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Controversy over Osinbajo’s status needless, says minister

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Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Wednesday described the controversy generated  by the letter written by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly, to inform the lawmakers of his medical leave and to transmit power to his deputy, as needless and a mere distraction.

Mohammed said this while answering questions from State House correspondents at the end of the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council presided over by the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo.

The minister said the operative sentence in the President’s letter to the federal lawmakers was his reference to Section 145 (1) of the nation’s 1999 Constitution as amended.

He insisted that any other word in the presidential communication was irrelevant.

“I think it is a needless controversy and just a distraction. The operative sentence is ‘in compliance with Section 145 Subsection 1.’ So,  any other word is irrelevant,”  Mohammed said.

Meanwhile, Osinbajo on Wednesday reverted to the 10am kick-off time of the weekly meeting.

Buhari had shortly after he returned from his last medical trip in March changed the commencement time of the meeting from 10am to 11am.

Osinbajo, who presided over his first meeting as Acting President since Buhari left the country on Sunday, declared the meeting opened at about 10am.

Buhari had stated in his letter to the National Assembly that Osinbajo would coordinate the affairs of the nation while he was away instead of writing that his deputy would act as the President.

While the President said in the letter that Osinbajo would “coordinate” the governance of the country during his absence, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa criticised the letter as not naming Osinbajo as the Acting President and should be disregarded.

Some prominent lawyers and public commentators had also criticised the content of the letter, saying the words used by the President are strange to the constitution.

The letter read, “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. Please accept, the distinguished Senate President, the assurances of my highest consideration.”

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