An Abuja-based political scientist, peacebuilding practitioner, national security scholar, and public affairs analyst, Ayokunle Fagbemi, has called on the appropriate statutory entities of the Nigerian-state to initiate the processes for the determination of the health status of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR in compliance with Nigerian legal and policy frameworks. This comes in the light of the fact that Nigerians have been completely starved of information on PMB’s health. Always known for compassion, sympathy and prayerfulness, well-meaning Nigerians feel that they have been taken for granted for too long and are now worn out with this deafening silence. Meanwhile, as a public officer, President Buhari has now spent cumulatively about Ninety-seven (97) days Medical Leave in 2017 contrary to the provisions of Public Service Rules (PSR). The applicable PSR 070316 stipulates that the “maximum aggregate sick leave which can be allowed an officer, who is not hospitalized, during any period of twelve months shall be forty-two (42) calendar days”. He stressed that it is this rule that now demands the appropriate statutory entities to activate the provisions contained in Section 144 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
President Buhari’s absence from duties January 19 – March 10 and May 7 – until date, June 26, 2017 can no longer be justified under the laws of Nigeria. This is because of the need to apply the 1999 Constitution imposed obligations, which President Buhari and all those occupying statutory offices swore to, uphold and protect! According to the statement issued and signed personally by him, Fagbemi asserts that the time was up for the “PMB Presidential Personality Cult (PMB-PPC)”, a.k.a. Cabal, to give-up and realize that the game was over in the light of relevant legal and policy frameworks. He pleaded with the (Cabal), renowned for coordinating the conspiracies bedeviling the presidency relations with all stakeholders in the Nigerian project. He cautioned them and their international interlocutors to deactivate all arrangements aimed at undermining the integrity of the Nigerian-state and to desist from further attempts that contribute to ridiculing or painting the ever law-abiding President Muhammadu Buhari as a public officer in bad light. In his view, the current charade by the cabal is not protecting the interest of, but fast eroding the credibility and integrity of President Buhari who has always complied with the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria he swore to uphold. He commended the untainted records of President Buhari in complying with the spirit and letters of the constitution, particularly, Section 145, by transmitting letters to the National Assembly when traveling out of the country and relinquishing powers for the continuous administration of Nigeria to his Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo GCON, while away. He noted that Nigerians do not really have a problem with PMB but with the Cabal, that is mismanaging his Presidency. He wondered why they could not even arrange a simple live audio-visual platform for PMB to address his people. Nigerians are no longer impressed with transmitted letters purportedly originating from him.
According to Ayokunle Fagbemi, it is time to bring to an end the adopted sociopolitical management of cabal politics and the media spins. He urged the ruling All Progressives Council (APC) led Presidency to live up to the dictates of what the party purports to believe. That is, the APC as a progressive party believes “that Nigeria is greater than any individual or the sum of her Federating Units, therefore the country can only succeed when all of us have equal rights, where no one is above the law, where the culture of impunity is abolished and where there is level playing field”.
He berated the presidential media aides for adopting negative communication strategies that is opaque and laden with political intrigues in the information management of matters concerning the health status of President Buhari. He implored them to note that the 2015 elected and sworn-in President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria exists by and is subject to the legal and policy frameworks of the country. He further enjoined them to desist forthwith from interjectory media releases, social media posts and media interviews that run contrary to the provisions of the constitution because they have had the unintended consequences of triggering unwarranted sociopolitical controversies even as they seek to rebuild or sustain political authority around the convalescing President Buhari.
In drawing attention to the relevant legal and policy frameworks, he referred to and aligned the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, with the 2008 Public Service Rules and Regulations (including the Administrative Procedures) of Nigeria.
According to Fagbemi, he had hitherto refrained from public commentary over national issues. He continues ‘’keeping my perspectives on sensitive national issues restricted to few circuits because I do not have the kind of “thick elephant skin” to absorb the shocks of the negative vituperations that are often devoid of deep intellectual reflections. Noting that I have never been partisan and always find it difficult to cope with the misconceptions or misperceptions that end up labelling my contributions on Nigeria’s nation building as being politically partisan or laden with nepotism. Equally, I find it difficult seeking to be “politically correct” because of filthy lucre. Truth remains truth! I declare things as they are, now and for posterity. My watchword is to communicate using relevant normative underpinnings and framing of discourses within theoretical and empirically researched perspectives and articulating them within legal and policy dimensions for projections into the Nigerian political space.”
