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.
“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 as and 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?”