MUST READ: 38 Days of Osinbajo’s Acting Presidency – DailyTrust

By Nuruddeen M. Abdallah, Isiaka Wakili & Clement A. Oloyede,

It is 38 days since Professor Yemi Osinbajo took over the mantle of leadership in Nigeria as acting president following the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari, who has been on vacation. Daily Trust on Sunday reviews some of the actions the acting president has taken so far.

This is the third time Osinbajo is acting as president. The first was in February 2016 when the president embarked on a five-day vacation, and the second time was in June 2016 when President Muhammadu Buhari went on a trip to the United Kingdom to treat an ear infection.

Unlike the era of the late President Umaru Yar’adua’s health crisis, Buhari had transmitted a letter to the National Assembly, informing them of his vacation and surrendering power to Osinbajo. President Buhari began a two-week vacation in London but later extended it indefinitely to address yet-to-be-disclosed medical concerns. Since then, the acting president has been riding out the storm.

Following a directive from the acting president, the dollar came crashing, 24 hours after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) released $500 million to the banks, stabilising at 450 from N525. This is one of the effects of the directive issued after the National Economic Council meeting to the CBN to review its foreign exchange policy that weakened the national currency.

The name of Justice Walter Onnoghen was also forwarded to the National Assembly as acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, less than 24 hours to the expiration of his three-month acting period, saving the country another constitutional controversy.

A presidential task force was set up to address the skyrocketing prices of foodstuff across the country, while seven bills passed by the National Assembly were signed into law. Four others were rejected.

Face-to-face talks were held with communities in the creeks of the oil-rich Niger Delta on how to stabilise the region, fix their infrastructure and ensure a hitch-free flow of crude to the international market.

Osinbajo has so far presided over five meetings of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), awarding contracts worth billions of naira, among others.

January 20: After the Davos summit

Osinbajo was attending the 2017 World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland when Buhari travelled to London and he became acting president. On his return in January 20, he swung into action by having an engagement with service chiefs who briefed him on the situation in The Gambia at that time. He also received briefing from some members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

January 23: Unveiling 59 strategies for economic recovery 

On January 23, Osinbajo presided over the Presidential Business Forum, during which 59 strategies for implementing the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) were unveiled. He later received the special envoy of President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti.

January 24: Micro enterprise clinic launched

On January 24, Osinbajo launched the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Clinics at the Old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa. He later proceeded to preside over a meeting of the Presidential Enabling Business Council.

January 25: Presided over his first FEC meeting

The acting president has so far presided over five weekly meetings of the Federal Executive Council since President Buhari left for the United Kingdom. The first was on January 25.

January 27: Met with the World Food Programme chief

On January 27, the acting president held a meeting with the executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ms Ertharin Cousin.

January 30: Met with Senate Leader over budget

On January 30, Osinbajo had an audience with Senate Leader Ahmed Lawan over the 2017 Appropriation Bill.

January 31: Met with Ortom, Saraki, Dogara, Kogi APC 

On January 31, he also received the governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom.  He later met with Senate President Bukola Saraki and the House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara, over the economy and the 2017 budget.

A delegation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftains from Kogi State visited him in the evening of January 31.

February 1: Inaugurated NPC commissioners 

Shortly before presiding over the FEC meeting on February 1, during which the Presidential Task Force on Food Security, mandated to reduce prices of food items in the country, was constituted, Osinbajo had inaugurated five commissioners of the National Population Commission (NPC).

February 2: Met Saraki, Doagara again

The acting president again met with the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives on February 2.

February 6: Economic Recovery Forum opened

On February 6, Osinbajo declared open, the Agenda for Consultative Forum on Economic Recovery and Growth Plan. He told the forum that the nation was in a very serious economic situation, but assured that the government remained committed to putting the economy on the path to sustainable growth.

Osinbajo assured the nation that President Buhari is hale and hearty and would return home as soon as he completed the necessary tests recommended by his doctors in the United Kingdom after his reported telephone conversation with the president.

February 7: Sent Onnoghen’s name for confirmation 

The acting president, on February 7, sent the name of the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, to the Senate for confirmation.

He later issued a statement assuring Nigerians that with the federal government’s complete focus on improving the economy, the current recession would soon be history. “We are committed to a continuous engagement with our people to explain government policies, receive advice and criticism,” he said.

