The Presidency says no one can dictate to President Muhammadu Buhari which part of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, he can hold meetings, being the current occupant of the country’s State House.
The Presidency also said no law prohibits or forbids the President from holding meetings in any part of the Presidential Villa.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said this in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja.
President had drawn criticisms from some individuals, including a former Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka, for hosting last Thursday’s meeting of the All Progressives Congress’ National Executive Committee inside the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa.
According to them, the chamber is meant for government business, but the party’s NEC meeting did not fall under the category of government business that should be conducted from the hall.
Chidoka, who is a chieftain of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, had, in a statement, said, “The country witnessed a new low today (Thursday) when Mr President, for the first time since 1999, used the Federal Executive Chamber for APC NWC meeting.”
But the presidential spokesman, Shehu, said claiming that the meeting was convened at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, was wrong.
He said the meeting was a virtual one so that the protocol of social distancing could be observed and the President needed to address party leaders from any of his offices inside the Presidential Villa.
Shehu added that while it was true that state governors and leaders of the National Assembly joined Buhari from the chamber where he spoke, the majority of the members connected via video calls.
He said that criticisms of the hosting of the APC NEC meeting at the Villa by Buhari showed a lack of understanding by the opponents of the President.
Shehu said, “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.
“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, 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.”
Recall that the APC NWC was dissolved at last Thursday’s NEC meeting and a caretaker committee was put in place.
The committee is being chaired by the Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni.