Barely 24 hours after the Senate criticized the use of the word ‘coordinating’ by President Muhammadu Buhari to refer to Prof. Yemi Osinbajo taking charge of governance while he (Buhari) goes on medical vacation abroad, Information Minster Alhaji Lai Mohammed has confirmed that Osinbajo is fully in charge of the country’s affairs as the Acting President.
The Senate had on Tuesday turned down the request by Buhari that Osinbajo should operate as Coordinating Vice President while he is away in London for medical check-up.
The Upper House insisted that Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) was very clear on the status of the Vice President once the President transmits to the National Assembly that he would be unable to perform the functions of his office for any reason.
Consequently, the Senate affirmed Osinbajo as Acting President and overruled Buhari on the matter.
But reacting to the development on Wednesday after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC), Lai Mohammed described the uproar in the Senate over Buhari’s letter as a “needless distraction.”
Buhari’s letter stated: “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.”
The wording in the letter was remarkably different from his previous letters in similar circumstances in which he expressly stated that Osinbajo would be Acting President in his stead.
The controversy over this second letter started when it was read out in the Senate on Tuesday but Senate President Bukola Saraki overruled any contrary interpretation, declaring that Osinbajo is Acting President and not coordinator of government activities as insinuated.
Asked by State House correspondents to clear the air over the matter on Wednesday, after the Council meeting which Osinbajo chaired, Mohammed said that the controversy was unnecessary.
He stressed that the import of the section of the Constitution which was cited in the letter was clear enough to convey the message that “Osinbajo is in charge while Buhari is away.”
According to Mohammed, ”It is a needless controversy; it’s just a distraction. The operative sentence is that ‘in compliance of Section 145, sub-section (1)’. So, any other word used is not relevant.”