Govt blames saboteurs for fuel scarcity
In a related development, a former Minority Leader in the lower chamber of the National Assembly, Farouk Adamu Aliyu, yesterday prayed the Federal High Court, Abuja Division, to declare ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua incapable of running the affairs of office. In the legal offensive launched by Aliyu and his co-plaintiff, Sani Hussaini Gabbas, they want the court to hold that the absence of Yar’Adua on account of his ill-health amounts to his permanent incapacity to perform the duties of president as envisaged by section 146 of the 1999 Constitution.
The duo named the Attorney General of the Federation and the Council of Ministers as first and second defendants and lamented that the latter (FEC), which has the constitutional duty of starting the process for determining whether Yar’Adua is fit to continue in office as president, has bluntly refused to initiate the process.
Consequently, they are asking the court to declare that the absence of the president from the country and from his statutory duties and functions for medical treatment constitutes permanent incapacity within the meaning and intendment of section 146 of the 1999 Constitution.
On the fuel scarcity, Akunyili said: “There is another meeting slated for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The Vice President has directed that some Ministers are not going on holidays because of the issue of fuel and power.
“The Federal Government is concerned and worried about the present fuel situation in the country. We are not foreigners. We are Nigerians. We are also going through what you are going through, in one way or the other. Like my own driver stayed in the filling station for hours. So, we are not insulated from the problem. We feel your pain. We are going through the same pain. But we have to do something constructive, which we are doing right now.
“Like in the (Council) meeting of today, we discussed it extensively because the Vice President asked the ministers of Petroleum to tell us what the problem is. And they outlined the problems. One of them is that people are hoarding the fuel. The minister of State for Petroleum even went round. And some of these people (fuel marketers) even went ahead to vandalise some of the serving points to prove that they are using one because others have gone bad. It is sabotage. It is unpatriotic. It is wickedness. Again, we have people buying fuel, off loading them and again come to buy again. It is panic buying. Too many parameters are already compounding our problems.”
The Minister added: “And because of the seriousness of the issue, this afternoon, the Vice President is holding a meeting in his office with the Ministers of Petroleum and the Ministers of Power. Again, there is another meeting slated for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The Vice President has directed that some ministers are not going on holidays because of the issue of fuel and power. They have meetings on Monday 2.00 p.m., meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday. That one we call mini-FEC. But many of us won’t be there. But the Ministers of Petroleum, the Vice President has openly told them that there is no holiday for them because they cannot afford to go on holidays when the people are suffering. They must stay back with him and find out ways of easing out the problems of Nigerians because Nigerians are suffering. We know that. We are worried. We are touched. But help us to do something systematic.”
At present, Jonathan resides at Akinola Aguda House, which officially is designated as a Presidential Guest House. During the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) hosted by Nigeria in 2003, the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II stayed at the Aguda House.
Akunyili and Minister of Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), Alhaji Adamu Aliero, told journalists that the new project was imperative as the Vice President has no accommodation and that the Aguda House was not convenient for him.
According to Aliero: “Presently, the Vice President is staying in the guest house meant for visiting Heads of State. This is not comfortable and not befitting for the status of the Vice President. The designated house for the vice president was handed to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, which is actually in line with what was contained in the Abuja master plan. The Vice President had to be accommodated in a guest house made for Mr. President. We decided to bring this memo to the Council so that we can get approval for construction of a befitting house for the vice president. Julius Berger Plc was selected to construct the residence because of its past experience in constructing the Presidential Villa and the National Assembly. You know you cannot subject the residence of the vice president to a public display and that was why it was not advertised. For security reasons we decided to do what could be called selective tender.
The Council also approved a total of N13.4 billion for the execution of a road extension contract within the FCT. The project, at complexion, is expected to reduce the chaotic traffic congestion along the Abuja-Keffi Road.
“It equally okayed the award of contract to 13 firms for the cleaning of solid waste in the Federal Capital City at a total cost of N2.5 billion. This is under the Private-Public Partnership.”
Aliero added: “There is already a budgetary provision of N869.2 million in the 2009 budget while the balance of N2.198 billion has been proposed in the 2010 budget. N201.5 million has been approved for the commencement of the project.”
Akunyili also announced Council’s approval of a total of N399.5 million for the procurement of Human Immuno deficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) drugs.
Other approvals include the procurement of 49 ambulances for three Primary Health Care Centres and one general hospital in each of the senatorial zones in 12 selected states. The states were chosen based on their high maternal / child mortality rates. They include Abia, Adamawa, Akwa-Ibom, Ekiti, Edo, Gombe, Kaduna , Kebbi, Kogi, Plateau, Ogun and Yobe states.
The total cost of the contract is N326.707 million. The approval of the contract followed a memo brought to Council by the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajia Salamatu Suleiman.
The plaintiffs seeking legal intervention in the ill-health of Yar’Adua also asked the court to compel the Vice President, Jonathan to assume the duties of the office of the President and sign the supplementary budget into law.
The plaintiffs formulated the following questions for the court to determine:
- Whether having regard to the fact that the president who has not been on vacation and has been undergoing treatment at a hospital in Saudi Arabia since November 23, 2009, the FEC ought not to be compelled to pass and publicise a resolution as to whether or not the president is incapable of discharging the functions of his office;
- whether the absence of President Yar’Adua from Nigeria and from his constitutional and statutory duties for medical treatment since November 23, 2009 at a Saudi Arabia hospital without being on vacation does not constitute permanent incapacity within the meaning and intendment and general meaning of section 146 of the 1999 Constitution; and
- whether having regard to the circumstances surrounding the absence of President Yar’Adua from Nigeria and from his constitutional duties for medical treatment it is unlawful for the Vice President to refuse to exercise the functions of the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The plaintiffs are asking the court for a declaration that the non-consideration by the FEC for the purpose of passing or rejecting a proposal as to whether or not the president suffers permanent incapacity as a result of his absence from his statutory duties, is a flagrant violation of the constitution and an indefensible breach of their oath of allegiance and oath for the execution of the duties of his office as prescribed in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution by virtue of Section 149 of the 1999 Constitution;
- a declaration that it is unconstitutional for the vice president to refuse to exercise the functions of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria having regard to the circumstances surrounding the absence of President Yar’Adua from the country and his constitutional duties for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia; and
- An order directing FEC to consider and if thought fit pass a resolution declaring whether the absence of the president from the country and from his constitutional duties and functions outside the purview of the constitution constitutes permanent incapacity within the meaning and intendment of section 146 of the 1999 Constitution.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit neither has the matter been assigned as the court has proceeded on vacation for the Christmas and New Year holidays