Presidency to critics: APC NEC meeting was via video conference

…Says no law barred Buhari from holding meetings in certain sections of Presidential Villa

…Ruling party chides PDP over attack on President for hosting NEC meeting

The Presidency has refuted reports that the protocol of social distancing was not adhered to during Thursday’s virtual meeting of the National Executive Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the meeting, which was summoned by the former acting chairman of the party, Victor Giadom, was held virtually as the president and few members of the NEC participated in the meeting via video calls.

Other members of the committee, including Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State, State APC Chairmen and some NEC members, participated in the meeting directly from their respective states on the same day.

Malam Garba Shehu, the president’s spokesman, in a statement in Abuja on Sunday, dismissed what he described as `stubborn opinion’ held by critics of the Buhari administration that the president called a political meeting at Council Chamber of the State House.

The statement read in part: “It is necessary that we put records in their correct perspective concerning the recent meeting held by the National Executive Committee of the All Progressives Congress, APC, which has, unfortunately drawn criticism due to lack of understanding.

“The stubborn opinion held by the critics of the administration is that President Buhari had called a political meeting in the “hallowed” chamber of the Federal Executive Council, as if there is a law that says the President is barred from holding meetings in certain sections of the vast Presidential Villa.

“Since the President lives in the Villa, no one can, legally speaking, choose or dictate to him where he can sit to hold meetings. So, what is wrong in the President presenting himself before a camera and a TV screen in a digital conference at a given location within the Villa?

“Just for the sake of the argument, this meeting, we say emphatically, was not convened at the Council Chamber. It was virtual, not a physical meeting.

“Why was it a virtual meeting? The idea was to observe social distancing in view of health concerns. Knowing how small the conference hall of the party is, social distancing would only have been observed in the breach.

“President Buhari was billed to address the meeting from his office (just any of his offices) and chose the Council Chamber where the digital facilities are located.

“Other members, including the bulk of National Executive Committee members, state party leaders and members of the National Assembly were all linked using video conference calls. You saw them all on TV.’’

The presidential aide acknowledged that some APC governors and leaders of the National Assembly joined the President from the Chamber from where he spoke.

He, however, maintained that the larger body of the NEC members in attendance were all connected via video calls.

“Do not forget that these are not the normal times in view of the COVID-19 circumstances in which we have found ourselves,’’ he added.

According to him, President Buhari places health and safety above courtesy to the party by not going to its headquarters for the meeting.

He said: “In the end, a wise thing had been done because the President wants to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus disease.’

Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has taken up the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over its condemnation of President Buhari for hosting the 8th meeting of the National Executive Committee of APC inside the Executive Council chamber of the Aso Rock Villa.

Recall that the PDP had accused the President of abusing his oath of office by allowing the meeting on Thursday, June 25 which is strictly party affairs to be conducted inside the seat of power.

The APC maintained that there is no law that says the President cannot hold political meetings in the Presidential Villa.

“Also, on the propriety of the oath of office administered on the caretaker committee, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, has rightly stated that being a lawyer, Notary Public and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, there is no law that prohibits him from administering Oath.

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“While we are not required to explain to the PDP our lawful internal processes, we find their interest curious and amusing. It is understandable that the PDP is not used to following its rules as enshrined in their constitution. The APC has not copied such ignominious and unlawful practices”, the APC insisted.

Describing the PDP observation as ignorance, the APC in a statement by Yekini Nabena, Deputy National Publicity Secretary, said the PDP seems to understand the APC constitution more than its erudite framers.

The party also castigated the PDP for dabbling into strictly internal affairs of the ruling party by demanding the legality or otherwise of the Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni assuming the chairmanship position of the APC caretaker committee.

Nabena in the statement said: “The APC Constitution in Article 17 (iv) states: “No officer in any Organ of the Party shall hold executive position office in Government concurrently”.

“Therefore we make bold to state that our Party Constitution’s Article 17 (iv) which the PDP and their hirelings have laboured to stretch its language to the level of the absurd, made specific mention of any officer of the Party’s Organ and Article 11 (A) mentioned above has clearly defined the Organs of the Party.

“Therefore, the Caretaker Committee and Extra Ordinary Convention Committee which is headed by Governor Mai Mala Buni as Chairman, is not an Organ of the Party hence, their appointment is not in contravention of the Constitution of the All Progressives Congress.

“The APC Caretaker/Extra-ordinary National Convention Planning Committee is not different from several other committees that have been previously constituted of deserving party members and empowered to undertake assignments on behalf of the party. These committees include: screening, appeal, fact-finding, reconciliation, primary election and many other committees that are routinely constituted.

“For the records, Article 13.3 (vi.) empowers the National Executive Committee (NEC) as the principal executive body of the party with powers to “create, elect and appoint any committee it may deem necessary, desirable or expedient and assign to them such powers and functions as it may seem fit and proper.”

However, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has rebuked the Presidency for denying that the National Executive Committee meeting of APC was held inside the chambers of the Federal Executive Council.

The PDP said it is unfortunate that the Presidency would post a denial even when the media and the public space are already awash with photographs and videos of the NEC meeting, with APC leaders physically in attendance inside the FEC chambers where Buhari presided.

The party said it is now shocked that Buhari’s Presidency could make such denial “even when the world watched Mr President addressing the applauding APC leaders, in addition to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, physically administering oath of office on the Chairman of APC National Caretaker Committee, Mai Buni, on the floor of the FEC chamber.”

A statement issued on Sunday by the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, read in part: “It is a fact before Nigerians that the meeting was physical and only virtual to the extent that some members of the APC NEC members were linked via conference call.

“Moreover, our party refers the Buhari presidency to reports already in the media where the AGF admitted administering oath of office to the Chairman of the APC Caretaker Committee; an event that took place on the floor of the FEC chamber. Such a denial by President Buhari’s handlers has further exposed the decadence in the APC and the Buhari presidency.

“What Nigerians expected of the Buhari presidency and the APC was to tender an unreserved apology to the nation and desist from further desecration of our national values and official conduct requirements.

“The PDP charges President Buhari to call his handlers to order so as to protect the integrity of his Presidency from further damage.”

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