Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti
What would have been the first meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) since President Muhammadu Buhariâ€™s return to the country from the United Kingdom, was cancelled Wednesday with no reason given for the cancellation.
Instead, the presidentâ€™s spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, explained that Buhari would only receive the report of the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo-led committee set up to investigate the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayo Oke.
The cancellation further heightened speculations about the presidentâ€™s health and stamina to preside over meetings.
Wednesdayâ€™s meeting of the cabinet was the fourth that had been cancelled this year ostensibly because of the presidentâ€™s health.
Throughout his absence for 103 days, Osinbajo had held sway over the meetings without missing a beat.
Adesina said: â€œThe meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) will not hold today (yesterday). President Muhammadu Buhari, will however receive the report of the investigative committee into the allegations against the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayo Oke, headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, at noon in his office.â€
Submitting the report Wednesday, four months after Buhari had set up the committee, Osinbajo said the panel was fair to the persons investigated.
The panel, which also had the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno as members, had been mandated by the president to investigate the allegations of financial impropriety levelled against Lawal and the discovery of $43.3 million by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at a residential apartment in Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos. Oke had claimed that the money belonged to the NIA.
The committee, which initially had 14 days to conclude its assignment and submit its findings to the president on May 3, later asked for a five-day extension.
However, 24 hours before the committee was expected to submit its report on May 8, the president proceeded to London to attend to his health. He did not return till last Saturday.
After submitting the report Wednesday, Osinbajo who answered questions from State House correspondents, declined to disclose the content of the report, saying having submitted it to the president, the document had become his exclusive preserve.
Osinbajo, who said the president would make his own decision on the report based on the committeeâ€™s findings and recommendations, added that members of the committee were fair to the persons investigated.
â€œIt is a fact finding committee as you know and what our terms of reference were was to find out, based on the facts available to us, and based on the interviews of witnesses on what transpired in those cases of the report, one involving the SGF and the other, the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
â€œWe have now concluded that and we submitted a full report with recommendations to the president. We cannot of course give you any kind of details because the president has to look at the report, study it and then make his own decisions based on that report,â€ he said.
Osinajo explained that the approach adopted by the panel was to ensure that justice was done in both cases.
â€œIt is in the interest of the government and also the interest of the nation that things are done properly and that there is due process and that we are not unfair. You can be sure that we will do the right thing,â€ he said.
Pressured further to provide insight into the report, Osinbajo insisted that he would not make any disclosure to journalists and asked them to wait until the president makes his own decision.
â€œAll I can say is that we have submitted the report to the president and it is a very detailed report. The president has to study the report and a make decision.
â€œThis is a document which has just been submitted to the president. He is the one who will read the recommendations and the facts and then make a decision. If you want to know what is in the report you will have to wait, you really have to wait,â€ he insisted.
The president had ordered an investigation into allegations of violations of law and due process against Lawal in the award of contracts in the North-east, in his capacity as Chairman of the Presidential Initiative on the North-east (PINE).
PINE had been set up by the president with the mandate to spearhead the rehabilitation of the North-east which has been ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgency.
Lawal was also accused of awarding contracts for grass cutting in the North-eastern part of Nigeria to his company, Rholavision. He was also accused of awarding contracts to Josmo Technologies to the tune of N272 million, only for Josmo to allegedly pay back the sum into Rholavision’s Ecobank account some days later.
Fayose: Buhari Too Sick to Govern, Should Resign
But as Buhari received the report of the probe panel, the Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, said the president was too sick to lead a complex country like Nigeria and urged him to resign and return to Daura, his hometown.
The governor also denied a statement attributed to him, when he was alleged to have said he would commit suicide should Buhari return to the country.
Fayose, nonetheless, said that he stood by all his claims about the president being in a coma when he was in the UK receiving treatment, saying he has no apology for his comment.
Fayose restated his call for Buhariâ€™s resignation, saying: â€œIf not for our efforts, Buhari wouldnâ€™t have returned now. He is sick and tired and even his physical appearance portrays this, so he needs to go home and rest.
â€œToday (yesterday), they have cancelled the FEC. You cannot hide the truth forever, it will reveal itself someday. You cannot continue to deceive Nigerians.
â€œEvery word that has come out of my mouth, I have no apology for them. President Buhari was indeed in a coma and one of those who visited him said his recovery was a miracle, showing that he was indeed very sick.
â€œLet Buhari go back to Daura and rest. Donâ€™t send him to an early grave. Buhari is not old enough to be my father, my mother is older than Buhari, he cannot be my father, he can only be my uncle. I am close to 60. I stand by all I have said about the president.
â€œWe are glad he is back, but donâ€™t over-flog him. I am not a sycophant and I stand to speak for Nigeria. Somebody must be able to speak on behalf of the poor masses.
â€œThis was how they deceived us during the time of (Umaru) Yarâ€™Adua. I am not a hypocrite and I will never be one.
â€œThis country deserves a very healthy person. The office of the president is not for a sick man. The president is tired and should be allowed to resign and go and rest,â€ he implored.
Fayose maintained that Buhari did not have to remain the president at any cost.
â€œThey said he would come back and resume in his office, then they said rats had taken over his office. Now they said he is working from home; tomorrow, they would say he is coming from the bedroom,â€ he said.
Fayose held the view that the pressure mounted by him and many Nigerians had forced Buhari to return home.