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It’s illegal, Aisha Buhari can’t grant FG workers indefinite leave – SANs

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hree Senior Advocates of Nigeria have faulted the order of Aisha, the wife of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), that all members of staff in her office should proceed on indefinite leave.

They said the President’s wife acted illegally as she had no right to give such an order, adding that only the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Folasade Yemi-Esan, was empowered by law to make such a pronouncement.

The three senior lawyers, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, Lekan Ojo and Ifedayo Adedipe, spoke in separate interviews with Saturday PUNCH.

According to them, those working with the President and his wife work for the people of Nigeria and are being paid with taxpayers’ resources.

Amid pregnancy rumours, the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Health and Development Partners in the First Lady’s office, Mohammed Kamal, had on December 21, 2021, announced that Aisha ordered all members of staff in her office to proceed on indefinite leave.

Buhari, 79, was in Turkey with Aisha, 50, between December 16 and 19, 2021 where they attended the 3rd Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit. Photos of the President’s wife released by the Presidency after the trip had sparked pregnancy rumours as she was shown with what looked like a bump.

Our correspondent’s efforts to get the comments of Aisha’s spokesman, Aliyu Abdullahi, and another aide working with the President’s wife, Suleiman Haruna, proved abortive. While Abdullahi’s phone was unreachable and a text message sent to him was not responded to as of press time, Haruna declined comments on the matter when he was contacted.

But Kamal in the statement posted on the verified Instagram handle of the President’s wife on December 21, 2021, said, “This serves to inform all members of staff that the office of the First Lady will be closed for the upcoming festive period of Christmas and New Year.

“To this end, all staff members are requested to proceed on leave until further notice.”

Reacting to the directive, Adegboruwa said the Presidency and the Head of Civil Service must do the needful quickly to prevent a bad precedent from being set for governors’ wives and spouses of other government officials.

He said, “Under the relevant civil service rules, the people engaged by the Federal Government are working for the people of Nigeria; they do not work at the pleasure of either the President or the wife of the President.

“So, in law, they have employment that is covered by statutes – their employment enjoys the statutory flavour and if there is any infraction or allegation against them, it has to go through the normal system that is recognised and approved in line with civil service procedures.

“The directive from the First Lady asking those working for the Federal Government to proceed on indefinite leave compulsorily is illegal; it is beyond her powers. Even though they may be her domestic workers, as long as they are in the employment of the Federal Government of Nigeria, she has no power over their employment in the manner in which she has done.

“The issue of whether the wife of the President is pregnant or has any ailment has nothing to do with the employment of her domestic staff under the law. I believe that the Presidency, at the appropriate time, will look into this so that the wife of the President is not allowed to take the laws into her own hands, because what she has done is ultra vires and beyond her powers.

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