Buhari’s Medical Trip Has Ignited Power Tussle -HURIWA

Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) on Monday, chastised President Muhammadu Buhari for his frequent medical trips overseas, noting that the retired military head of state perpetually travels to London for medical checkup while leaving the health sector in Nigeria to wobble amid constant strikes and underfunding.

HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, also said it was regrettable that the President serially disrespects the 1999 Constitution by not officially transmitting power to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), whenever he travels abroad.

Buhari on Sunday travelled to the United Kingdom on a two-week routine medical check-up after attending the United Nations Environmental Programme in Nairobi, Kenya.

In recent years, the UK has become a choice destination for the Nigerian elite including the President who frequent London for medical tourism while perpetual industrial actions, lack of modern equipment, failure of government to pay doctors’ salaries, amongst others, mar Nigeria’s health sector.

According to reports, as of the end of 2021, Buhari had been to London for medical check-up a number of times and had spent a total of over 200 days on medical leave in the UK since his regime began on May 29, 2015.

Despite Buhari’s preference for foreign medical care, the Federal Ministry of Health has consumed over N2.3tn from 2016 to date, while the State House Medical Centre has received over N6.2bn, according to the respective appropriation acts available on the website of the Budget Office of the Federation.

The presidential clinic caters for the President, Vice President, their families and members of staff of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

But despite the huge allocations for the clinic, Buhari and his family members continue to patronise the UK, Dubai and other foreign countries for medical needs.

The President is also infamous for not handing over power to his VP while away, an action that HURIWA declared unconstitutional. Before Sunday’s trip, the last time the President reportedly transferred power to the VP was in 2017 when he spent months in the UK treating an undisclosed ailment.

But as a sharp departure from the convention, Buhari on Sunday before his aircraft took off from the Presidential Wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, said Osinbajo is in charge while he is away.

When asked by reporters who would be in charge during his trip, the President said, “I cannot claim to be doing the work alone. The government is fully represented. The Vice President is there.

“Constitutionally when I am away, he is in charge. And then the Secretary to the Government (Boss Mustapha), and the Chief of Staff (Ibrahim Gambari) are also there. So, there is no problem.”

However, it was clear that the President acted illegally as he did not notify the National Assembly as permitted by the country’s constitution.

HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “By virtue of Section 145(1)(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2011 as amended, the President has a constitutional duty to always transmit power whenever he embarks on medical trip or any form of vacation whatsoever.

“Section 145(1)(2) of the 1999 Constitution unambiguously provides that:

“(1) Whenever the President is proceeding on vacation or is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, he shall transmit a written declaration to the president of the senate and the speaker of the house of representatives to that effect, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, the Vice-President shall perform the functions of the President as Acting President.

“(2) In the event that the President is unable or fails to transmit the written declaration mentioned in subsection (1) of this section within 21 days, the National Assembly shall, by a resolution made by a simple majority of the vote of each House of the National Assembly, mandate the Vice-President to perform the functions of the office of the President as Acting President until the President transmits a letter to the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives that he is now available to resume his functions as President.

“But Buhari has not respected the constitution by officially handing power over to his VP pending his return. Transmission of power has a process and a method spelt out by the constitution; it must be written and transmitted to the National Assembly; it is beyond mere rhetorics. Buhari’s action is condemnable just as his many medical trips that cost tax payers’ so much.

“By his vague utterance, Buhari has created the vacuum that will throw up power tussles by the different power blocs in Aso Rock including the infamous cabal.

“Overall, it is a scandal of unimaginable dimension that Buhari has spent seven years in power but all the strategic sectors of the economy have been ruined by his regime, starting from health, education, infrastructure, power, amongst others. It is even unfortunate that the President who is also the Minister of Petroleum and controls the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited has successfully turned the near-moribund refineries to a cash cow since the last seven years. Buhari has left the country in comatose, such a bad second term gift.”

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