Secrecy continues on Buhari’s London trip as Aso Rock clinic gulps N5b in four years

By Tope Templer Olaiya
Seven days into President Muhammadu Buhari’s 10-day private visit to the United Kingdom with no public appearance of the president in Britain save for his arrival into the country in the late hours of April 25, has revived raging debates over concerns and secrecy of the president’s state of health.

For nearly 170 hours in a foreign land, the president has not been seen nor heard from. As stated in the announcement by the presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, who termed the holiday a private visit, everything about Buhari’s trip since arriving Britain at about 11:30p.m. last week Thursday, has been shrouded in utmost secrecy. “He is expected to return to Nigeria on May 5,” Adesina said, giving no further details.

Abuja House, the president’s choice destination in London, has been devoid of its usual buzz whenever Buhari is around, signifying that the president has opted for another location for his private visit.

Also significantly absent during this visit is the customary pilgrimage of Very Important Personalities (VIPs) and high-ranking government officials to London to see Buhari for photo-ops. Same is the reception hosted for the president’s long-time friends like the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Likewise, UK’s media is unconcerned about the presence of a foreign head of government in their country. The Guardian checks in Britain’s top dailies turned up nothing about the president’s visit. The only reports that featured Nigeria in The Daily Telegraph, The Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Star, Daily Express and The Times were on the recent murder of the British aid worker, Faye Mooney, in Kajuru, Kaduna and visit of celebrated supermodel, Naomi Campbell to Lagos for a fashion event.

President Buhari arriving in London on May 25

The 76-year-old president has previously been in London for long spells of medical care. From May 2016 until mid-2017, Buhari was in London for medical treatment for increasingly long periods of time, forcing government denials that he was gravely ill or even dead.

By the time of his expected return on May 5, he would have barely three weeks left to the end of his first term in office, which has seen him spent a total of 409 days – a year and 44 days – (and still counting) travelling to 33 countries in four years of his first term in office. He has spent so far 224 days in the United Kingdom, the country he visited the most, mostly on health grounds and meetings of Commonwealth Heads of State and Government.

To date, he has not disclosed details about his condition, apart from saying he had “never been so ill” and had to undergo multiple blood transfusions. His health status was an issue in the campaign for the February 23 presidential elections, with the opposition’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) insisting he was physically unfit to govern.

The retired general, who was first elected in 2015, is scheduled to be sworn in for a second four-year term on May 29, though the PDP’s presidential candidate and main challenger, Atiku Abubakar, has lodged a legal challenge to the election results.

All these have gone to institutionalize one of the legacies of the present administration, which is the Buhari secrecy. The secrecy surrounding an individual’s health condition is a pervasive cultural practice in most African societies. Such secrecy is exemplified by the illness and death of monarchs, which are typically wrapped in secrecy until appropriate rituals of purification had been performed. Even then, the monarch’s subjects are never told about the ailment to which their monarch succumbed.

In the case of President Buhari, however, such secrecy has attracted much controversy for various reasons, including the bitter experience with the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, whose ailment was kept secret until he was rumoured to have died in a foreign hospital. The cloak of secrecy around Buhari’s health creates a shift from the norm in Western democracy, where the government’s business is the people’s business.

Abuja House, London

Even more importantly, secrecy is abhorred, having given way to transparency and accountability as guiding principles of information management. These principles are further enhanced by the constitution and the Freedom of Information Act, which empowers the people to know what is going on, not only with the government’s business but also with the business managers, including the president.

This trip, dubbed private visit, is an extension of the president’s legacy of secrecy. The president and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces is not a private or ordinary citizen. The day he decides to contest for the office and gets elected, he ceases to be a private citizen. He becomes a public citizen, owned by the people who elected him into office. He no longer has a private life.

Interestingly, this latest trip is coming on the heels of the president’s directive last month that the State House Medical Centre (SHMC), also known as Aso Rock Clinic, be reverted to a clinic to serve the original purpose of its establishment — primarily to serve the first and second families and those working within and around the Villa. This was announced by the Permanent Secretary, State House, Mr. Jalal Arabi, in Abuja.

Arabi had appeared before the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs for the 2019 budget defence, where he said: “Without prejudice to what is currently obtainable at the SHMC, the intention to revert to a clinic is a presidential directive.”

