Following criticism that President Muhammadu Buhari turned the Council Chambers of the State House to the meeting venue of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Presidency on Sunday denied the allegation.
According to it, last Thursday’s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the party was a virtual session that did not involve physical attendance by all NEC members.
It explained that Buhari coordinated the meeting from the council chambers because the digital equipment for online conferences in the State House were set up there, following the outbreak of COVID-19.
“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 ‘hallowe’” 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?”, the Presidency said on Sunday.
It went on further to state how the meeting was virtual and not a physical one.
“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”, Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, wrote on Sunday.
About 15 APC governors showed up for the meeting at the State House, besides Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, and the former Deputy National Secretary of the party, Mr Victor Giadom.
The governors in attendance included those of Nasarawa, Niger, Jigawa, Yobe, Plateau, Kogi, Imo, Gombe, Osun, Ogun, Lagos, Kwara, Ekiti, Kano and Kebbi states.
The Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege; Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Wase; House Majority Leader, Alhassan Ad-Dogowa; and the Deputy Chief Whip, House of Representatives, Nnenna Ukeje, also attended the meeting.
But, the Presidency insisted that Buhari took necessary precautions to contain the spread of COVID-19.
It added, “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.”