Buhari No 'coordinator' in our constitution – Senate tells President

Senator Mao Ohuanbunwa criticised the use of what he described as suspicious ambiguity in the letter.

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President Muhammadu Buhari play

President Muhammadu Buhari

(Sunday Aghaeze)
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The Nigerian Senate has over-ruled a statement by President Buhari in a letter, stating that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo will 'coordinate' government activities in his absence.

Buhari, in line with the requirements of the constitution, wrote the Senate saying  “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.”

According to section 145 of the constitution, “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 otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the vice president as acting president.”

In a swift reaction, during a debate on the letter sent to it by the President, some Senators condemned the use of the word ‘coordinate.’

According to The Guardian, Senator Mao Ohuanbunwa criticised the use of what he described as suspicious ambiguity in the letter.

He said “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 or any place in our constitution. We have been having letters like this, you tell us who is the acting 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 maybe should be sent back.”

Another lawmaker, Senator Olorunimbe Mamora also said that the word coordinator is alien to Nigeria’s constitution.

“There is no need to create unnecessary ambiguity. The constitution is clear. It makes no provision for coordinating president but acting, we should leave it at that,” he added.

ALSO READ: Nigerians kick as President names Osinbajo 'coordinator' of govt NOT Acting President

In his ruling, the Senate President said “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 Senators also resolved to fully adopt the provisions of the section 145 of the constitution that stipulates actions to be taken when the President goes on vacation.

The Upper Chambers also declared that Osinbajo acts as the President, pending the return of President Buhari.

Buhari, on Sunday, May 7, 2017, travelled to London for an extensive medical check-up.

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