• Stop denying your wrong, PDP says in reaction
By Egena Sunday Ode and Lateef Ibrahim, Abuja
The Presidency has explained that President Muhammadu Buhari chose the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa for last Thursday’s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) because the venue had the necessary facilities for a virtual meeting.
According to the presidency also, the choice of Aso Rock Council Chambers was apt to allow for social distancing protocol in view of health concerns, since the conference hall of the party was too small for that purpose.
This explanation which was contained in a statement by the presidency spokesman, Garba Shehu, came amid criticisms over the choice of venue for the meeting where the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee of the party was sacked.
Shehu, in the statement, emphasised that the NEC meeting, for argument sake, did not hold in Aso Rock because it was virtual, not physical, adding that nobody should actually dictate to the president where to hold his meetings within the precincts of the State House.
The statement read: “It is necessary that we put records in their correct perspective concerning the recent meeting held by the National Executive Committee of the All Progressives Congress, APC, which has, unfortunately drawn criticism due to lack of understanding.
“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.”
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has rebuked the Buhari Presidency for denying that the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) held inside the chambers of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
The party described as unfortunate that the Presidency would post a denial even when the media and the public space are already awash with photographs and videos of the NEC meeting, with APC leaders physically in attendance inside the FEC chambers where President Muhammadu Buhari presided.
The PDP said this in a noisy last night by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan in Abuja.
The leading opposition party said that it is shocking that the Buhari Presidency can state in denial that “this meeting, we say emphatically, was not convened at the Council Chamber. It was virtual, not a physical meeting”.
The PDP declared that it a fact before Nigerians that the meeting was physical and only virtual to the extent that some members of the APC NEC members were linked via conference call.
The statement by Ologbondiyan reads,
“It is therefore shocking that the Buhari Presidency can state in denial that: this meeting, we say emphatically, was not convened at the Council Chamber. It was virtual, not a physical meeting”.
“This is even when the world watched Mr. President addressing the applauding APC leaders, in addition to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Abubakar Malami, physically administering oath of office on the Chairman of APC National Caretaker Committee, Mai Buni, on the floor of the FEC chamber.
“It is a fact before Nigerians that the meeting was physical and only virtual to the extent that some members of the APC NEC members were linked via conference call.
“Moreover, our party refers the Buhari Presidency to reports already in the media where the AGF admitted administering oath of office to the Chairman of the APC Caretaker Committee; an event that took place on the floor of the FEC Chamber.
“Such a denial by President Buhari’s handlers has further exposed the decadence in the APC and the Buhari Presidency.
“What Nigerians expected of the Buhari Presidency and the APC, was to tender an unreserved apology to the nation and desist from further desecration of our national values and official conduct requirements”, it said.
The PDP charged President Buhari to call his handlers to order so as to protect the integrity of his Presidency from further damage.