After returning on Saturday from his 103-day medical vacation in the United Kingdom, President Muhammadu Buhari resumed official duties Monday morning. He took off with a nationwide broadcast which was devoted mainly to harping on national unity which, according to Buhari, is settled and not negotiable.
“We shall not allow irresponsible elements to start trouble and when things get bad they run away and saddle others with the responsibility of bringing back order, if necessary with their blood. Every Nigerian has the right to live and pursue his business anywhere in Nigeria without let or hindrance. I believe the very vast majority of Nigerians share this view. This is not to deny that there are legitimate concerns. Every group has a grievance. But the beauty and attraction of a federation is that it allows different groups to air their grievances and work out a mode of co-existence.
“Terrorists and criminals must be fought and destroyed relentlessly so that the majority of us can live in peace and safety. Therefore we are going to reinforce and reinvigorate the fight not only against; elements of Boko Haram which are attempting a new series of attacks on soft targets; kidnappings, farmers versus herdsmen clashes; in addition to ethnic violence fuelled by political mischief makers. We shall tackle them all.”
Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, described the broadcast as “just one step of many steps that are going to be taken in the days and weeks and months ahead. So, you can’t expect that everything will be said in one day.”
Later in the day, Buhari, in compliance with Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) signed a letter addressed to the president of the Senate, Abubakar Bukola Saraki and the speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, with a view to intimating the National Assembly that he had resumed his functions as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with effect from Monday. The brief ceremony was exclusively witnessed by some close aides as well as official cameramen and photographers of the president.
The president’s itinerary, which was sighted by our correspondent, showed that Buhari really planned big for the week. A twist was, nonetheless, introduced into his resumption as he was meant to operate from his official residence at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja pending the renovation of his office.
President Buhari rounded off his activities on Monday with a briefing he received from his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. The president had earlier received the governor of Nasarawa State, Umar Tanko Almakura.
The president’s sole programme for Tuesday was a meeting he held at his residence with members of the National Security Council (NSC) which lasted three hours in response to rising security issues in the country. While he was away in the UK, there were ethnic clashes, kidnappings, heightened campaign for a sovereign state of Biafra by IPOB and the October 1 deadline by a group of Arewa youths asking all Igbos to vacate the North.
Buhari handed down orders to the security chiefs, asking them to preserve Nigeria’s unity and end all threats to national security. In attendance were the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali; the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno; the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai; the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Abubakar Sadique; the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris; the Director-General of the Department of State Security (DSS), Malam Lawal Daura, and a representative of the Chief of Naval Staff.
There was a surprise on Wednesday. President Buhari was scheduled to chair the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting, but the meeting did not hold. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had consistently presided over the meetings for over three months during Buhari’s medical sojourn in London. There was no explanation from the Presidency on why the council meeting was put off. State House caterers had brought the cabinet members’ meals to the Council Chambers of the Villa before realising that the FEC meeting would not take place. Presidential spokesman, Adesina, merely said in a terse statement that “The meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) will not hold today (Wednesday).”
The president later on Wednesday received the report of the presidential panel that investigated the allegations against the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke. He received the report at his official residence from Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who headed the panel comprising the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno (rtd) and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, as members.
President Buhari had on April 19 suspended Babachir and Oke and set up the three-man committee to investigate alleged infractions against both officials within a period of two weeks. Babachir was investigated for allegedly awarding millions of naira contracts to a company in which he had interest, Global Vision Limited, under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).
A Senate Committee on Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East, which had earlier found the suspended SGF culpable of alleged complicity in a N200 million grass-cutting contract to clear “invasive plant species” in Yobe State, had demanded his resignation and prosecution.
Oke was probed for alleged $43.4 million operations cash found by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission at apartment 7B in Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos. He had reportedly claimed that the money belonged to the NIA and was approved by former President Goodluck Jonathan for some covert operations. The panel was mandated to uncover the circumstances by which the NIA came into possession of the funds and find out how and by whose or which authority the funds were made available to the NIA as well as to establish whether or not there was a breach of the law or security procedure in obtaining custody and use of the funds.
The most senior permanent secretary in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Dr Habibat Lawal and Oke’s senior deputy, Ambassador Arab Yadam, are currently acting as SGF and Director-General of the NIA respectively.
On Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari signed nine international agreements aimed at strengthening his administration’s anti-corruption war as well as stabilising the economy and improving the security situation in the country. The signing ceremony for the execution of the Instruments of Ratification for International Agreements between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other Entities was held at a conference room in the First Lady’s wing of the Presidential Villa.
The agreements signed with the United Arab Emirates were: Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Civil and Commercial Matters, Agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and an Extradition Treaty.
Other agreements included Charter for the Lake Chad Basin between Nigeria, Cameroun, Central African Republic, Libya, Niger and the Republic of Chad; African Tax Administration Forum Agreement on Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters, the World Intellectual Property Organization Treaty on Audio-Visual Performances and the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons, who are blind, visually-impaired or otherwise.
The president directed all agencies of government with roles to play under the ratified treaties to play their anticipated roles in an effective and responsible manner in order to ensure that the country reaps the full benefits of the agreements. “It is my hope that these Instruments will reinvigorate the anti-corruption war and check the illicit flow of funds out of our country to other jurisdictions, improve national security, food security, boost our economic and tax regimes and improve the overall well-being of our creative community,’’ he said.
Buhari described the signing of the agreements as an important milestone in demonstrating the sovereign capacity of Nigeria to fulfill international obligations and take important steps for the benefit of the economy, security and the anti-corruption war.
Then on Friday, Buhari met with leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for about one hour at the new Banquet Hall of the Aso Rock Presidential Villa. He said the visit signified the unity of Nigeria as “It is not a party occasion. It is not a political gathering. It is a symbol of our national unity. It is also an expression of the maturity of our democracy. Multi-party democracy is a very tried and tested form of government. Opposition does not mean hostility, enmity or antagonism. Democracy needs opposition, one which is vibrant but responsible.”
President Muhammadu Buhari later joined other Muslim faithful in observing Juma’at at the State House mosque. Cameramen and photographers were, however, barred from covering the prayer session which the Presidency described as private. The president also on Friday met with state governors inside the Council Chambers of the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja and told them that the show of love by Nigerians had boosted his morale.
As shown by his first five working days, President Buhari is settling back into work.