On Sunday night, President Muhammadu Buhari proceeded on medical vacation, leaving Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to take charge in acting capacity. JONATHAN NDA – ISAIAH reports that there are pending issues which require the urgent attention of the acting president.
For the second time this year, President Muhammadu Buhari has embarked on a medical vacation. Unlike the first one, no definite time for his return as the presidency has said his doctors in London will determine his length of stay abroad.
Buhari did not leave the country without filling the vacuum created by his absence. He officially handed over to his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, to hold forte in acting capacity. As the acting president resumes, analysts say there are issues that require urgent attentions which he needs to tackle in the next one month.
Call them banana peels or booby traps, you may not be farther from the truth. Some pending matters of state Osinbajo is left to grapple with are such that will court controversy because of the intricacies surrounding them.
Probe Panel Committee
The committee set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate allegations of financial impropriety against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ayo Oke was scheduled to submit its report on Monday. However, the president proceeded on his medical vacation on Sunday night.
Oke was suspended by Buhari and is being investigated over his claim that the huge sum of money belonged to the NIA. The committee was tasked to investigate “how and by whose or which authority the funds were made available to NIA, and to establish whether or not there has been a breach of the law or security procedure in obtaining custody and use of the funds”.
Also, President Buhari ordered an investigation into the allegations of violations of law and due process made against SGF Lawal, in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE). This was after the president had directed the suspension of the SGF from office pending the outcome of the investigations.
It wass not clear whether Osinbajo submitted the report to the president on Sunday night before he embarked on his medical trip.
There are already divergent views on the implementation of the report. Some analysts argue that the Vice President cannot be the judge in a matter investigated by a panel he headed. The thinking is that only President Buhari can implement the recommendations of the report. But since no date was set for the president’s return, some Nigerians believe the recommendations of the reports may just die a natural death.
On the other hand, some have expressed the view that the president may have given Osinbajo the go ahead to take any decision on the report. The next 10 days will determine if the acting president had received instructions on the case.
Anytime from now, the National Assembly will pass the 2017 budget. As acting president, Osinbajo is well within his limits to decide on signing the budget or not. Last year, budget padding allegations had trailed the the fiscal appropriation process, leading to President Buhari withholding his assent. Keen observers say they are praying that a similar scenario don’t play out again this year. The fear is that in the event where suspicious items are found to have been smuggled into the budget again, the acting president may not have clout to tow the hardline posture of his boss by refusing to sign the budget negotiate with the National Assembly to reach a win- win situation?
Sources in the presidency last year said President Buhari would reshuffle his cabinet on May 29 this year. Many Nigerians have called for a cabinet reshuffle on the ground that the cabinet as presently constituted cannot take Nigeria to the promised land.
Towards the end of last year, the calls grew louder, as it was getting clearer by the day that most of the ministers were clearly out of their depth. LEADERSHIP gathered that the president was supposed to announce a cabinet reshuffle on his May 29 broadcast. But his medical vacation may have put that plan on hold as the president may not return before May 29.
Although, the acting president has the power to reshuffle the cabinet, the thinking is that for political expediency, he may not even attempt it because it may be misinterpreted to mean that Osinbajo is being too ambitious.
The president can even direct Osinbajo on which of the ministers to sack or redeploy but it remains to be seen if the acting president can summon enough political will to act on it.
Confirmation Of Magu
Osinbajo had last month foreclosed the resending of the name of the Ibrahim Magu to the Senate for confirmation as substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). In an interview with journalists, he said, “I fully agree with Falana that there was no need in the first place to have presented Mr. Magu for confirmation.”
The Vice President said although the EFCC Act requires that an EFCC chairman be confirmed by the Senate, part of section 171 of the constitution, which is superior to the act, does not mandate such Senate confirmation.
“The president looked at what Magu said and what the DSS wrote and he said, ‘I am satisfied with what Magu”, he added. Osinbajo’s position angered the lawmakers who considered it as an affront on the legislature.
It remains to be seen if the acting president would appoint Magu as the substantive chairman of the EFCC without going to the Senate or send Magu’s name again or more still, send another person’s name.