By Ismaila Chafe
The Presidency has refuted reports that the protocol of social distancing was not adhered to during Thursday’s virtual meeting of the National Executive Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the meeting, which was summoned by the former acting chairman of the party, Victor Giadom, was held virtually as the president and few members of the NEC participated in the meeting via video calls.
Other members of the committee, including Gov. Aminu Masari of Katsina State, State APC Chairmen and some NEC members, participated in the meeting directly from their respective states on the same day.
Malam Garba Shehu, the president’s spokesman, in a statement in Abuja on Sunday, dismissed what he described as `stubborn opinion’ held by critics of the Buhari administration that the president called a political meeting at Council Chamber of the State House.
The statement read in part: “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, maintained 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.
According to him, President Buhari places health and safety above courtesy to the party by not going to its headquarters for the meeting.
He said: “In the end, a wise thing had been done because the President wants to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus disease.’’