Disagreement Over Buhari's Letter To Senate

Senate on Tuesday confirmed receipt of President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter informing them of his trip to the United Kingdom on a “medical follow-up’’.

Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, read the letter, dated May 5, 2017, at plenary and announced that the way it was communicated to the senate was in accordance with Section 145(1) of the 1999 Constitution.

The letter read thus: “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.’’

Sen. Mao Ohuabunwa (PDP-Abia) while reacting to the letter in the chamber, expressed concern that the letter was not explicit on whether or not the Vice President would work in an acting capacity while the president was away.

The lawmaker, who cited Order 43, stated that the letter only indicated that the vice president would “coordinate the government,’’ adding that the statement was not in accordance with the Constitution.

He called on the senate to disregard the letter in view of the inconsistency.

“I don’t think that 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 the letter should be unambiguous and very clear.

“So, I am saying that this letter really does not convey anything because coordinating has no space in any place in our Constitution.

“We have been having letters like this and we know who to deal with as a Senate.

“This is the highest legislative body of any country and if you are sending us a letter, it should be direct and unambiguous.

“So, I am saying that this letter is not right and maybe, should be sent back,’’ he said.

Deputy Leader of the Senate, Bala Ibn Na’Allah, in his contribution disagreed with Senator Mao, saying that the letter was clear on the transmission of power from the President to the Vice President.

His words: “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.

“I still rely on the first paragraph of that letter which the president wrote to this Senate and read by the President of the Senate, which quoted Section 145 of the Constitution.

“Any other word in this letter or indeed anywhere else is irrelevant. I, therefore, feel that the president has done what the Constitution requires him to do.

“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.’’

President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, in his remark, ruled Ohuabunwa out of order, saying that “in view of the fact that the letter quoted Section 145(1) of the Constitution which stipulated that the Vice President would work as Acting President, the word `coordinate’ should be disregarded.

“I think it is a very clear issue and what should be guided by is the Constitution and I think that it is clear.

“The letter has referred to the Constitution and there’s no ambiguity in the Constitution. So, I don’t think there’s any issue there. Let me rule you out if order, Senator Mao.’’

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