Fidelis Soriwei, Leke Baiyewu and Olaleye Aluko
The Senate on Tuesday confirmed the receipt of a letter from President Muhammadu Buhari, informing the legislature of his intention to extend his medical vacation in the United Kingdom.
The upper chamber of the National Assembly however failed to provide details of the letter.
Earlier on Sunday, the Presidency had announced that Buhari’s 10-day vacation to the UK had been extended.
The extension was contained in a three-paragraph statement made available to journalists by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina.
Adesina said the extension was necessary to allow the President complete a series of tests recommended by his doctors and get the results before he could return to Nigeria.
Although he said Buhari had already dispatched a letter to the National Assembly on the extension, he did not specify the duration of the extension.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Sabi Abdullahi, while briefing journalists on the letter, said, “ …You will recall that we received, before we suspended plenary, a letter from Mr. President which was dated 18th January, 2017, where he informed the distinguished senators that he was proceeding on his vacation for 10 days and this is to meet the constitutional provisions…
“In this second letter, he is informing the Senate that he is extending his vacation because in the cause of that routine medical check-up, there were still some tests his doctors still want to run further and so, because of that, he is extending his stay. This is a constitutional provision and let me say it is within his prerogative to do so and we are in receipt of that letter accordingly.”
The spokesman said the Senate was waiting for the safe return of the President.
When asked if the date of Buhari’s return was stated in the letter or it was indefinite, Abdullahi stated that the letter did not say indefinite “because indefinite is taking the matter out of context.”
He added, “But, then, he said he’s extending (his vacation); that is, beyond the 10 days he had asked for and because the tests that are going to be run are not in his hands (to be determined by him) – it is in the hands of the doctors – he is not giving us a date. But, definitely, he’s extending (his vacation) and I think that is what is important.”
When asked for how many days the legislature would permit the President to remain on vacation, the Senate’s spokesperson said he was not sure if the constitution had a specific duration for a President’s absence from duty.
Abdullahi was also asked whether it was compulsory for the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to reconvene the lawmakers and read the content of the letter at the plenary on the floor of the chamber.
Abdullahi said, “I am here to speak on behalf of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We are in receipt of that letter and we are telling you because Nigerians have been asking. Whatever is reported through whatever medium is not my own business. Our business is what we do here and that is what I know. Now that we have the letter, I am here to say we have the letter and that is what is important.”
When asked to react to the opinion of a lawyer that Buhari’s letter remained invalid until it had been read to the lawmakers, the Senate spokesperson stated that the lawyer was not a senator.
Abdullahi also could not be categorical on the date the letter was received by Saraki.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, had, penultimate week, in an interview with CNBC Africa, monitored in Abuja insisted that Buhari was not ill.
Adesina had insisted that Buhari was only in London on vacation and was not in any hospital.
Meanwhile, Adesina has said the circumstances surrounding the health status of President Muhammadu Buhari could not be compared with what obtained with the late President Umar Yar’Adua in 2009.
Adesina said this on Tuesday in an interview with BBC Focus on Africa Today, monitored by one of our correspondents, while reacting to a question that the government had been silent on updates on the President’s health.
The SA had been asked, “The Action Congress in 2009 renewed its call on the Federal Government to give Nigerians a daily update on the health of President Umaru Yar’Adua to stem the growing rumours surrounding his state of health. Now, why are you guys not doing the same thing that was suggested eight years ago?”
Adesina said, “The circumstances are not exactly the same. I think we are talking about two ‘incommensurates’ here. Because with President Yar’Aduua in 2009, one, he left the country, nobody knew where he was going. With President Buhari, we knew where he was going, with President Yar’Adua, we didn’t know when he was coming back, with President Buhari, a date was given.
“President Yar’Adua left without transmitting power to the Vice-President, President Buhari didn’t leave until he had transferred power to his deputy, the Vice-President who is now the deputy president. So, you can see that the two circumstances are not exactly the same.”