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Updated: Is Osinbajo Acting President, or Govt Co-ordinator?

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By Tunde Adetunji, Abuja.
Public policy analyst and teacher of Constitutional Law, Dr. Sam Amadi, has posited that nothing can whittle down the powers conferred on Acting President Yemi Osinbajo by Section 145 of the constitution.
He was weighing in on the raging controversy on the phrasing of President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter to the Senate, which controversy Senate President Bukola Saraki nipped in the bud with a categorical position that Osinbajo is Acting President.
Wrote Amadi on his Facebook wall: “By Section five of the constitution the executive power of the federation is in the President. He or she is at liberty to exercise the executive power directly, or if he or she chooses through his or her VEEPEE (Vice President) or through a minister or through any other public officer. The President is not just Primus Inter Pares, he possesses executive power in himself.
“In the event of triggering Section 145 of the Constitution the President passes the entire Section five power to the VEEPEE, irrespective of any language of that conveyance. The President does not coordinate the affairs of government. He or she embodies the executive power of the federation. A VEEPEE acting pursuant to Section 145 embodies the entire executive power of the federation and shares with no one. He or she does not coordinate government affairs. He or she exercises executive power of the federation directly.”
There have been fears that a shadowy group around and within the corridors of the presidency have been working frenetically to ensure that the powers of Buhari are not wielded by anyone else, for its selfish reasons.
Popularly described as a cabal, the group is believed to have delayed President Buhari’s return to London to treat his ailment so it could fully exploit his presence within Nigeria.
Recall that  what would have been a major controversy on the floor of the Senate was quickly neutralised by its President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, but the coming days promise to be interesting as lawyers and politicians tussle to resolve it.
With President Muhammadu Buhari’s departure for further medical attention in London, is Vice President Yemi Osinbajo the Acting President or he is simply Vice President co-ordinating the activities of the federal government, going by Buhari’s letter read in the Senate yesterday?
The letter 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 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.
“Pls accept, the Distinguished Senate President the assurances of my highest consideration.”
Senator Mao Ohuabunwa faulted the phrasing of the letter in the light of Section 145 of the Constitution, and suggested it be sent back for correction.
Section 145 (1) states: 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 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.
Ohabunwa said, “Mr President (of Senate) 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 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 letter it should be direct and unambiguous. So, I am saying that this letter for me is not right and maybe should be srent back.
But Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan disagrees.
Said he: “Mr President, let me say that the point of order raised by my colleague and the explanation that subsequently follows shouldn’t have been and my reasons are simple… 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.”
Saraki eventually overruled Ohuabunwa
His words: “I think it is a very clear issue and what should be guided by is the constitution and I think that it is clear, the letter has referred to the constitution and there’s no ambiguity in the constitution. So, I don’t think there’s any issue there. Let me first rule you out of order Senator Mao.”

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