in Abuja to demand the resignation of President Buhari.

The group, Concerned Nigerians, had converged at the Unity Fountain in Abuja to urge the President Buhari to either resume duty or resign.

Convener of the group, Deji Adeyanju, said the protest would continue today with a sit-out at the Unity Fountain until the president either returns or resigns.

"The sit-out will be daily, 9 am to 10 am", he said, while Charley Boy added that "our mumu don do".

Misinformation Cause Of Fresh Agitation In Niger Delta - Presidency

Meanwhile, as the peace building process between the federal government and leaders of the oil rich Niger Delta continues to build up, the presidency has attributed the recent threat by Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum (PANDEF) that it will withdraw from the peace accord to misinformation.

The special adviser to the president on Niger Delta Affairs and coordinator of the presidential amnesty programme, Brig Gen Paul Boroh (rtd), said the recent meeting between the government and leaders of the Niger Delta created another ground to further fortify the relationship between the government and the people of the region.

Briefing journalists at amnesty office in Abuja yesterday, Boroh revealed that the meeting gave the government the opportunity to review what it had spent in the region through its various intervention units like the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, NDDC and the presidential amnesty programme.

He said government also availed itself the opportunity created by the meeting to clear some grey areas that might have led to recent tension in the region due to what he described as misinformation.

"Of a truth, the Niger Delta region is peculiar for development. Unlike other region, the terrain, the vegetation and climate require a lot of time and resources to make a difference", Boroh stated.

The Amnesty Boss confirmed that from his experience in managing the presidential amnesty office, he could testify that the Buhari administration has injected a lot of funds into the region in terms of human capacity development and infrastructural development.

He added that what the government has come out to do in the area of massive job creation is to include youths in the region in the process of securing peace and development by engaging them in areas where they can fit into.

Noting that it is a strategic plan based on government's policy of inclusiveness, Boroh revealed that government will soon unveil the plans, which he described as community based security strategy that would see the youths in Niger Delta states engaged in pipeline surveillance and possibly be fully involved in the planned modular refineries.

He noted that the Petroleum Industry Bill, when fully passed into law and implemented, will encourage massive development in the region.

He however called on the people of the region to exercise patience to enable the government to plan adequately, so to avoid any form of mistake that might jeopardize the success of the plans it has for the region, adding that as such plans require time to come up with workable modalities.

He added that most youths in the region would be gainfully employed if the plans are implemented.

He said, while the federal government is doing so much just to make sure that the requirements of PANDEF is met, Nigerians should be positive in their thinking and utterances to promote good governance, peace and unity in the country.

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