Also last month after the directive was given, the president had lamented Nigeria’s loss of over N400 billion yearly to medical tourism, saying the inability of government to address various health challenges had resulted in increasing medical tourism, that costs Nigeria over N400 billion yearly.

Later, Arabi explained to journalists that the reversion of the centre to a clinic was a case of cutting one’s coat according to one’s cloth. He said: “It was initially meant to serve the first and second families and those working within and around the Villa. The overstretching of facilities at the medical centre by patients is some of the challenges the centre has been going through. It wasn’t meant for that purpose.

“Nobody was charging anyone for any services and relying on appropriation means we will depend on subvention when it comes to running the centre. Whatever comes is what you utilise and if the last patient comes in to take the last drugs based on the last budgetary release, that is it and we have to wait till another release is done. But this new development means that services will be streamlined to a clinic that will serve those that it was meant to serve when it was conceived.”

Aso Rock Clinic

It would be recalled that in 2017, Aisha, the wife of the president, publicly upbraided the Chief Medical Director of the SHMC, Dr. Husain Munir, for the poor state of the health facility. Mrs. Buhari admitted that Nigeria was unstable for over six months owing largely to the president’s ill health that forced him to remain outside the country for months.

She wondered what could have happened to the common man on the street if Buhari could spend several months outside Nigeria for health reason. She also recalled that she was sick and was advised to travel abroad because of the poor state of the clinic, adding that she had to go to a private hospital owned by foreigners when she was told the x-ray machine in the SHMC was not working. The president’s son was also flown abroad when he had a bike accident last year in Abuja after being initially treated at a private hospital in Abuja.

Despite top presidency officials routinely flying out of the country to seek medical attention, the Federal Government has allocated a total of N4.17 billion for the operations of the SHMC between 2015 and 2018. The figure could, in fact, hit N5 billion, if the N823.44 million the government proposed for the operations of the facility in the 2019 budget is not slashed by the National Assembly.

In 2018, the SHMC for the exclusive use of the president, vice president and their families had a total budget of N1.03 billion, with N698 million as capital expenditure and N331.7 million as overhead cost.

Besides this, contained in the State House 2019 budget proposal of N14.3 billion is N416,668,229 for the new construction of the presidential wing of the State House Medical Centre; N1,001,318,171 for Buhari’s local and international travels – N250,021,595 for local trips and N751,296,576 for overseas travel.

In the 2018 budget, the presidency had proposed N1,030,458,453 for the State House clinic after Aisha Buhari had criticised the medical centre for not having an “ordinary syringe”, but was slashed by the National Assembly to N823,441,666. In the 2017 budget, N3.2 billion was allocated for the upgrade of the state clinic, including “the completion of ongoing work as well as procurement of drugs and other medical equipment.”

Many are left to wonder why such huge expenditure is expended on a facility the president and his family routinely ignores for their much fancied medical treatment abroad. This further enforces the continuation of the Buhari secrecy.

Meanwhile, the continued secrecy about the president’s state of health and whereabouts has reignited the rumour mills, which went into overdrive after his time in London last year, leading to the Jibril from Sudan clone story. And this may regain some momentum as the private visit winds down.

What is however trending this time around is that it is not a twist of fate and coincidence that APC’s national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the party’s chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, and Lagos governor-elect, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, among others are also in the UK on private visits. However, both Tinubu and Sanwo-Olu returned to the country on Monday and were seen on Tuesday at the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) induction for new and returning governors in Abuja.

The word on the street is that the president is taking a break to restrategise for his second term and is compiling the list of those who would play active roles as cabinet members in the second-half of his administration, while possibly evading the distractions of Aso Rock regular callers of aides, politicians and close friends.

A peep into the last minute intrigues that may shape the next administration and possible actors played two week ago when a directive was issued for all ministers to submit progress reports of their various ministries, a pseudonym for handover notes, to the Permanent Secretaries in their respective ministries before April 30.

President Buhari’s last assignment in Maiduguri, Borno State last week Thursday before traveling out

Last week, while briefing journalists at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had said President Buhari would dissolve his cabinet seven days to the end of the administration, on May 22, as the president has scheduled to hold a valedictory session with members of the FEC on May 22 ahead of his inauguration for the commencement of his second tenure on May 29.

