Nigeria’s State Work Continues as Buhari Extends U.K. Stay

  • Buhari was to resume duty Monday after break started Jan. 19
  • Vice president is Nigeria’s acting leader, Presidency says

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will remain in the U.K. to complete medical tests, as his spokesman tried to reassure the public there will be no disruption to government operations.

Buhari, 74, was scheduled to return to Nigeria on Sunday and resume official duties on Monday, after leaving on Jan. 19 to undergo unspecified medical tests. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is serving as acting president.

“There is no indication as to when the president will return,” Buhari’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, said by phone on Monday. Meanwhile, “there will be no delays in any government decisions or anything because the vice president continues to be acting president and has all powers mandated,” he said.

Buhari “was advised to complete the test cycle before returning,” Adesina said in an earlier statement, which didn’t specify the type of examinations he’ll undergo.

Elected in March 2015, Buhari has faced growing opposition to his rule of Africa’s largest oil producer. Last year, he presided over a collapse in the naira to record lows and what’s expected to be the West African nation’s first full-year recession in a quarter century. That’s led some of his ruling-party members to consider forming a new party to challenge him if he seeks re-election in 2019.

Ear Infection

In June, the president traveled to London to seek treatment for a “persistent ear infection.” Buhari is currently at the Nigerian diplomatic residence in London and isn’t facing any serious health problem, Lagos-based ThisDay newspaper cited another presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, as saying.

"The President is hale and hearty," Osinbajo told reporters on Monday in Abuja citing a phone call with Buhari. "I spoke to the President just this afternoon and we had a warm conversation" about the budget and economic plan.

The naira weakened as much as 3.3 percent to 316 per dollar before paring losses to trade 2.9 percent weaker at 314.04 by 5:39 p.m. in the commercial hub, Lagos, the biggest decline among 23 African currencies tracked by Bloomberg. The black-market exchange rate fell to a low of 500 per dollar on Friday amid severe foreign-exchange shortages, according to abokiFX.com.

A civic-group coalition known as Enough Is Enough called for protests Monday in the capital, Abuja, and Lagos against worsening economic conditions under Buhari’s administration.

“It doesn’t bother me that he extended his leave; what bothers me is that he had to go outside Nigeria for treatment,” said Oluwaseyitan Aletile, a comedian also known as Seyi Law, who joined several hundred protesters Monday at the National Stadium in Lagos. “What does that say about health facilities for other Nigerians.”

Osinbajo said the government is “determined to give the ordinary man a fair deal” and that there is no pressure on him or Buhari to resign.  

The government hears Nigerians “loud and clear” when they say things are difficult, he told investors and reporters in an earlier meeting in Abuja on Monday. “But years of deterioration and corruption cannot be remedied overnight.”

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