President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari was absent at the Wednesday’s meeting of the Federal Executive Council held at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He also did not report in his office but remained inside his official residence.

The President’s absence sparked off another round of speculation on the state of health of the 74-year-old leader, who recently returned to the country from his 49-day medical vacation to the United Kingdom.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, told State House correspondents after the meeting that there was no cause for alarm on Buhari’s health.

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo presided over the Wednesday meeting in Buhari’s absence.

Osinbajo had arrived at the venue at about 10.52am to join other members of the cabinet, including ministers, to wait for Buhari to declare open the meeting, which was slated for 11am.

A security operative was already standing behind the President’s seat, waiting for his arrival.

Shortly after Osinbajo arrived at the chamber, however, he consulted briefly with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, who in turn announced to members to settle down for the commencement of the meeting.

Many of the members, who were already on the lookout for Buhari’s arrival, were visibly surprised when Osinbajo asked that the national anthem be recited to commence the meeting.

Buhari remained in his official residence while the meeting lasted.

Wednesday was the first time Osinbajo presided over the council meeting since Buhari returned to the country on March 10.

But Mohammed later told journalists that there was nothing unusual in the President being absence at the meeting.

He claimed Buhari, who he said was attending to other issues during the meeting, had asked Osinbajo to stand in for him after he had perused the meeting’s agenda.

The minister added, “Clearly, when we came in this morning, Mr. President was not in the chambers but the Vice-President did preside over the council meeting. Understandably, that has sparked a lot of controversies and imputations in the mind of the people.

“I just want to make this clear that Mr. President is in town; Mr. President is attending to other issues. He looked at the agenda, he found out that it was a very light agenda and decided that the Vice-President should preside.

“It is not unusual for the kind of interest that is shown, especially given the fact that Mr. President was away for a while on medical treatment. We are not surprised that people will be wondering whether he is ill again.

“He is not ill, he is not sick. I am sure that later in the day or tomorrow (Thursday) morning, he will be back in the office. I just want to clear that misconception.

“It is not unusual even if Mr. President is hale and hearty and everything is going on well, for the Vice-President to come and preside over meetings of the Federal Executive Council.

“The fact that Mr. President is not in the office does not mean that he is not working. I have just been told now that the SGF is already with him in the residence working. So, the fact that you did not see him in the office does not mean that he is not working at all.”