Although there were speculations that the president was going to dissolve his cabinet last Thursday before his trip going by the earlier directives for all ministers to submit their progress reports, Mohammed, moments after his briefing in an afterthought, clarified that the valedictory session of the FEC on May 22 would not mean the cabinet would be dissolved on the same day. According to him, “it is inaccurate to extrapolate from my statement – that the FEC valedictory session will hold on 22 May – to say that the president will dissolve the cabinet on the same day. They do not mean the same thing.”

Insiders in Aso Rock say the politics of the next cabinet might have forced the president’s private visit, rather than insinuations of a health challenge. They claim the president wants to avoid the repeat of 2015 mistake when he deliberately waited for six months to form his Change Cabinet.

A source confided that it was such scheming that made Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, rush to commission uncompleted projects with the president in attendance much against the advice of the Lagos leader, Asiwaju Tinubu. “Ambode is racing against time to impress the president as the new ‘Mr. Infrastructure’ for the Next Level. That was why all the Southwest leaders were in attendance except Tinubu and Fashola.”

According to another source within the presidency, the president has resolved to source seasoned technocrats as members of his new cabinet to help him actualize his agenda for the ‘Next Level,’ saying that part of the reasons he travelled was to avoid distraction by political jobbers, who have been mounting pressure on him.

However, back home, the polity is being heated by statements credited to the presidency that Buhari has not contravened any section of the constitution by not transmitting power to the vice president before embarking on the trip.

Special Assistant to the president on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, while speaking on a television programme, said the president can work from anywhere and discharge his duties from any part of the world.

According to him, Buhari would only be accused of not transmitting power if he stayed beyond the shore of the country for more than 21 days without doing so.

Shehu said: “The president can exercise authority from wherever he is as he is currently doing. This is a relatively short absence. If you check Section 145 (1) and (2) of the Constitution, you will see that the law is only infringed upon when such absence extends to 21 days.”

But a Lagos-based lawyer and human rights activist, Inibehe Effiong, faulting Shehu’s position, said: “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.

“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.

“The literal, grammatical and commonsensical reading of Section 145 (1) and (2) evinces the true purport of the said provisions and does not leave any room for ambiguity or debate as to the actual intention of the framers of the Constitution.

President Buhari does not have the discretion or prerogative to embark or proceed on vacation outside the mandatory constitutional framework of Section 145 (1) and (2) of the Constitution.

“It is immaterial that the President’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina, mischievously decided to play with words when he referred to the President’s 10-day visit to the United Kingdom as “a private visit”.

If Adesina by his evasive statement intended to distinguish the instant foreign trip of his principal from the vacation enshrined in Section 145 (1) and (2) of the Constitution, he, unfortunately, has ended up exposing his ignorance of the law and contempt for the Nigerian people. The President’s so-called private visit is a vacation simpliciter. It is a distinction without a difference to assert a contrary view.”

Also, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said that “President Muhammadu Buhari’s private voyage out of the country without transmitting power, as required by the constitution, is an act of dereliction, which confirms that the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Buhari Presidency are not interested in governance but seeks to vacate our constitutional order and foist an authoritarian system on our country.

“Such dereliction of office can only come from leaders, who do not have respect for the people they governed but always muscling their way to power through intimidation and official manipulations, as witnessed in the rigging of the February 23 Presidential election by the APC,” it insisted.

The party, in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, alleged that “Mr. President’s abandoning of governance, particularly at this critical time when our nation is facing grave security and economic challenges, signposts the level of impunity and recklessness that will characterize our nation in the next four years, if the stolen Presidential mandate is not retrieved from the APC.”

It queried: “What else, beside an authoritarian propensity, can explain why the Buhari Presidency relegated our Constitutional Order by declaring the application of Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which directs that the President transmits power whenever he is travelling out of the country on vacation, as a mere “convention”.

The opposition party declared that the import of this “relegation of Section 145” is also a clear absence of a constitutional command structure which the part noted “leaves our nation at the mercy of the extremely corrupt, vicious and anti-people cabal with whom President Buhari presided over the most corrupt and most incompetent administration, which wrecked our economy, divided our nation and opened her up for escalated insecurity.

“Such dereliction at the high levels emboldens bandits, bolsters insurgents and fuels cruel acts such as extra-judicial killing, illegal arrests, detention of innocent citizens, constitutional violations, attack on institutions of democracy as well as reckless looting of our national treasury by members of the cabal because they know that “nothing will happen.”

