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Presidency cites COVID-19 to defend Buhari against criticism he used Council Chamber for APC NEC meeting

Obasanjo speaks from both sides of his mouth, should not be taken serious —Presidency

The presidency on Sunday reacted to criticism of President Muhammadu Buhari for allegedly holding the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the State House, Abuja.

The NEC meeting which took place last Thursday was held virtually with President Buhari and other party chieftains joining the forum via video calls.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had on Friday chided the president for allegedly using the Federal Executive Council (FEC) Chambers and government resources to conduct APC affairs.

The party in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, described President Buhari’s alleged action “as the height of corruption and desecration of the sanctity of the seat of power and our national values.”

In its reaction to the criticism, the presidency in a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Garba Shehu, dismissed the “stubborn opinion” held by critics of the current administration who claimed the president called a political meeting at Council Chamber 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 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.

“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.’’

The presidential aide acknowledged that some APC governors and leaders of the National Assembly joined the president from the Chamber from where he spoke.

He, however, insisted that the larger body of the NEC 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,’’ he added.

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