The Peoples Democratic Party and the Coalition of United Political Parties on Thursday called on President Muhammadu Buhari to disclose his reason for embarking on a 10-day trip to the United Kingdom.
They said it was wrong for the President to embark on a journey without telling Nigerians what he would do while away.
Their reactions followed a statement from the Presidency that President Muhammadu would travel to the UK on Thursday on a “private visit.”
The President, who was on an official visit to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, on Thursday, was expected to travel to the UK after the trip to the north-eastern state. He will be away till May 5.
Due to this, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo presided over the Federal Executive Council meeting where the Federal Government approved N52bn for the electronic monitoring of Nigeria’s borders with neighbouring countries.
The statement by the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, stated, “Further to the official visit by President Muhammadu Buhari to Lagos on Wednesday where he inaugurated a number of projects executed by the state government, the President is scheduled to depart for Maiduguri, the Borno State capital for another official visit on Thursday.
“He is expected to inaugurate developmental projects especially in the sectors of education, health care and roads.
“At the end of the visit, President Buhari will be proceeding to the United Kingdom on a private visit. He is expected to return to Nigeria on May 5, 2019.”
Buhari can’t travel with public funds and fail to disclose mission – PDP
However, the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said it was improper for the President to travel with public funds but fail to “disclose his movements.”
He said it would be wrong for the President to allow Nigerians to be speculating on whether he (the President) was attending to his health or not.
Secondus said, “The President is not travelling as an individual. He is travelling as the President of Nigeria who was elected by Nigerians in 2015 to lead them.
“He is not going to the UK on a commercial airline; but on a presidential jet that is being maintained by taxpayers. Nigerians are going to be responsible for his welfare and the welfare of those who are going with him.
“The President should, therefore, open up and tell Nigerians his itinerary in the UK. Is he going on holiday? Is he going for medicals? Who are those who will be his guests there and where will he visit? Is he going on a short break?
“These are not too much to tell the people, especially by a man who preaches integrity and always claims that his government has nothing to hide.”
Nigeria is on autopilot under Buhari, says CUPP
In its reaction, the CUPP said the trip had proved that the country had been on autopilot since he assumed office.
The coalition’s national spokesman, Imo Ugochinyere, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents.
Ugochinyere also said since his trips were funded with taxpayers’ money, the President should disclose the reason for his latest travel instead of tagging it a private visit.
He said, “The President is taking Nigerians for granted. He does whatever he likes without bothering about anybody. After spending over a year outside the country in the last four years, he has again embarked on what he called a private visit with the taxpayers’ money.
“The man is not doing anything. The country is on autopilot. The country has been on autopilot since he took over and it is still on autopilot.
“If he is going for regular medicals, he should be bold enough to tell us. If he is going on holiday, he should also tell us because his trips are funded with taxpayers’ money.
“It is clear that the country does not have a competent leader. The job of the President is a 24 hours job but this man is not doing this job.”
Buhari’s frequent trips alarming, says group
On his part, the Executive Director, United Global Resolve for Peace, Shalom Olaseni, said the President had the constitutional right to leave the country even for more than a week without disclosing his itinerary in as much as proper handing over to the Vice-President was done.
He, however, expressed concerns over Buhari’s frequent trips, which he said, had not yielded any benefit to the nation.
Presidency declines to shed more light on President’s ‘private visit’
However, in spite of the crticisms by the opposition, attempts made by The PUNCH to get the reaction of the President’s media managers did not yield fruit.
An enquiry mail that sent to Adesina and the Senior Special Assistant to Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, was not responded to as of the time of filing this report on Thursday night.
Buhari is also set to hold a valedictory session for members of the Federal Executive Council on May 22, less than a week to his inauguration for a second term on May 29.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, disclosed this while speaking to State House Correspondents at the end of Thursday’s FEC meeting in Abuja.
Mohammed stated that the cabinet would be intact until May 22 when the President would host the ministers to a valedictory session.
“We will be having a valedictory session on May 22. The cabinet remains intact,” he added.
Recall that the ministers were a week earlier directed to submit “status reports on policies, programmes and projects” under their watch by Wednesday, April 24, preparatory to the winding down of the first term of the President.”
Mohammed said the fact that the valedictory session of the federal cabinet would be held on May 22, 2019 did not mean that the cabinet would be dissolved on the same day.
Clarifying his earlier statement to State House correspondents after Thursday’s Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja, the minister said it was the prerogative of the President to dissolve the cabinet anytime he chose.
“It is therefore inaccurate to extrapolate from my statement – that the FEC valedictory session will hold on May 22 – to say that the President will dissolve the cabinet on the same day. They do not mean the same thing,” he said.
FEC okays N52bn for e-border monitoring in Buhari’s absence
Meanwhile, the FEC on Thursday approved N52bn for the electronic monitoring of Nigeria’s loose borders with neighbouring countries in Buhari’s absence.
The Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd.), who spoke on the border projects, said 86 border posts would be covered.
He added that the 1,400 illegal smuggling routes along the borders would also be monitored electronically on completion of the projects.
The minister said, “You will recall that when we came, I made the observation that our borders are very porous and diverse and that it is impossible to man these borders physically. Therefore, there is the need for modern technologies to be able to monitor our borders. We also thought of the capacity to respond to emergencies at the borders.
“It is on this note that I presented a memo today (Thursday) for this e-border solution. This process started in 2012 but we picked it up to move forward when we came in. The project is to be completed within the next two years and it will cost about N52bn.
“There is a pilot project already which has been very successful; it was installed to monitor two borders.
“This project is going to cover 86 border posts in the country. We will be able to also monitor 1,400 illegal routes that are used for smuggling and all kinds of cross-border criminal activities.”
In addition, the FEC approved N202.6m for the completion of the Ingawa Dam in Katsina State and the Mangu Dam located in Plateau State.