Garba Shehu, spokesman of President Muhammadu Buhari, on Sunday, June 28, says no one can dictate to the president where he should hold his meetings.
Shehu said this in response to criticisms against the use of the federal executive council (FEC) chamber for the conduct of the national executive committee (NEC) meeting of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
At the NEC meeting of the APC last Thursday, the party’s national working committee (NWC) was dissolved, and Mai Mala Buni, Yobe governor, was sworn in as the chairman of a caretaker committee.
Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP spokesman, in a statement on Friday, described the president’s action “as the height of corruption as well as a desecration of the sanctity of the seat of power and our national values”.
The party also criticised Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation (AGF), for administering the oath of office on Buni.
But Malami said it was within his powers as minister of justice to administer the oath of office on the APC chieftain.
In a statement on Sunday, Shehu said since the president resides in the villa, he can decide to hold his meetings anywhere within the villa.
“The stubborn opinion held by the critics of the administration is that President Muhammadu 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,” he said
“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?”
The presidential spokesman also said only a select group of people where physically present at the meeting in adherence to COVID-19 prevention protocol.
“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,” he said.
“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, and 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.
“Yes, it is true that governors and leaders of the national assembly joined the president from the chamber from where he spoke. But the larger body of the 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. President Buhari placed health and safety above courtesy to the party by not going to its headquarters.
“In the end, a wise thing had been done because the president wants to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus disease.”