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Senate Affirms Osinbajo As Acting President



By Ahuraka Isah, Kauthar Anumba-Khaleel and Adebiyi Adedapo, Abuja
The Senate yesterday affirmed that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is the acting president of Nigeria pending the return of President Muhammadu Buhari from his medical trip to London.
This followed deliberation on a letter transmitted to both the Red Chamber and the House of Representatives by President Muhammadu Buhari, informing them of his trip to London for medical follow-up.
After reading the letter dated May 5, 2017 during the plenary, President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, noted that its transmission to the Senate was in accordance with Section 145(1) of the 1999 Constitution.
The content of the letter sparked up debate on the floor of the Red Chamber, with some lawmakers raising objection to the tone of the letter which described Osinbajo as coordinator of activities of government.
In his letter separately addressed to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, on the status of the vice president in his absence, Buhari said Osinbajo will be coordinating activities of government as vice president.
The president wrote: “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”.
But Senator Mao Ohaunbuwa (PDP Abia North) raised a point of order, faulting Buhari’s letter for not categorically designating the vice president as acting president in his absence as stated in section 145 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
He said the status of coordinator of economic activities does not exist in the section of the constitution and therefore should not have come up in the president’s letter.
Urging the Senate to reject the letter, Ohaunbuwa said, “Mr. President, I don’t think 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 any letter should be unambiguous and very clear.
“So, I am saying that this letter really does not convey anything because coordinating has no space on any place in our constitution. We have been having letters like this before where the status of acting president is clearly stated for the vice president 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, unambiguous. So, I am saying that this letter for me is not right and, may be, should be sent back”.
But Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, quickly countered Ohaunbuwa, saying that the wordings used in the president’s letter should be ignored and the intention accepted based on the provisions of section 145 of the constitution, which the letter is predicated on.
Lawan said, “Mr. President, let me say that the point of order raised by my colleague and the explanation that subsequently followed 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) which reads ‘Whenever the President transmits to the president of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or otherwise that he is unable to discharge the functions of his office ……such functions shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.
“So, 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”.
The Senate president concurred to Lawan’s submission and consequently ruled Ohuabunwa out of order by declaring thus: “I think it is a very clear issue and what we 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 is any issue there. I hereby rule Senator Ohuabunwa out of order”.
Also yesterday, Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara read the letter from President Muhammadu Buhari, informing the House of his medical trip and that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo will act in his behalf.
It would be recalled that president Buhari on January 19, 2017 had written a similar letter to the National Assembly seeking to transmit power to the vice president before embarking on a medical trip.

NASS Increases 2017 Budget By N143bn
Meanwhile, the National Assembly has increased the 2017 budget by N143bn, bringing it to over N7.441 trillion from N7.298 trillion earlier presented to it by President Muhammadu Buhari on December 14, 2016.
This is even as the Senate and the Green Chamber yesterday laid the harmonised reports of the 2017 appropriation bill by their respective committees on appropriation, with a promise that they will pass the budget tomorrow.
Submitting the report before the plenary yesterday, the chairman of the House committee on appropriation, Hon. Mustapha Bala Dawaki, said the increase of the budget by N143bn was arrived at  after thorough work on the document by his committee and other committees of the House.
According to the report, 2,174,496,775,867 is being proposed as contribution to the development fund for capital expenditure (exclusive of capital expenditure in Statutory Transfers) as against N2.24 trillion proposed by the executive for capital expenditure, including capital in Statutory Transfers.
A slight increase was also made to the N2,98 trillion initially proposed as recurrent (non-debt) expenditure as the committee allocated 2,990,920,033,435 for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure.
It further proposed 434,412,950,249 for statutory transfers as against N419.02b and 1,841,345,727,206 for debt service as against N1.66 trillion.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the National Assembly increased its budget from N120 billion to N150 billion. The increase, according to a lawmaker who pleaded anonymity, is to enable it pay off debts.

…Passes Appropriation Bill Tomorrow
Meanwhile, the Senate said yesterday that the 2017 Budget will be passed tomorrow.
This was after the joint committee on appropriation and finance appropriation bill 2017 of the Red Chamber laid the budget report before the plenary.
Senate resolution followed a motion moved by the Senate appropriation committee chairman, Senator Danjuma Goje (APC, Gombe Central) and seconded by Senator Hope Uzodima (PDP, Imo West).
“I want to move that Senate do receive the report of senate Joint Committee on Appropriation and Finance Appropriation Bill, 2017”, Goje said.
In his remark, Senate President Bukola Saraki commended the appropriation committee, saying this was the first time a budget report was being laid alongside its details that could ease its passage.
“We shall make hard copies to Senators tomorrow (today) and soft copies to them today (yesterday) for them to go through and consequently pass the budget on Thursday”, Saraki said.
Senate had last week Thursday said that its appropriation committee will lay the 2017 budget of N7.298trillion on Tuesday (yesterday) and consequently passed it into law on before the end of this week.
The implementation date for the 2016 budget expired last Friday, as it was signed into law on May 5 last year.
Senate resolution last Thursday followed the stepping down for the laying of report of the joint committee on appropriation and finance on the appropriation bill 2017





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