The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, says ailing President Muhammadu Buhari is still working from London where he is currently receiving medical treatment.
Kachikwu, who put up a strong defence for Nigeria’s sick President during a BBC Hard Talk interview in London on Monday, also stated that Buhari had mandated his ministers to stop flying private jets.
The minister said that executive members had been mandated by the President to fly business class in commercial airlines.
When asked about the state of health of the President as his latest medical vacation entered its second week, Kachikwu replied, “Yes, he is in London. He is undergoing hospital treatment, (but) I don’t know the details of that and I obviously wouldn’t know. But let me say this, he returned from his first trip in London, even though the doctors advised him to have some rest.
“He’s back to London and he has continued some levels of meetings and has been able to play some roles. He has a very efficient Vice-President who is sitting in for him in his absence. It really hasn’t made much of a difference.”
On whether the President had been transparent enough to Nigerians as regards his health challenges, the petroleum resources minister stated that Nigerians were aware of the fact that Buhari ‘is not too well’.
When asked what was wrong with Buhari, the minister said, “I don’t know. But let’s face it; who in the world goes around giving to everybody what their medical statuses are? The doctors have got to be able to release something official and he’s working through it. It has not become a major problem.”
When probed further on the capability of the President to continue in office, the minister said, “Well, we’ve heard rumours in Nigeria about sick presidents off and on, most of them sometimes not quite correct. Will he be able to lead Nigeria? I think looking at the sort of conversations I had with him when he came back, he was strong enough to do his work, struggled a bit in terms of trying to fully recover.
“Nobody plans on illness, it happens. He has an efficient number two man; the system works, that’s the whole essence of democracy. He’s on top of his abilities to be able to issue policies and to be able to approve what he needs to be approved.”
Kachikwu maintained that President Buhari still had the ability to deliver his promises and to take the country to the next level of development.
Asked to explain why Nigeria still has about 11 aircraft for ministerial use despite the economy suffering a recession, the minister said, “There isn’t any aircraft for ministerial use. Ministers don’t use (private) aircraft, we travel public. There are some presidential jets, some of which have been put up for sale, although I don’t have the details.
“But I think it is down from an initial of about 11 or 12 to something like about seven and only two or three are really in proper condition. And I know he’s given some authorisation for some to be sold. So in terms of numerical accountability he has reduced that substantially. Ministers are tied to travelling business class by commercial airlines.”