The presidency has said that President Muhammadu Buhari was well within his rights to coordinate the virtual Emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from the Council Chambers inside the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Recall that the controversial meeting, in which the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) was dissolved, held on Thursday.
Photos circulated by the presidency showed that the meeting had President Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, some APC governors and National Assembly leaders physically present while some other party leaders connected virtually.
But criticism had trailed the president for allegedly desecrating the “hallowed” chamber by holding partisan political meetings there.
Reacting through a Sunday statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, the presidency said no law prevented the president from holding a meeting in any of the rooms in the Presidential Villa.
The presidency declared that the meeting adhered to COVID-19 regulations despite critics’ claims to the contrary.
“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 speak, 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,” the statement read.
The presidency said President Buhari coordinated the virtual meeting from the Council Chambers because of the facilities there.
“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,” the presidential statement read in part.