â€¢ Osinbajo panel concludes work, submits report Monday
â€¢ Stop exploiting presidentâ€™s health, another northern group warns Yoruba leaders
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna
The federal government has said that President Muhammadu Buhari will continue to rest until he has fully recovered and is fit to work based on his doctorâ€™s advice.
Making this remark on Wednesday while briefing journalists at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed, said Buhari was not in the meeting because he chose to rest.
He dismissed inquiries by State House correspondents seeking to know if the presidentâ€™s health had deteriorated to the extent that he was being fed.
Mohammed whose response to the question was â€œbunkumâ€, argued that it was better for the president to rest in compliance with his doctorâ€™s advice, insisting that it was in his interest to get adequate rest until heâ€™s fit to work instead of forcing himself to work.
â€œThe answer to your first question is absolute bunkum. It is absolutely untrue that he is being fed. He was in the office yesterday as you all reported.
â€œAnd if the doctors say he should take a rest, because they think heâ€™ll recover faster, then he ought to rest rather than forcing himself to work when he is not fit to work.
â€œAll heâ€™s doing is following the doctorâ€™s advice. Mr. President himself told the nation he had never been this sick and he is going to take it easy. He said it from day one when he came back from the United Kingdom.
â€œSo, whatever is happening today is not any strange development. It is exactly what he said: that heâ€™s been advised to take it easy by his doctors and that he will soon also go back for further treatment.
â€œSo, I donâ€™t think itâ€™s anything that is out of the place from what he said. He has been quite transparent and upfront in the matter concerning his health,â€ Mohammed said.
Buhari was absent from the weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday for the record third time, thus raising speculations that his health might have deteriorated.
The president was first absent from the weekly meeting on April 12, with Mohammed saying that he had deliberately stayed away from the meeting because the agenda was light, hence his decision to yield the floor to his deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to preside over the dayâ€™s meeting.
But the following week, the meeting was completely cancelled. This time, the excuse given was that the Easter break had prevented the staff of the council chamber secretariat from circulating memos for the meeting to ministers.
Again, the president did not show up on April 26, during which Mohammed said Buhari had asked the vice-president to preside over the meeting having informed the council that he would be attending to matters of state from home.
Mohammed on Wednesday also thanked Nigerians whom he said had been concerned and sympathetic about Buhariâ€™s health.
â€œWe want to take this opportunity to thank Nigerians who have expressed a lot of concern and sympathy, and who have been praying for him.
â€œLike weâ€™ve always said, Mr. President will stick to his doctorâ€™s advice so that he can recover quickly. We thank all of them for their concern. I think it shows how concerned Nigerians are about the health of the president. And all their suggestions are being taken on board,â€ he added.
Mohammed, however, said the presidentâ€™s health notwithstanding, the government would mark its second year in office on May 29, claiming that since inception, the government has saved $100 million in foreign exchange and another N60 billion in budgetary provisions.
He also submitted that in the last two years, the government had addressed fundamental issues on the economy, fought insecurity and corruption and placed an emphasis on infrastructure development.
â€œNot that alone, we have been able to revive 11 food blending plants. Before now, only five blending plants were working at 10 per cent capacity, and we saved about $100 million in foreign exchange and about N60 billion in budgetary provisions.
â€œIn the area of power, we have signed 13 power purchase agreements with 13 solar companies. And that is going to add at least more electricity to the national grid, among others.
â€œSo, we have a good story to tell Nigerians and I think that is what they want to hear,â€ Mohammed said.
A presidency also informed THISDAY that Buhari’s doctors have counselled the president to rest as much as possible and to avoid any activity that might cause him stress in any shape of form, adding that by resting more often, the president stands a good chance of a making quick and full recovery.
Meanwhile, the presidential committee probing allegations of financial impropriety against the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal, as well as the claim of ownership of N13.3 billion discovered in an apartment in Ikoyi, Lagos, said on Wednesday that it has concluded its assignment but would only submit its report next Monday.
This disclosure was however in contrast to the submission of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami on Tuesday, when he said that the committee would submit its report on Wednesday.
A statement by the vice-presidentâ€™s media aide, Mr. Laolu Akande, said whereas the committee concluded its assignment on Wednesday, it would submit its report on Monday, May 8.
