President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent departure to the United Kingdom on health grounds has left the management of the country’s affairs in the hands of Vice president, Yemi Osinbajo. A few days agoi, in line with Section 145 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution, Buhari transmitted power to his deputy, Osinbajo, backed with a letter to the National Assembly.
In the absence of President Buhari, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo will take some crucial decisions on national issues. Here are five of them.
Assent to the 2017 budget
The most exigent presidential function awaiting Osinbajo’s action is the signing of the 2017 Appropriation Bill which was passed by both chambers of the National Assembly on Thursday. The lawmakers had, two days earlier, jerked up the budget by N143 billion from the N7.298 trillion proposed last December by President Muhammadu Buhari to N7.441 trillion.
This is not Osinbajo’s first time of assenting to bills. He had on February 18 during Buhari’s last 49-day medical leave, signed seven bills.
Nigerians look forward to seeing the acting president sign the 2017 budget. If this happens, it would douse insinuations in some quarters that the budget may be sent to the United Kingdom for President Buhari’s assent.
Inauguration of two new ministers-designate/cabinet reshuffle
The two ministers-designate, Professor Stephen Ocheni, from Kogi State and Malam Suleiman Hassan, from Gombe State, are due for inauguration into the Federal Executive Council. The Senate had, last week, screened and confirmed them sequel to their nominations by President Buhari in March.
Ocheni was nominated to replace the Late Minister of State for Labour and Employment, James Ocholi who, along with his wife and son, died last year in a road crash; while Hassan is to replace a former Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, who resigned recently to work as Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN).
Some had expected Acting President Osinbajo to swear in and administer the oath of office on Ocheni and Hassan before the commencement of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting which he presided over on Wednesday, but that did not happen. Their inauguration was not scheduled for that council’s session, and the Presidency has kept silent on this.
In the past, ministers were inaugurated first week after their confirmation by the upper legislative chamber. Administering oath of office on new ministers also comes with the bigger responsibility of assigning portfolios to them. Even in spite of President Muhammadu Buhari’s vow that not all ministers would get portfolios in lieu of the “virtually empty treasury” inherited, none of them is ‘portfolio-less’.
If Professor Osinbajo is to inaugurate the two new ministers and assign portfolios to them, a minor cabinet reshuffle is likely to be effected. How he handles this will certainly be interesting to Nigerians, especially those who believe that President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet is due for re-jigging.
Decision on the fate of the suspended SGF and the NIA DG
The report of the investigations into the allegations against the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke, was expected to be submitted to President Buhari on Monday. It is not clear yet whether the president received the report before heading for London Sunday night.
Coincidentally, the three-man presidential panel is headed by Professor Yemi Osinbajo, with the National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno, and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, as members.
Babachir was investigated for alleged violations of law and due process in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North-East. Oke was investigated over the claim made by the National Intelligence Agency to the large amounts of foreign and local currencies by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos State.
President Buhari had on April 19 suspended the duo pending the outcome of the investigation. Days after the conclusion of the investigations, the fate of the two officials is still hanging in the balance. If the president had received the panel’s report before his trip, Acting President Osinbajo is expected to act on it.
Deployment of non-career ambassadors
Forty-three of the 47 persons whose nominations have been confirmed by the Senate as non-career ambassadors are yet to be deployed. President Buhari was said to have approved the deployment of only four of them to their respective missions in March.
Those already deployed are Tijjani Bande (Kebbi State), Ambassador/Representative to the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations Headquarters in New York; Itegboje Sunday Samson (Edo), Ambassador/Deputy Representative, Permanent Mission of Nigeria to United Nations Headquarters; Kadiri Ayinla Audu (Kwara), Ambassador/Representative to the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the UN Offices in Geneva, Switzerland and Bankole A. Adeoye (Ogun), Ambassador/Representative to the Embassy of Nigeria/Permanent Mission to African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Letters of credence with which envoys are deployed are a communication from the president of the sending country to that of the host nation. If President Buhari had signed the letters of the remaining 43 ambassadors-designate before traveling to the United Kingdom, it is expected that the acting president will upon them. But if the 43 letters have not been signed, will Acting President Yemi Osinbajo sign them?
A number of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) members are still hoping for appointments into the various boards of federal agencies and parastatals. They must have been curiously waiting for Buhari’s next batch of appointments before the president embarked on the current medical trip to the United Kingdom. Worry might be needless since Osinbajo has affirmed that President Buhari handed over to him before jetting out to the UK.
With May 29 nearing, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had recently said the present administration has a lot of good stories to tell on Nigeria’s Democracy Day. Since Nigeria’s return to civil rule on May 29, 1999, successive presidents have often been the ones telling those stories, using an early morning nationwide broadcast address as an avenue. This year’s Democracy Day may be a veritable moment for President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to present its mid-term scorecard. In the event the president’s London doctors decide that he stays there beyond May 29, Nigerians are most likely to wake up to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo delivering a nationwide broadcast address.