Leader to work from home, wants legislators’ nod for $13b loan
For the second time in 21 days, President Muhammadu Buhari, was again, absent from the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting which held yesterday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Seeking more time to recuperate, Buhari directed his deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to preside over the gathering. The president’s absence from the FEC meetings has generated public interest leading to speculations about his health because that is where the developmental agenda for a given time is set by the government.
But apparently to douse the anxiety over the non-appearance of the nation’s number one citizen at major events lately , the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, later spoke to State House correspondents.
His words: “We just concluded the FEC meeting. I am sure you noticed that the president was not there. He was not there because he asked that he be allowed to rest and asked the vice president to preside.
“And he will be working from home. He has asked that all his files be taken to him in the house. He will be working from home today.” In the meantime, the president has sought the approval of the National Assembly to take two separate loans totalling $12.912 billion to fix the railways, reconstruct the North East and expand the social safety net programme of his administration.
Mohammed noted that Osinbajo would later brief the president on the outcome of the deliberation. At yesterday’s meeting, only a handful of ministers assembled alongside the vice president in the Council Chambers venue awaiting the Buhari’s arrival to no avail.
A security official was seen standing behind the president’s exalted seat but vacated the area later when it became apparent that the president would not be presiding.
At exactly11:00 a.m., Osinbajo opened the meeting with the national anthem which was followed by prayers and the proceedings proper.
The gathering did not hold last week. The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, had blamed this on the inability to circulate relevant documents to members due to the Easter holiday .
Also three weeks ago, Osinbajo presided over the meeting because, of what the presidency termed, Buhari’s engagement with other pressing state issues at his official residence. In an interview with newsmen, Mohammed had maintained that it was not unusual for his deputy to preside over the council.
He had noted: “It is not unusual, even if the president is hale and hearty and everything is going on well, for the vice president to come and preside over meetings of the Federal Executive Council.
“The fact that the president is not in the office does not mean that he is not working….so, the fact that you did not see him does not mean that he is not working at all.
“Understandably, that has sparked a lot of controversies. I just want to make this clear, the president is in town. He is attending to other issues. The president looked at the agenda, it was a very light agenda and decided that the vice president should preside.
“It is not unusual for the kind of interest that is shown especially given the fact that the president was away for a while on medical treatment. We are not surprised that people will be wondering is he ill again?”
Yesterday’s deliberation, however, led to the approval of N3.8 billion for the lease of fast-going vessels to enable the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (MIMASA) to optimally perform its duties on the high sea in the next one year.
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, who made the disclosure to newsmen, added that the council sanctioned the release of N358 million for the procurement of 56 land patrol vehicles for the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS).
Also N5 billion was approved for the construction of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) headquarters.The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, said government would deploy a team of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health personnel in Sokoto and Zamfara states to curb reported cases of meningitis.
He confirmed that 813 deaths cases have so far been recorded since the outbreak of the contagious disease in parts of the country. Adewole hinted that the “cases will drop with the commencement of rainfall.”
The new move comes five months after the Senate declined a $29.96 billion loan request. The first proposal is for a facility of $5.851 billion from the China Exim Bank. The second involves securing $6.926 billion from the World Bank.
Prior to the presentation, it was learnt that the Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and principal officers of the two chambers, with the exception of the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, had met with the president some weeks back on the issue.
According to the breakdown, the Lagos-Kano railway modernisation project and Lagos-Ibadan segment will take $1.231 billion.Those of Lagos-Kano and Kano-Kaduna segments take $1.146 billion, while $3.474 billion is billed for the Coastal Railway project, Lagos-Calabar segment. The three components are part of the loan request from Chinese bank.
Part of the $6.926 World Bank facility will be used to finance projects in the Boko Haram-ravaged North East and provide social inclusion and welfare advancement project.
Polio eradication support and routine immunisation project get $125 million.Also, community and social development project would get $75 million, while states’ health programme investment projects take $125 million, just as $100 million goes to education programme investment projects at that tier of government.
Youth employment and social support projects also get $100 million while $50 million is earmarked for the Fadama 3 Project. The lawmakers had noted then that they rejected the earlier loan request because a breakdown was not attached.
Reading the letter on the floor, Dogara said it behooved the lawmakers to expeditiously approve the request since the funds available under the Chinese-African fund were limited and loan applications based on first come, first serve.