The Presidency has assured Nigerians that President Muhammadu Buhari is still in charge of the country and has not abdicated his role as the commander-in- Chief.
It gave the assurance following the mixed reactions that trailed reports that the president failed to attend the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting for the second time.
Clarifying on the the development yesterday, the senior special assistant on media and publicity to the president, Mallam Garba Shehu, said there was no cause for alarm as the president was only taking things slowly as advised by his doctors.
Shehu said, “The Presidency hereby assures the good people of Nigeria that, despite the insinuations of a number of media organisations, there is no need for apprehension over the health of our President, Muhammadu Buhari.
“President Buhari’s absence at the Federal Executive Council meeting of Wednesday, April 26, was a last minute decision; otherwise, the cabinet and the public might have been alerted in advance.
“As eager as he is to be up and about, the president’s doctors have advised on his taking things slowly, as he fully recovers from the long period of treatment in the United Kingdom some weeks ago”
The presidential spokesman recalled that on his return to the country, President Buhari himself had informed Nigerians about the state of his health while he was in London.
He continued: “Full recovery is sometimes a slow process, requiring periods of rest and relaxation, as the Minister for Information, Lai Mohammed, intimated in his press briefing after the FEC meeting on Wednesday.
“Despite his lack of visibility, Nigerians should rest assured that President Buhari has not abdicated his role as Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria”.
Shehu said Buhari receives daily briefings on the activities of government and confers regularly with his deputy, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in his private residence where he has been spending majority of his time recently since he (president) also has a fully equipped office.
He further said, “God is the giver of life and health. We are grateful that He has seen our President through the worst period of his convalescence in London.
“We are thankful that the President has passed a number of benchmarks already. We pray that God continues to see him through this period of recuperation”.
President To Receive Budget Next Week- Senate Leader
Meanwhile, the Senate said yesterday that it will pass the N7.2 trillion 2017 budget and forward same to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent next week.
Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, disclosed this to State House Correspondents after a closed door meeting with the president at the presidential villa, Abuja.
The Senate leader also observed that the ordeal of chairman of the Senate appropriation committee, Danjuma Goje, following the raid of his house by the Police slowed down the process of the budget passage.
He said, “There is nothing to worry about. The National Assembly had intended to pass the budget in March but because some of the parameters that we had little or no control over, we couldn’t pass it in March. It was our desire and designs to pass it within this month of April but somehow something happened and all of you here know what happened.
“The residence of one of our colleagues and chairman Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Danjuma Goje, was raided by the Police after a whistle-blower gave information and it was reported that part of those documents that were taken were part of the budget papers were also included.
“And other things that happened, essentially the trauma that the chairman had to go through, affected the process of budgeting that we had been trying to do”.
Lawan pointed out that when the upper chamber went on Easter break, members of the National Assembly committee on Appropriation did not go on break, all in a bid to make the budget ready for passage.
He said, “They stayed back because that was the arrangement. By the time we returned, that was Tuesday, they should have lay down the report on the budget but unfortunately that wasn’t possible because of what happened but the good news is that we are doing everything possible to ensure that we catch up the lost time.
“I am thinking that by next week, by the grace of God, we should be able to finish our own work and pass the budget to Mr president to sign”.
Asked about his mission to the State House, Lawan said he came to interact with the president, being the official link between Buhari and the Senate.
He explained that being the Leader of the Senate, his mandate included presenting executive bills and lobby on behalf of his colleagues for their passage.
He said, “In a democracy like ours, presidential system of government, when we talk of lobby, lobby is such an extensive work in the sense that it is not what you narrowly define it to be.
“In Nigeria, most often, when we say lobby, people narrow it and limit it to be giving somebody money to buy his conscience to do something for you. But in the United States of America, after which we have decided to design and shape our democracy here, it is to talk and engage continuously; talk with some people who have some mandates and some jurisdictions on some issues.
“Therefore, what l meant was that there should be continuous engagements; continuous and sustained interactions between the president and the legislature especially at the level we are. And l know clearly that there is independence of each arm but l also know equally well that there is so much inter-dependence between the two arms and even among the three arms of government in Nigeria. Therefore, we need to always close and narrow the gap and that is what l mean.
“My presence here is part of that engagement because even as legislators, we lobby. When we have our bills, we lobby our colleagues. We go to their houses. We send some write-ups to explain the necessity of that bill. We move from one seat to the next, talking to our colleagues. So, there is nothing wrong and l believe it is something we need to cultivate as a culture in this democracy”.
Police Return Budget Documents, Other Items To Goje
Meanwhile, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang yesterday disclosed that the items carted away by the Nigeria Police penultimate Thursday from Senator Danjuma Goje’s house have been returned to him.
They include files and computer laptops containing 2017 Budget documents.
It was reported yesterday that the passage of the 2017 budget had been out on hold due to last week’s raid by officers of the Nigeria Police of the Abuja home of Goje, who incidentally is the chairman of the Senate committee on appropriation.
Speaking at plenary Wednesday for the first tine since the incident, Goje said the policemen carted away his personal laptop and critical files relating to the budget from his study.
The Police raided Goje’s Asokoro home on April 20, during which he said 18 files, including the sum of N18 million, $19,000 and 4,000 Saudi Riyals were carted away.
Goje, who raised a point of order, said the appropriation committee had planned to lay the budget on Tuesday for Senate’s passage yesterday.
“I want to apologise to my colleagues that we could not keep to the timetable you gave us to lay the budget yesterday (Tuesday) and to get it passed today (Wednesday). It is not our own fault, it is the fault of the Police because the Police interfered with the whole budget process”, he said.
But in a press release signed by Enang and titled, ‘Resolution of Issues Re: Nigeria Police Force & Senator Danjuma Goje’, the Presidency said it appreciated the enormous work the Senate and the House of Representatives have put in to ensure timely passage of the 2017 Appropriation Bill.
The minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, yesterday implored information managers of the government to remain focused in carrying out their duties, despite efforts by naysayers to distract and intimidate them.
Enang stated: “Further to the visit of the Nigeria Police Force to the residence of His Excellency, Senator Danjuma Goje, CON, in the course of the routine duties wherefore certain items were taken by the Police, and issues subsequently arising, I am to inform all that the items taken in the course of routine police duties have been returned to the Distinguished Senator at his house by the Nigeria Police.
“Further to state that all other issues relating to the subject matter are being addressed with a view to positive resolution.
“Meanwhile, we sincerely appreciate the Senate and the House of Representatives for the enormous work that they have put in to ensure timely passage of the 2017 Appropriation Bill”.