In order to underscore the relevance of the referenced legal and policy frameworks, Ayokunle Fagbemi affirmed that President Umaru Yaradua in 2008 signed-off for enforcement, implementation and application the Public Service Rules, terse, the Administrative Rules of Procedures that is currently in force. President Yaradua in the Foreword, he urged “all Public Servants to acquaint themselves with these Rules and Regulations as well as other extant laws for effective Public Service administration and to ensure their application in a manner that would enhance the smooth functioning of the Public Service”. For the avoidance of doubts, it is published as Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette No. 57, Abuja – 25th August, 2009 Vol. 96. That is, Government Notice No. 278.
Section 01010 1 emphasizes the applicability of the document to the President as a Public Officer! In part, it reads thus:
These Public Service Rules apply to all officers except where they conflict with specific terms approved by the Federal Government and written into the contract of employment or letters of appointment. In so far as the holders of the offices of: The President; The Vice President; Chief Justice of Nigeria; Justices of the Supreme Court….. And any other similar organs that derive their appointments from the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are concerned, these Rules apply only to the extent that they are not inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in so far as their conditions of service and any other law applicable to these officers are concerned.
To all intents and purposes therefore, the Public Service Rules, contrary to pundits and the socio-politically naïve or legal novices, are glaringly applicable to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It does not in any way conflict with the Constitution. It only further reinforces, as procedures precedent, for compliance in activating the provisions of Section 144 of the Constitution.
Chapter Seven (7) of the PSR treated exhaustively issues pertaining to the Medicals of all Public Officers. It provided for procedures, benefits and sanctions. This chapter explains why the Nigerian-state has had to cover the cost of PMB’s travel, treatment and upkeep, the deployment of the Presidential Aircraft, personal aides (security and support) while in the course of medical leave. The chapter provides the base for catering for the travels of the spouse of the President, amongst others. I do not intend to concentrate on the disinformation or the attempt to coerce Nigerians from seeking stewardship accountability in this article. My concern is strictly on the applicability of the Public Service Rules in the activation of Constitutional Provision contained in Section 144.
On the continued relevance of the PSR, Ayokunle Fagbemi notes that President Buhari, as a law-abiding citizen, acted in deference to PSR 070301, by activating section 145 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. The said PSR 070301 stipulates that when a public “officer is ill and unable to report for duty” and he should procedurally “in writing or by any other means of communication” inform the appropriate authority, [in this case, the NASS] of his “prolonged absence from duty on ground of illness”. In his last correspondence to the NASS, he noted that his doctors would determine the duration of his stay on Medical Leave. This is still in order pending the provision of appropriate certificates provided for by this rule. We really appreciate and commend President Buhari; urging him to continue even as we plead with members of the PMB-PPC to deactivate anything that may discourage his continued compliance to all Nigerian laws and policies.
We equally commend the NASS, which is, the Senate and House of Representatives, for stabilizing the polity by approving the Medical Leave pursuant to PSR 070314 as the proper authority and properly designating and authorizing the Acting President status for Vice-President Osinbajo.
We are however concerned on the need for the urgent application of PSR 070316 –
(i) The maximum aggregate sick leave which can be allowed an officer, who is not hospitalized, during any period of twelve months shall be forty-two (42) calendar days. Where such an officer has been absent from duty on the ground of ill-health for an aggregate period in excess of forty-two (42) calendar days within twelve calendar months, the officer should be made to appear before a Medical Board with a view to ascertain whether he/she should be invalidated from service. Any period of absence on ground of ill-health in excess of the prescribed aggregate will be without pay and will not be reckoned for purpose of increment for pension.
(ii) An officer who is incapacitated as a result of injury sustained in the course of his official duties shall be entitled to draw full emolument until he/she is discharged from sick leave or permanently invalidated.
President Buhari has now been away from work for longer that forty-two calendar days at this stretch again. This would be the second time this year for a cumulative period of about ninety-seven (97) days. From a simple logical reading of this rule, as a public officer, President Buhari is now due for Medical Review by a properly constituted Medical Board as provided for in Section 144 (1) (b) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.