President Muhammadu Buhari resumed work last Monday after a 50-day medical vacation in the United Kingdom. The last time he was in the office was on January 16, before departing for the UK on January 19.
On Monday, the president proved his fitness and readiness for official duties. At about 10.00am, some presidential aides had assembled at their principal’s official residence. Minutes later, the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, was sighted clutching files to the president’s office.
Earlier in the day, there had been a change of the Presidential Guards Brigade at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Buhari. At about 11.00am, President Buhari, accompanied by some of his aides, arrived at his office.
There was no programme in the itinerary of the president on Monday, and after three hours, he retired to his residence.
Buhari formally transmitted letters to the National Assembly, in compliance with Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), intimating both legislative chambers “that I have resumed my functions as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with effect from Monday, March 13, 2017.”
President Buhari was later briefed by his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who had acted as president while the former was away. While speaking to State House correspondents after the briefing, Osinbajo declared Buhari fit and “over-ready” for work.
“He (President Buhari) is very well. We just had a very long meeting where basically, we tried to bring the president up to speed as to some of the things we did while he was away. And he has given a few directives on what we should be doing on so many areas, the north east, budget, the economy; a wide range of issues.
“He (the president) held a meeting with me for over an hour where we discussed a wide range of issues. So, his readiness for work is not in doubt at all. In fact, he is over ready,” the vice president said.
Osinbajo strongly emphasised that having “handed over back” to President Buhari, he was back to his regular position as vice president.
On Tuesday, Buhari met behind closed-doors with the president of the Senate, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki and the speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara. It was the president’s first interaction with both leaders of the National Assembly since he returned from his foreign medical trip.
The Senate president told journalists after a meeting which lasted about an hour, that he and Dogara were at the Presidential Villa to “brief” Buhari on issues of national interest and discuss with him, the activities that took place in the legislature while he was away from the country. Saraki listed the issues discussed as including the 2017 budget, the ambassadorial nominations, the confirmation of the appointment of Walter Onnoghen as Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and the approval of the $1bn Eurobond sale.
President Buhari later received a briefing from the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele, on what was believed to be efforts being made towards strengthening the naira against the US dollar.
The president also on Tuesday signed the instrument of ratification of the treaty on the establishment of the Abidjan-Lagos corridor. The treaty is among the governments of Nigeria, Benin Republic Cote D’ivoire, Ghana and Togo.
On Wednesday, President Buhari arrived at the Council Chambers of the Aso Rock Presidential Villa for the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC). It was the first council meeting he presided over after his vacation. The last council meeting he chaired was on January 11 before he went on leave.
Buhari, who stepped in for the council meeting at exactly 10.00am, directed that the national anthem be recited. He asked the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, to say the opening Christian prayer. The president got ribs cracking when he jokingly exclaimed: “I have not seen Lai.” The information and culture minister, promptly shouted: “I am here sir”. The minister was then asked to say the Muslim prayer.
At the two-and-a-half hour meeting, the Federal Executive Council approved a draft bill seeking a legal framework for the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. The council also endorsed a memo for the creation of the Nigeria Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council which, according to the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Mr. Okechukwu Enelamah, is expected to help the Federal Government in formulating policies and strategies that will enhance the performance of the country’s industrial sector.
On Thursday, Buhari made what many considered a surprise appearance at a meeting of the National Economic Council chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The 36 state governors as well as relevant ministers and the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) are members of the NEC. The meeting was a golden opportunity for the president to have his first interaction with the governors since he returned from his medical sojourn.
Buhari went round the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa to shake hand with the governors. Ekiti State Governor Peter Ayo Fayose missed the opportunity to get a first-hand ‘assessment’ of the president’s health condition. Governor Fayose, like his Rivers and Kaduna State counterparts, Nyesom Wike and Nasir el-Rufai respectively, was represented by his deputy.
The president thanked the governors for their display of love and respect to him, especially by charging people of their states to pray for his quick recovery while on medical vacation in London. He, however, apologised for barring them from visiting him in London, explaining “I didn’t want government to move to London. I wanted it to remain here and I am glad it did.”
During the meeting, Buhari directed the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun and the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele, to release the second tranche of the London-Paris Club refunds to the states in order to ease their financial hardship. He, however, urged the governors to use the refunds for the settlement of unpaid salaries and pension liabilities of their workers.
“I will not rest until I address those issues that affect our people. One of these basic things is the issue of salaries. It is most important that workers are able to feed their families, pay rent and school fees, then other things can follow,” the president told the governors.
On Friday, President Buhari was briefed by his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo and the National Security Adviser (NSA), General Babagana Monguno (rtd).
The juma’at prayer observed at the State House mosque was an opportunity for some of the staff to catch a glimpse of President Buhari since his arrival from the UK. Buhari, who was decked in a flowing white babaringa and a matching cap, made it to the mosque for juma’at for prayers; the first after returning for his medical trip. Thereafter, he exchanged a handshake with some officials and his aides before returning to his office.
Those who joined Buhari for the prayer included the governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, the National Security Adviser (NSA), General Babagana Monguno (rtd), the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazzau, Senator Abu Ibrahim (APC, Katsina South).
Also in attendance were the embattled acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, the Director-General of the Department of State Security (DSS), Lawal Daura and the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Hammed Ali.
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