The committee headed by Osinbajo comprises the AGF and National Security Adviser (NSA), Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd.).
The statement read: â€œThe three-man Presidential Investigative Committee set up by President Muhammadu Buhari under the chairmanship of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) to inquire into the discovery of foreign and local currencies by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, and the allegations of due process violations in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE) is completing its assignment today (yesterday) and is scheduled to present its report to the president on Monday, May 8, 2017.â€
Also joining the fray on the presidentâ€™s health, another group based in the north on Wednesday warned leaders and politicians from the South-west against exploiting the uncertainty arising from Buhariâ€™s health.
The Northern Patriotic Assembly (NPA), in a statement issued in Kaduna, described the statements from prominent Nigerians and some civil society groups, mainly of Yoruba extraction, as â€œimmoralâ€ and â€œdespicableâ€.
The groupâ€™s warning came after a similar one issued by another prominent northern group, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), on Tuesday.
The northern groups were reacting to calls by some prominent Nigerians, including human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, who had asked the president to proceed on medical vacation in order to cater to his health.
The former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Bisi Akande, had also warned that â€œsome peopleâ€ in the corridors of power were feasting on Buhariâ€™s health.
Akande added that the uncertainty over his health was taking a toll on the country and expressed fear that Nigeria might be thrown into anarchy.
The former APC chairman had said Nigeria was facing two challenges â€“ the Buhari health challenge and the lack of cohesion between the National Assembly and the presidency, which according to him were â€œtwo great red flags that have the potential of plunging the country into unprecedented chaos and destabilising the gains of democracy since 1999â€.
But in the statement signed by the President of the NPA, Hon. Idakwo Jibrin, and its Secretary General, Alhaji Adamu Wakil, the group particularly frowned on the statements by Akande and Falana.
NPA further alleged that Akande and Falanaâ€™s statements were part of a larger plot to plunge the country into a crisis, bearing in mind that the Yoruba will be the beneficiaries if the president is forced to step down.
According to the group, Buhariâ€™s health has been politicised beyond comprehension by politicians who hide behind the pretext of agitating for what is in the best interest of the country.
It added: â€œEven more unnerving is a situation whereby people we once held in high esteem as elders, leaders and professionals decided to descend into the mud, using President Buhariâ€™s health as their new object of obsession.
â€œThey have fanatically tried to impose this obsession of theirs on other Nigerians in a desperate bid to cause panic and confusion.
â€œSadder still is the fact that these mischief makers are people who pose as President Buhariâ€™s All Progressives Congress (APC) party leaders, associates and friends.
â€œWith this crow of desperadoes Mr. President need not worry about the opposition, the real viperâ€™s nest is in his courtyard.
â€œThey are the ones, who finding no avenue to corner the government to themselves, are now working day and night to use the presidentâ€™s health as a campaign tool to hijack the government.
â€œWe want Nigerians to specifically call these people to order. They cannot be allowed to run riot with their own mission to the detriment of the rest of us.
â€œThe founding chairman of the APC, Chief Bisi Akande, who spoke from two opposing directions â€“ he urged caution about the way President Buhariâ€™s health is discussed, yet went on to describe it as a challenge to Nigeria.
â€œThis prevarification is unbecoming of an elder statesman of his stature. He should apologise to Nigerians and stop making such unguarded utterances going forward.
â€œAkandeâ€™s role is however that of the â€˜Voice of Jacob and the Hand of Esauâ€™ since it is glaring he spoke for the self appointed Yoruba leader, Bola Tinubu, whose protÃ©gÃ© is the next in line to benefit if President Buhari can be shoved aside on health grounds.
â€œThis is a reckless abuse of the constitution and open provocation of the masses. We therefore tell Tinubu in clear terms to allow the nation be.
â€œThe same way he could not sell the Muslim-Muslim ticket to hitch a ride as President Buhariâ€™s deputy is the way he would not succeed in the current venture.
â€œIn what has been confirmed that President Buhariâ€™s health is being exploited as a Yoruba plot against the rest of Nigeria, APC affiliated lawyer, Chief Femi Falana, is apparently cobbling together an alliance of lawyers, commercial CSOs and paid activists to cause a crisis.â€