Buhari’s letter on Osinbajo sparks confusion

Buhari (left) at a meeting with Osinbajo before his departure to London

There was confusion in the Senate on Tuesday over the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to explicitly indicate that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo will “act” as President in his absence in the letter he wrote to inform the lawmakers of his medical trip to the United Kingdom.

After the letter was read by Senate President Bukola Saraki, a  senator observed that there was no reference to Osinbajo as the ‘Acting President’ in it.

Rather, the President stated in the letter that the Vice President would be coordinating the activities government in his absence.

‎The letter read at plenary by the Senate states,  “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.‎”

Immediately the Senate President finished reading, Senator Mao Ohabunwa,  raised a Point of Order, positing that there is no provision in the constitution for coordinating Vice President but Acting President.

He, therefore, added that the content of the letter is ambiguous and not explicit enough.

But in his reaction, Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan said the observation was not necessary as the constitutional provision cited in the letter has already taken care of the lacunae if there is any.

“Mr President, let me say that the point of order raised by my colleague and the explanation that subsequently follows shouldn’t have been and my reasons are simple.

“I still rely on the first paragraph of that letter which Mr President wrote to this senate and read by the president of the Senate and I will read section (145) reads whenever the President transmits to the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration but he is proceeding on vacation…

“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,”‎ Senate Leader said.

While ruling on the matter, Senate President Bukola Saraki, supported the argument of Lawan, saying “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.”

The Senate President subsequently ruled Ohabunwa out of order.