Later in the day, the acting president met with the then outgoing Ondo State governor, Olusegun Mimiko.

February 8: Met Kano Emir, as FEC approved N21bn roads contract

On February 8, Osinbajo chaired a meeting of the Federal Executive Council, which adopted measures to reduce prices of food items in the country. The meeting also resolved to restrict importation, from ECOWAS countries, of finished products that could be produced locally. That was in addition to the approval by the FEC, of N21 billion for the construction of the Ilorin-Omu Aran-Kabba Road, Section I.

Later in the day, the acting president held a closed-door meeting with the Emir of Kano and former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Muhammadu Sanusi.

February 9: Met Oba of Lagos, Labour, CSOs, Asset Recovery Committee

On February 9, Osinbajo met with the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and applauded them for joining the ongoing anti-corruption campaign in the country. He gave the commendation when leaders of the NLC and TUC visited him and jointly presented an 18-point demand to the federal government. He also received the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu.

Later in the evening, Osinbajo chaired a meeting of the Presidential Committee on Asset Recovery. The meeting was attended by the Inspector-General of Police Ibrahim Idris, the director-general of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura; the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu and the chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Ekpo Nta.

February 10: Visited the creeks in Bayelsa

Osinbajo headed for Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital on February 10 in continuation of his interactive engagements with oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta region.

February 13: Met Governor Wike in Rivers

Similarly, on February 13, the acting president was in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, to meet stakeholders of the oil producing communities. During the meeting, he rolled out the framework for the clean-up exercise of Ogoni land.

February 15: FEC approved N126bn roads contracts, national health policy 

The Federal Executive Council meeting he chaired on February 15 approved the award of N126 billion road projects spread across Kano, Bauchi, Adamawa, Kwara, Gombe, Enugu an Kaduna states. The council meeting also approved the National Draft Health Policy 2016.

February 16: Directed the CBN to review foreign exchange policy

On February 16, the acting president inaugurated the National Road Safety Advisory Council, mandated to advise the Federal Executive Council and the National Economic Council on how to improve road safety management in the country. He chairs the council.

He presided over the first National Economic Council meeting of the year on February 16. The meeting directed the CBN to review the foreign exchange policy. The meeting also resolved that fresh $250 million be injected into the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF). The CBN subsequently released about $500 million through the interbank market, where the 23 banks bought $371m.

The dollar crashed between N400 and N450 against the earlier N525.

The naira also gained against other currencies such as the Pound Sterling, which traded at 645 a day earlier but slipped to 610 while the Euro came down from N537 to N507 at the end of trading yesterday.

Also during the week, the CBN began moves to fund commercial banks with additional Forex to carter for school fees, medicals and personal travelling allowance (PTA) and business travel allowance (BTA) at a special rate.

CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele
CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele

February 17: Signed 7 bills into law

On February 17, the acting president signed seven bills into law. They were Oaths (Amendment) Act 2017; Defence Space Administration Act 2017; Veterinary Surgeons (Amendment) Act 2017; National Film and Video Censors Board (Amendment) Act 2017; Pension Rights of Judges (Amendment) Act 2017; Nigeria Institute of Soil Science (Establishment) Act 2017 and Mortgage Institutions (Amendment) Act 2016.

February 18: Attended Barrow’s inauguration in The Gambia

The only function Osinbajo had so far attended outside Nigeria as acting president was the inauguration of the new president of The Gambia, Adama Barrow, which took place in Banjul on February 18. The Presidency did not announce that Osinbajo was going for the inauguration; his aides only released the photographs of the event two days after.

February 19: No money earmarked for vice president’s residence

On February 19, Osinbajo said that no money was earmarked for the proposed new official residence of the vice president following reports that he budgeted N250 million for an iron gate to the proposed residence, which had been under construction since 2010 despite lingering economic crisis.

February 20: Met wheat and rice task force

Osinbajo, on February 20, presided over a meeting of the Presidential Task Force on Wheat and Rice. He assured that the nation would attain self-sufficiency in food security. The meeting was attended by the governors of Kano, Jigawa, Kebbi and Ebonyi states, as well as ministers of agriculture and finance.

Osinbajo could not make his proposed visit to Ondo State where he was expected to commission Governor Mimiko’s N1.5 billion event centre due to ‘bad weather’.