The PDP urged Nigerians to unite in condemning this act of impunity in the interest of the nation.

 

Secrecy continues on Buhari’s London trip as Aso Rock clinic gulps N5b in four years

 

https://www.latestnigeriannews.com/news/7158178/secrecy-continues-on-buharis-london-trip-as-aso-rock-clinic-gulps-n5b-in-four-ye.html

 

Secrecy continues on Buhari’s London trip as Aso Rock clinic gulps N5b in four years

 

http://newspin99.blogspot.com/2019/05/secrecy-continues-on-buharis-london.html

 

 

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Towards strengthening Nigeria, UK trade relations in dire times

By Tope Templer Olaiya
GOING by facts and figures, Nigeria’s economy is in dire strait. The picture of a robust economy painted which rated the country as Africa’s largest economy with about $510 billion yearly Gross Domestic Product (GDP), appears to be cloudy, because reality checks and outlook have proved otherwise. There are cogent reasons to be worried. Reason: The exchange rate is today N228 to US$1; statutory allocation to federating units has plunged by about 50 percent, leading to delay in salary payments by state governments; and loss of over N4 trillion in foreign direct investment.
Nigerians were jolted to reality when last December, thousands of federal civil servants celebrated yuletide without payment of their salaries. This brought to the fore the burgeoning list of state governments owing salary arrears for several months and still counting.
The sliding fortunes of the economy was exacerbated by huge losses recorded recently in the capital market, where over N4.5 trillion portfolio investments evaporated in a couple of months. Indeed, economy watchers needed no rocket science to know that the rebasing testimonial of being the biggest economy in Africa was, perhaps a ruse.
Economic analysts have blamed this spiral downward trend on the devaluation of the Naira, which was government’s kneejerk approach to the crash in oil prices.
Managing Director/CEO of Juhel Nigeria and President, Enugu Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (ECCIMA), Dr. Ifeanyi Okoye, said the nucleus of the problem is the fact that Nigeria, despite its much-touted size, still operates a mono-economy, depending solely on oil.
“As the price of oil started coming down, our Naira started tumbling. This impacted the economy, as people have to re-strategise. As far as the pharmaceutical sector is concerned, more than 98 percent of raw materials used are imported. This has affected the prices of goods in the country. So, the prices of drugs will definitely go up a little bit. However, we believe it’s going to stabilise.
“Given the mono-economy nature of Nigeria, the government’s effort to decentralise the economy will definitely take care of the problem. By the time this goes full circle, the economy will become stronger. Nigeria, of course, has been trying to ensure that agriculture is not just about feeding ourselves but also exporting our products. The strategy of trying to make manufacturers stronger by making funds available at affordable cost is good; but we have to encourage the government to go ahead with that and make it permanent, not bringing it as an intervention.” he said.

Cameron and JonathanAmidst the hot air and tension that have characterized the run-up to the decisive general elections later in the month comes the window of opportunity for businessmen and investors to make a strong head start in 2015.
Despite drawbacks to business activities since the beginning of the year, which is not unconnected to the election fervor, the United Kingdom-Nigeria Economic Forum, billed for London in July 29, will set the tone for a fresh direction, weeks after a new administration would have been inaugurated in May 29.
The fourth in the series of the trade, investment and business conference held in London by the Nigerian London Business Forum, UK (NILOBF), is coming on the heels of a hugely successful Greater London Business Conference on Nigeria held in September last year.
NILOBF is the official business chamber and trade association, comprising Nigerian, British and non-British companies doing business with Nigeria and UK, including subsidiaries of Nigerian companies and institutions doing business in the UK. Investors, trading partners from around the world who are desirous of meeting Nigerian business leaders in London with a view to doing business in Nigeria forms a large chunk of the conference participants.
The NILOBF’s key objective is promoting and attracting bilateral trade and investment relations between the two countries by bringing together business people from Nigeria and the UK, who seeks new investment opportunities, develop long-term business relationships and finalise existing business deals.
Running with the epithet ‘Meet in London, do business in Nigeria’, the event seeks to provide the platform for serious networking with potential Nigerian, British, and global business partners and investors.
According to the country director of the forum in Nigeria, who is also the Registrar/Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Credit Administration (ICA), Prof. Chris Onalo, “organisations that oil the wheels of the economy in areas of commerce and industry, trade and investment, such as export credit guarantee agencies, major project funders and loan providers, high-profile agencies responsible for growing and connecting businesses to top commercial opportunities are among the prime business entities NILOBF is bringing together for the July 29 event.”

