Secretary to the Government of the Federation Mahmud Yayale yesterday said President Umaru Yar’Adua verbally handed over to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan as he left for Saudi Arabia on November 23, last year.
Yayale urged the Senate to reach a compromise with the Federal Executive Council to find a political solution to the impasse created by the absence of the President.
The Senators, it was learnt, demanded a video clip showing how the President is recovering.
The SGF, who was grilled for about one and a half hours, at the Executive Session of the Senate, said he had no information on when the President would return as only Yar’Adua’s doctors could tell.
He said he saw the President last on November 20, last year.
A source at the session quoted Yayale as saying: “I am not a man who lacks the courage to do things. The manner in which the President was taken out of the country for medical treatment should be appreciated. He, however, spoke with the Vice-President before he left and asked him to take over the affairs of the nation. He verbally handed over to him.
“I will plead with you for an understanding with FEC to find a political solution to the challenge at hand. The issue at hand is for the Senate and the FEC to solve. There can always be a way out to solve the problem.”
Responding to a question, Yayale said it was not in the character of the President not to write to the National Assembly.
The source quoted Yayale as adding: “The President is a man of due process; he believes in it, and he adheres to it.
“I remember when the President was going for a check-up and inauguration of a university in Saudi Arabia in 2009, he asked me to draft a letter to the National Assembly. The Ministry of Justice okayed it and he signed it.
“But the letter was not presented to the National Assembly by the man (Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Abba-Aji) who should do the presentation.
“It is left for the Senate to ask why the letter was not presented then because there would have been a precedent.”
On the condition of the President, Yayale was quoted as saying: “I have not travelled out of the country in the last three months but the report reaching me is that the President is improving.”
Asked when the President will return, the SGF merely said: “I don’t know; only his doctors can say. Nobody can say when the President will be back.”
At this point, it was learnt, most Senators chorused: “We want to see the video clip of Yar’Adua, if he is improving.
It was learnt that Yayale could not give a commitment on their demand.
In response to another question, Yayale said: “The VP said he cannot act on verbal instruction. But there is a court judgement and the AGF said the VP has been granted executive powers.
“This is an issue the Senate and FEC could amicably resolve.”
A Senator, who pleaded for anonymity, said: “Senators kept on asking Yayale why the Vice-President could not serve as acting President. Most Senators asked why the same manner adopted by the President in signing the 2009 Supplementary Budget cannot be used to communicate the National Assembly on Yar’Adua’s medical vacation.
“Yayale, however, kept on pleading for understanding and political solution to the issue.
“At this point, tempers rose in the chambers and the Senators were on the verge of issuing an ultimatum to the President to write to the National Assembly when the President of the Senate, Chief David Mark, intervened.
“Mark prevailed on Senators to wait till Tuesday when a report of the meeting between lawyer-senators and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa (SAN), would be presented.
“The Senate President said after the presentation of the report and exhaustive deliberation, we can then decide on our resolution. We will decide the President’s fate on Tuesday. All I can tell you is that if no concrete recommendation is made, we will still go ahead with the ultimatum.
“Despite the meeting, we spent yesterday collecting more signatures. I am glad to tell you that some principal officers of the Senate have joined the pro-Jonathan group.”