After weeks of absence due to ill-health, President Muhammadu Buhari resumed work on Tuesday and met separately with the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Buhari’s resumption at his office was bound to stem speculation and growing concerns about his health, which presidency sources informed THISDAY have been grossly exaggerated.
A source on Tuesday reiterated the statement by one of the president’s spokesmen Garba Shehu that Buhari had been advised by his doctors to rest more and take things slowly after his medical vacation in the United Kingdom, adding, however, that now he has resumed work, he would likely chair the meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday.
Since his return from the UK, Buhari has not attended any public function and was unable to attend two cabinet meetings last month and the Jumat service last Friday at the Presidential Villa.
The president was also absent at the May Day rally organised by the labour unions for the second time since assuming office in 2015, a development that caused commotion at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
Briefing State House correspondents after his closed-door meeting with the president, Malami said Buhari expressed concern over the perceived failure of the National Assembly to pass some bills meant to aid the fight against corruption, describing it as a major setback for the anti-graft war.
Malami, who disclosed that the assets recovered by the anti-graft agencies are scattered all over the country, added that the non-passage of the bills was worrisome to the president because it has resulted in a stalemate in stock taking and management of the proceeds of the anti-corruption war.
He made reference to Proceeds of Crime Bill which he said contains the legal backing for the establishment of an Asset Management Agency as one of such bills whose non-passage constitutes a threat to the progress of the anti-corruption war.
According to him, assets recovered by anti-corruption agencies are scattered across the country without any legal framework to aid their gathering and management.
He also explained that he had visited the president to brief him on developments in his ministry as well as the submission of the report of the Electoral Reform Committee to his office.
“It was a routine briefing to the president as it relates to general issues – the issues that have to do with anti-corruption.
“Mr. President is worried that the anti-corruption bills that are pending before the National Assembly, there has not been any expeditious determination on the passage of the bills and indeed the Asset Management Agency was also part of the discussion.
“Mr. President is worried that the assets that have been gathered over time by the agencies of government that are responsible for the fight against corruption are scattered all over the place.
“And embedded in the Proceeds of Crime Bill is the Asset Management Agency which is the agency put in place by the presidency for the purpose of managing the associated assets that are recovered.
“So, Mr. President is indeed worried and the discussions bordered on how best we can handle it. There are also limited issues that relate to the parastatals under the Ministry of Justice that were discussed.
“As you are aware, this afternoon, the Electoral Reform Committee that had been put in place submitted its report to my office.
“I equally briefed Mr. President on that and in addition to the report, there are bills that have been presented for the consideration of the Federal Executive Council as they relate to amendment to the electoral process.
“The whole essence of the meeting was to seek the view of Mr. President and the direction as to what to do next as it relates to the Electoral Reform Committee report that has been submitted and to consider routine processes under the Ministry of Justice,” he said.
Malami also disclosed that the presidential committee probing the allegations of corruption against the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Babachir Lawal, and Director-General of National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Mr. Ayo Oke, over the discovery of N13.3 billion in an apartment in Ikoyi, would submit its report to Buhari on Wednesday.
The committee is chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo. Malami and National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno (rtd.) are also members of the committee.
Malami, who declined to make comments on the committee’s findings, said doing so would be pre-emptive, adding that the vice-president who is the chairman of the panel would brief the president on its findings after submitting the report today.
“Well, you know the presidential committee that is investigating the NIA and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation is supposed to make its submission by tomorrow.
“So it is pre-emptive now to discuss anything considering the fact that the committee is under the chairmanship of the vice-president who is supposed to brief the president in that respect and the schedule for the committee’s assignment has not elapsed,” Malami said.
Lawal and Oke were suspended by Buhari on April 19, after which the president constituted a three-man committee chaired by the vice-president to probe them.
While Lawal was accused of violations of due process in the award of contracts on the humanitarian crisis in the North-east, Oke was suspended over his claim that the money discovered in the Lagos flat belonged to the agency.
The committee was tasked with investigating “how and by whose or which authority the funds were made available to NIA, and to establish whether or not there has been a breach of the law or security procedure in obtaining custody and use of the funds”.
Lawal is being investigated over the management of the Presidential Initiative on the North-east (PINE) in his capacity as SGF.
He was alleged to have awarded a N220 million tree-cutting contract to his company, Rholavision Engineering Limited, in contravention of public sector rules barring government officials from awarding contracts to companies in which they have an interest.
During his briefing, Dr. Baru said he met with the president to update him on operations of the NNPC and its subsidiaries, and on the relative stability in the nation’s oil and gas sector in recent weeks.
He said the president expressed delight over the reported stability in the oil and gas sector.
“I briefed Mr. President on the state of the NNPC and its subsidiaries and also on the situation of fuel supply, crude oil production, gas production and by extension, ability to supply gas to the power sector,” he said.
“We had an extensive briefing as you can see; I passed here over two hours ago. I spent quite some time with him to discuss these national issues.
“He was happy with the state of the corporation and told us to continue with the efforts that we are doing and if we need any executive attention we should not hesitate to come back to him,” Baru said.
Baru disclosed that following the peace and stability being enjoyed in the Niger Delta, oil production peaked at two million barrels per day (mbpd) on May 2.
He also said NNPC has no plan to increase the prices of petroleum products.