February 21: Adopted 60-day action plan for business

On February 21, he chaired an expanded meeting of the Presidential Enabling Business Council. The meeting, which was attended by Senate President Bukola Saraki and House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara and other government officials, adopted a 60-day national action plan for business. Osinbajo asked the nation to expect changes in business visas, as well as seaports and airports.

February 22: Approved N32bn for Kaduna bypass 

The Federal Executive Council meeting he chaired on February 22 approved N32 billion for the resuscitation and completion of the 50km dual carriage Kaduna eastern bypass highway. The Council also approved $39.9 for the construction of the Cameroon-Nigeria border link bridge at Ikot Efiem. The council also approved the Revised National Policy on Environment.

Osinbajo also withheld assent to four bills recently passed into law by the National Assembly.

He asked the House of Representatives for approval to borrow $500 million out of the $1 billion Eurobond from the International Capital Market (ICM). He said the $500 million would be used to fund the 2016 budget deficit.

After the FEC meeting, the acting president hosted the commander of the United States-Africa Command, General Thomas Waldhauster and the American ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington.

nigerian senate

February 23: Met economic team, Saraki, Dogara over budget

On February 23, the acting president, at his Aguda House residence in Aso Rock Presidential Villa, presided over a meeting between the National Economic Management Team and the leadership of the National Assembly over the 2017 budget.

He summoned Inspector-General of Police Idris Ibrahim over the kidnap of two German archaeologists, Prof. Peter Breunig and Mr. Johannes Behringer in Kagarko Local Government Area of Kaduna State.

February 23: Unscheduled visit to Lagos airport

The acting president also paid an unscheduled visit to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, as part of the 60-day action plan for business reforms in the country. The visit took many airport workers by surprise. Osinbajo inspected facilities and interacted with airport officials.

February 24: Sacked 10 NCAA directors, met poultry farmers

Less than 24 hours after his unscheduled visit to Lagos airport, the federal government announced the sack of 10 directors of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). Three new directors and a general manager were also appointed for the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).

He also met with representatives of the poultry farmers in the country. He said the government was planning urgent relief for poultry farmers in the country to save the industry from collapse.

Those in attendance were the comptroller-general of the Nigeria Customs Service, Hameed Hali, CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele and Minister of Finance Kemi Adeosun.

How Osinbajo spends his day 

Before he became acting president, as vice president of Nigeria and a senior pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in Lagos, he was used to attending the church’s weekly Holy Ghost night vigil along the Lagos-Ibadan highway. Each time he attended the programme, the vice president’s wing of the State House always appeared deserted, especially on Fridays, with only a few members of staff and aides sighted in their offices.

Now, a close monitoring of the acting president’s itineraries and programmes shows that he is, for obvious reasons, keeping vigil only at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja, attending to state matters.

Except he has any official function to attend outside the State House, the acting president resumes in the office as early as 9.00am and most times, remains there, holding meetings, treating files and discharging other duties till about 9.00pm. And when occasionally he travels at weekends, it is strictly on official duties.

Since Osinbajo became acting president, the vice president’s wing of the Presidential Villa, from where he operates, has been a beehive of activities. He only moves to the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa for the weekly meetings of the FEC and the monthly meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC).

Osinbajo has continued to combine his duties as acting president with the various responsibilities assigned to him as vice president who heads some vital organs of the executive and several presidential committees. He chairs the National Economic Management Team (NEMT), which is the government’s think-tank responsible for the formulation of the country’s economic policy direction, as well as the NEC, saddled with the responsibility of guiding the president on his economic policies.

Osinbajo equally heads the Presidential Committee on Asset Recovery (PCAR); the Presidential Enabling Business Council (PEBEC); the Presidential Committee on the Reconstitution of Federal Government Boards of Parastatals, Agencies and Commissions; the National Council on Privatisation (NCP); the Federal Road Safety Advisory Council, among others.

Osinbajo is in charge – Spokesman 

The Presidency told Daily Trust on Sunday that Osinbajo is fully in charge of the affairs of the nation, contrary to some speculations. His senior special assistant on media and publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, said Osinbajo was doing everything expected of him as acting president.

“Mr. President is on vacation and has asked for time to rest. In accordance with the constitution, he handed over power to Mr. Vice President. This is a commendable and unprecedented act of a statesman. So the vice president, as acting president, is fully in charge as Mr. President requested in his letter to the National Assembly,” Akande said.