Sunday, June 28, 2020 4:55 pm
The Presidency on Sunday defended the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to allow the use of the Council Chamber of Aso Rock presidential villa for a meeting of the National Executive Committee of the ruling All Progressives Congress.
Criticisms have trailed the holding of APC NEC at the Council Chamber last Thursday.
The Chamber is usually used for the meeting of the Federal Executive Council, National Economic Council, hosting of visitors to the President and similar functions.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and some public commentators have condemned the use of the Chamber for partisan political activity, which according to them is the first instance of such use of the facility since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999.
But in a push back against the criticisms, the Presidency on Sunday said the criticisms were due to “due to lack of understanding.”
Garba Shehu, a spokesperson to President Buhari in a statement said there is no law that barred the President is barred from holding meetings in certain sections of the vast Presidential Villa.
“Since the President lives in the Villa, no one can, legally speaking, choose or dictate to him where he can sit to hold meetings. So, what is wrong in the President presenting himself before a camera and a TV screen in a digital conference at a given location within the Villa?,” Shehu said.
But he further argued that the meeting was not convened at the Council Chamber as it was “virtual” not a “physical meeting.”
According to him, the use of the presidential villa for the meeting was dictated by the need to observe the COVID-19 protocol which forbids public gathering.
“Why was it a virtual meeting? The idea was to observe social distancing in view of health concerns. Knowing how small the conference hall of the party is, social distancing would only have been observed in the breach,” he said.
“President Buhari was billed to address the meeting from his office (just any of his offices) and chose the Council Chamber where the digital facilities are located, and other members, including the bulk of National Executive Committee members, state party leaders and members of the National Assembly were all linked using video conference calls. You saw them all on TV.
“Yes, it is true that Governors and leaders of the National Assembly joined the President from the Chamber from where he spoke. But the larger body of the members in attendance were all connected via video calls.
“Do not forget that these are not the normal times in view of the COVID-19 circumstances in which we have found ourselves. President Buhari placed health and safety above courtesy to the party by not going to its headquarters.
“In the end, a wise thing had been done because the President wants to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus disease,” Shehu concluded.