Senator Mao Ohuabunwa on Tuesday, raised an objection to the content of the letter sent to the senate by President Buhari regarding his indefinite medical follow-up in the UK. President Buhari’s letter was read on the floor of the senate by Senate president Bukola Saraki. Ohuabunwa argued that the letter did not transfer power to Osinbajo as it did not refer to him as the Acting President of Nigeria.
President Buhari who left for his medical follow-up in the UK on Sunday May 7th, had in the letter to the senate, stated that he was handing over to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who will 2coordinate the activities of the government”
When the letter was read on the floor of the senate, Senator Ohuabunwa pointed out that President Buhari’s letter did not state that Osinbajo would preside over the country as Acting President. Ohabunwa pointed out that it is breech of the constitution for the letter to state that Osinbajo would coordinate the affairs of the government. According to Ohabunwa, the Nigerian constitution recognizes an acting president and not a “coordinator of the affairs of government”. Ohabunwa said the transfer of power to Osinbajo was not clearly stated in the letter.
“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 that he is unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them the written declaration to the contrary, such function shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President. 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 (on transfer of power) should be unambiguous and very clear.
So, I am saying that this letter really does not convey anything because ‘coordinating’ has no space or any place in our Constitution. We have been having letters like this in which he will tell us who is the acting president and we will 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 maybe it should be sent back.” he said.
Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, however countered Ohuabunwa’s argument saying President Buhari had fulfilled the provisions of Section 145 of the Constitution by transmitting the letter.
“Let me say that the point of order raised by my colleague and the explanation that subsequently followed should not 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 President of the Senate and I will read Section 145. 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.”
Ruling on the debate, the senate president, Bukola Saraki, dismissed Ohuabunwa’s argument and ruled him out of order.
“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 (Section 145) and there is no ambiguity in the Constitution. So, I don’t think there is any issue there. Let me first rule you out of order, Senator Mao.” he said.