Holding the Fort: The Diary of Yemi Osinbajo

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Combining the work of the president with that of the vice president is a tough job, but Yemi Osinbajo has shown that he is a capable of wearing the two caps. Tobi Soniyi, in Abuja, writes

Following his appointment as Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has to combine his own constitutional duties with that of the president since he is not allowed to appoint an acting vice president Those close to him say combining the two roles is challenging but so far so good, he has proven himself to be more than capable.

Federal Executive Council Meetings
The acting president has presided at four Federal Executive Council meetings during which important decisions were taken. On February 15, he presided over the longest FEC meeting in recent years. The meeting, which lasted till about 6pm, was the longest in the history of this administration. The meeting discussed the 2017 budget extensively and also approved contracts for the construction of 12 roads across the country.

Visits to Oil Producing States
As part of plans to consolidate the prevailing truce between agitators and government, Osinbajo has continued to visit states in the Niger Delta to consult with leaders of thought in the states. He has been to Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta and Imo states. Twice he proposed to visit Ondo State but was unable to do so due to bad weather. The fact that the truce has continued to hold is an indication that the acting president’s trips to these states are not in vain.

Assent to Seven Bills
The power to sign Bills into Acts is exclusively reserved for the president. While acting as president, Osinbajo has given his assent to seven bills passed by the National Assembly. He has also declined to give assent to another four bills. The bills favoured by the acting president are: Oaths (Amendment) Act, 2017, Defence Space Administration Act, 2017, Veterinary Surgeons (Amendment) Act, 2017, and the National Film and Video Censors Board (Amendment) Act, 2017.
Others are‎ Pension Rights of Judges (Amendment) Act, 2017, Nigeria Institute of Soil Science (Establishment, etc.) Act, 2017, and the Mortgage Institutions (Amendment) Act, 2016.

Consultation with National Assembly Leadership
In order to ensure that the 2017 Appropriation Bill does not suffer inordinate delay, Osinbajo, in his capacity as acting president, has met severally with the senate president, Dr Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.

Meeting with Private Sector Operators
Acting as president when the economy is in recession implies that Osinbajo has plenty explanation to make. One of the people demanding explanation is the private sector. This explains why he is frequently meeting with the operators of the private sector. One of such meetings was the Consultative Forum on Economic Growth and Recovery Plan, held at the Old Banquet Hall of the State House.

At the meeting, the acting president spoke frankly. He admitted that the economy was in deep crisis but said the government was determined to better the lot of the citizenry.
Addressing the private sector operators, he said, “I am pleased to welcome you, our partners in the private sector, to this very important consultation on the ERGP. We are in a serious economic situation and the president was particularly concerned about the lot of the common man.”

International Relations
Osinbajo has also been very active at the international scene. He attended the inauguration of Gambia’s new president, Adama Barrow, in Banjul.
On Monday, January 23, the acting president received a special envoy from President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Osinbajo had also received Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, Ms. Ertharin Cousin, at the State House, Abuja.

Last Wednesday, Osinbajo received the Commander of the US-Africa Command, General Thomas D. Waldhauser, and the American Ambassador to Nigeria, Honourable W. Stuart Symington. While acknowledging the support received from the United States in the fight against terrorism, the acting president used the occasion to plead for more help from America.

Holding His Own Turf
While performing the duties demanded of him as acting president, it is also Osinbajo’s responsibility to preside over the meetings of the National Economic Council, which is composed by all the 36 state governors, the Federal Capital Territory minister, and Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

On Thursday, February 16, Osinbajo presided at the 74th NEC meeting of the present administration. At the meeting, the governors expressed concern at the rate the Naira was losing value and demanded immediate review of the foreign exchange policy by the CBN.

As the vice president, Osinbajo is also the chairman of Presidential Enabling Business Environment Secretariat. The council has the responsibility for identifying and removing all impediments that make doing businesses in Nigeria a nightmare. Last week, the council held a meeting, which was attended by the senate president and the speaker of the House of Representatives.

Among other decisions, the council appealed to the National Assembly to, within 60 days, pass some bills that the council believed would make doing businesses in the country a lot easier. Ultimately, the council hopes to ease the business environment and improve Nigeria’s rankings on the World Bank Doing Business Index.

Buhari’s Absence
President Muhammadu Buhari left Nigeria for London on January 19. In a statement announcing the president’s decision to go abroad on vacation, his spokesman, Femi Adesina, said the president would resume work on February 6. Adesina had said, “During the vacation, the president will also undergo routine medical check-ups. “In line with Section 145 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the President of the Senate, and Speaker, House of Representatives, have been duly communicated.

“While away, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, will perform the functions of the Office of the President.”
However, on February 5, Adesina issued another statement saying that the president had extended his stay indefinitely to enable him complete a cycle of tests.