From right: Dr. Chris Onalo, Director of the forum; Mrs. Florence Ajimobi, wife of Oyo State governor; Governor Abiola Ajimobi; Maryanne Jemide, Publisher, Nigerian Watch Newspaper, UK; and Alistair Sorodoye, CEO/Founder, BenTV, UK during the presentation of Honorary Member Award to Oyo State governor.

From right: Dr. Chris Onalo, Director of the forum; Mrs. Florence Ajimobi, wife of Oyo State governor; Governor Abiola Ajimobi; Maryanne Jemide, Publisher, Nigerian Watch Newspaper, UK; and Alistair Sorodoye, CEO/Founder, BenTV, UK during the presentation of Honorary Member Award to Oyo State governor.

A cheery development, which would be explored at the conference, is the promise by the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) to work together to attract more investments into Nigeria. This was made known recently during a send-forth luncheon organised by NBCC in honour of the outgoing Director of UK Trade and Investment  (UKTI), Mr. Mike Purves in Lagos.
President of NBCC, Adeyemi Adefulu, said the relationship between NBCC and UKTl had evolved, adding that the two bodies were committed to attracting more British companies into Nigeria. He noted that Nigeria has image problem and that Purves, through UKTI, had worked with the chamber in promoting business opportunities in Nigeria by encouraging UK companies to look beyond the challenges in the country.
Purves described Nigeria as one of the best destinations for business with its position as the biggest economy in Africa. He said Nigeria’s major resources are not oil and gas but its human resource and diversity.
Nigeria’s relation with its trading partners across the world is a mixed bag of risks and opportunity. Often touted as Africa’s biggest economy, though ranked 26th in the world in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) after rebasing, and with an over 167 million population, the country still remains an investor’s delight in spite of seemingly unfavourable business climate like insecurity and infrastructure deficit.
Nigeria is a middle-income, mixed economy and emerging market, with expanding financial, service, communications and entertainment sectors with eyes set on potentially becoming one of the 20 largest economies in the world by 2020.
Its re-emergent, though currently under-performing, manufacturing sector is the third-largest on the continent, and produces a large proportion of goods and services for the West African region. As a result, it is a busy hub for business activities.

Ona 2

Prof. Chris Onalo

One of its biggest trading partners is the United Kingdom. Presently, Nigeria is UK’s second largest trading partner in Africa after South Africa. The drive for improved trade and economic relations was the kernel of discourse at the Greater London Business Conference on Nigeria last year, the epic event that was put together by the prestigious Nigerian London Business Forum in UK.
With the theme ‘Nigeria in the MINT’, the conference had in attendance government agencies and Nigerian companies drawn from various local chambers of commerce. The term, MINT – Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey – was originally coined by Fidelity Investments, a Boston-based asset management firm and popularized by Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs, who predicted the MINT countries as the next most powerful economic bloc.
Onalo, the renowned professor of credit management in his presentation at the conference, urged the Nigerian government to work closely and pragmatically through its relevant agencies with the British government with a view to creating further improvement on efforts to remove needless obstacles perceived to be seriously hindering a robust business, trade and investment engagements of business people of the two countries.
There is need for the government of the two countries to make less stringent, special requirements to be met by business people for business visa applications so that the people in the two countries can easily and frequently meet and interact with each other in order to encourage appreciable economic, trade and investment expansions between the two countries.
For instance, conscious, stimulating and industrious effort was made by the Late Peter Carter, British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria in a meeting which was co-ordinated by the Nigerian London Business Forum (NILOBF) at the British Residence in Kaduna (Lord Lugard’s House) in 2014 to re-lunch bilateral relations between the British High Commission in Nigeria and the chambers of commerce of both Kaduna and Kano states.
The incidence of Visa Denial of members of the chambers of commerce of both states by the British High Commission and to avert a possible reoccurrence in the future was a critical part of the agenda of that meeting. He expressed regret at the experience of those members of the Chambers of Commerce (from both Kaduna and Kano States), who were denied visa to attend the last Nigerian London Business Forum (NILOBF) trade and investment conference in London, United Kingdom, and apologized on behalf of the British government.