On Tuesday, Sen. Mao Ohuabunwa raised a Point of Order on the floor of the Senate wherein he raised that the letter from President Muhammadu Buhari supposedly vesting the powers of the president on Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, was not well-worded to that effect.
Quoting Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, Sen. Ohuabunwa addressed his colleagues thus: “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 is otherwise that he is unable to discharge the functions of his office until he transmits to them the written declaration to the contrary, such function shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.
“Mr President, I do not think in our constitution we have anything like coordinating President or coordinating Vice President. It is either you are the Vice President or you are the Acting President and any letter should be unambiguous and very clear.
However, he was immediately countered by the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan. Lawan said there was nothing wrong with the letter.
Sen. Lawan said: “Mr President, let me say that the point of order raised by my colleague and the explanation that subsequently followed should not have been and my responses are simple.
“I still rely on the first paragraph of that letter which Mr President wrote to this Senate and read by the President of the Senate. I will read section 145 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“Any other word in this letter or indeed anywhere else is irrelevant. I therefore feel that Mr. President has done what the constitution requires him to do and I urge this Senate not to go ahead to discuss this because its not an issue. We have the budget and so many other serious issues for us to discuss and Nigerians are waiting.”
He thereby called on the Senate President Bukola Saraki to rule Ohuabunwa out of order, which the latter did.
But findings by the Daily Sun showed that the drama which played out on the floor of the Senate, was plotted by its leadership to avert any constitutional crisis in the country and send signals to so-called ‘powerful forces’ in the Presidency.
It was gathered that the Leader of South-East Senate Caucus, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, was initially billed to raise the point of order, but Ohuabunwa was drafted at the last minute in the absence of Abaribe, who is currently out of the country.
The point of order raised by Senator Ohuabunwa, was meant to send a clear signal to powerful forces within the presidency that Osinbajo was the Acting President, as prescribed by the law.
Buhari’s letter which he wrote in January to the Senate, did not explicitly transmit powers to the Vice President. The letter was silent on whether or not Osinbajo will function as the Acting President.
Buhari’s letter written in June reads: “In compliance with Section 145 (1) of the 1999 constitution as amended, I wish to inform the Distinguished Senate that I will be away on a short medical vacation from Monday January, 23 to February 6th, 2017 and while I am away, the Vice President (Osinbajo) will perform the functions of my office. Please, accept, as always assurances of my highest esteemed consideration.”
This is the third time President Buhari has transferred power to Professor Osinbajo since his inauguration in May 2015.
The first time was on February 5, 2016, when the President embarked on a five-day vacation. The second was in June 2016 when Buhari traveled to the UK for treatment of what the Presidency described as an ear infection.