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Presidency blasts critics over Aso Rock APC NEC meeting

The Presidency, on Sunday, reacted to controversy that trailed the holding of All Progressives Congress (APC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, in Abuja.

The Presidency said there was no law stopping President Muhammadu Buhari from holding political meetings in any part of the Presidential Villa since he lives at the place.

Nigeria’ seat of government also said that the virtual emergency NEC meeting of the APC that held, on Thursday, at the Council Chamber, observed all the necessary COVID-19 protocols of social distancing.

There had been allegations that President Buhari desecrated the sanctity of the State House by taking the partisan political meetings to the seat of power and that the gathering breached the guidelines put in place by the Presidential Task Force (PTF), on the mass gathering.

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Reacting to the allegations, the Presidency in a statement, issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, noted that though a handful number of the party leaders, including governors elected on the platform of the APC were at the Council Chamber for the emergency NEC, some members joined the meeting virtually in adherence to the COVID-19 protocols.

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 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 Presidency further explained that the virtual APC NEC meeting was taken to the Council Chamber because of the facilities there.

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The statement continued, “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 statement said.