President Muhammadu Buhari came under criticisms on Wednesday for directing his ministers to channel all their meeting requests to him through his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari.
The President had on Tuesday, at the close of the two-day retreat organised for the ministers, asked them to always go through Kyari for meeting requests and through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, for issues relating to the Federal Executive Council.
He reiterated the same thing on Wednesday while inaugurating the ministers.
He said, “As I said yesterday (Tuesday), in terms of coordinating communication, kindly ensure that all submissions for my attention or meeting requests be channelled through the Chief of Staff while all Federal Executive Council matters be coordinated through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation in order to speed up the process of decision-making.”
The President advised them to work as a team and open lines of communication with one another in order to hasten the pace of work.
But this directive has attracted criticism from individuals and groups who felt that the President was giving too much power to his Chief of Staff who was neither elected nor recognised by the nation’s constitution.
Buhari abdicates responsibility, reduces ministers to Kyari’s clerical aides —PDP
For instance, the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, said Buhari had with that directive abdicated his responsibility.
Speaking with one of our correspondents, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said it was an indication that Nigerians would not enjoy good governance during Buhari’s second term.
Ologbondiyan added that by the directive, Buhari had reduced the ministers to Kyari’s clerical aides.
He said, “By that directive, he has reduced the ministers to the clerical aides to the Chief of Staff and because of that even him, Mr President, has abdicated his responsibilities and assigned it to his Chief of Staff. That cannot lead to good governance in the next four years.
“The directive also suggests that Mr President as the Minister of Petroleum Resources will also go through the Chief of Staff on policy matters.
“He has abdicated his responsibility and ceded it to his Chief of Staff.”
Ologbondiyan had in a statement said such demotion of ministers was unacceptable, counter-productive, adding that it only reduced governance to a domestic affair.
Kyari now a de facto prime minister —Afenifere
In faulting Buhari’s directive, the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, said the President had elevated Kyari to the position of de facto prime minister.
The group’s spokesman, Mr Yinka Odumakin, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents.
Odumakin, who is also the spokesman for the Southern and Middle Belt Leadership Forum, said Buhari made the open declaration to the ministers in order to prevent pressure from them.
He said, “That statement shows clearly that the President wants to reign as President. As a man that is reigning, he cannot be disturbed by matters of state, like ministers coming to disturb him and bringing files to him.
“So, he has delegated that responsibility to the de facto prime minister, the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari.
“In the midst of what we are going through, should ministers be going through Abba Kyari to see the President?”
Odumakin argued that any President interested in moving Nigeria forward should be seen having daily meetings with ministers.
He added, “We have seen the sterling performance he has shown in the last four years; of being the coordinator of the ministers. That is a joke; Abba Kyari has not shown any sterling quality.
“But our case is that in the midst of what we are, anybody that wants to govern Nigeria; that wants to achieve results and move the country out of these crises, that person should be holding almost a daily dialogue with the ministers.
“For Buhari to sit down in the Presidential Villa like a monarch and appoint a principal chief who other chiefs report to, I don’t think we understand where we are.”
Also, the apex socio-political body of the Igbo, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has confirmed insinuations that Buhari is not in charge of his government.
The group’s National Publicity Secretary, Uche Achi-Okpaga, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said Buhari’s attitude towards governance was the reason things were going wrong in the country.
He said, “It has been said in the open and in secret that President Muhammadu Buhari is not in charge of the government – even his wife, Aisha, has also said that a cabal is running the government.
“Nobody can know the President better than his wife and if she has come out to say that, there should not be any doubt about it.
“This directive that ministers should reach him through his Chief of Staff has more or less confirmed this insinuation that he (Buhari) is indeed not in charge.”
The Ohanaeze spokesman condemned the development, noting that it was not proper for ministers to report to a “mere” presidential aide.
He added, “This directive is highly condemnable. There are other ranking officials of the Federal Government, such as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, so why the Chief of Staff?
“The appointment of ministers is confirmed by the National Assembly and you are now telling them to report to your aide?
“It only shows that Buhari is not in charge and that is why things have been going wrong in the country.”
Don’t expect any miracle with that arrangement, says Yakasai
Speaking in the same vein, a founding member of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, said he did not expect any miracle to happen under the arrangement put in place by the President.
He regretted that ministers would remain in the queue to see the Chief of Staff, let alone see the President.
Yakasai said, “It all depends on the latitude. If you are not given the latitude, you cannot do anything until you clear with the President.
“Our experience is that ministers line up in the office of the Chief of Staff (Abba Kyari) even to see him, let alone to see the President.
“If we continue with this, I don’t expect any miracle to happen.”
In his submission, a Second Republic lawmaker and the Convener of the Coalition of Northern Politicians, Academics, Professionals and Businessmen, Dr Junaid Mohammed, stated that while running a government was about trust, Nigerians should focus more on the achievements of an administration to determine whether to keep or change it.
Mohammmed said, “I spoke about this sometime in 2015 when the administration was newly inaugurated.
“What I understand about government is that it is an issue of trust; a kind of understanding between the governed and who is governing.
“Government is not an issue of personal terms or personal relationships, it is an issue of ‘what were you elected to do and what have you been able to deliver within a prescribed period?’
“If the outcome is good, then, fine; you can go ahead, if it does not work, we should be humble enough to look for another alternative.”
However, a former Secretary-General of Afenifere, Senator Femi Okurounmu, said it was left for all Nigerians to decide if the directive was normal or not.
He said, “Well, that (the directive) is the age in which we are in Nigeria. I don’t have anything to say other than that.
“It is the present age in which we are in Nigeria. It is for all of us to decide for ourselves, whether that is normal or not.”
What will Osinbajo be doing, asks Reno Omokri
Ex-aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr Reno Omokri, wondered who is in charge of Nigeria between Buhari and Kyari.
Omokri made his position known in a series of tweets posted on his Twitter handle, @renoomokri.
“Abba Kyari queries Tunde Fowler. Abba Kyari queries Head of Service. Abba Kyari tenders General @MBuhari’s ‘WAEC.’
“Ministers to clear with Abba Kyari. Abba Kyari summons top military chiefs. Biko, who is in charge between Buhari and Kyari?” he wrote in one of the tweets.
In another tweet, Omokri went sarcastic when he insinuated that Buhari might have decided to avoid the ministers because some of them were on the debtors’ list of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria and some others were being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
“I can’t really blame General @Mbuhari for asking his ministers to pass through Abba Kyari if they need anything.
“Even you, would you like to associate with men who are among those owing AMCON N5tn and who have @OfficialEFCC corruption cases?” he asked.
Another Twitter user, @ayemojubar, wondered the role left for Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo if he could be handing such responsibilities over to Kyari.
He wrote, “Buhari handed over all power to Abba Kyari while he runs in the background like a service. I have a question, what about Osinbajo the VP?
“Is he only relevant in this administration for tourism, visitations and disbursement? A professor, a SAN,a pastor?”
2020 budget, your first assignment, FG tells new ministers
Earlier, the Federal Government had directed the newly-inaugurated ministers to begin work on the 2020 budget as their first assignment in office.
They were also asked to immediately schedule meetings with their respective permanent secretaries and submit a reviewed ministerial mandate within two weeks.
The government’s directive was given at the inauguration of the ministers in Abuja.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, made the disclosure shortly before President Buhari assigned portfolios to the ministers.
“You are expected to familiarise yourselves with the permanent secretaries of various ministries and within this period.
“Set out to work particularly on the (2020) budget, and taking cognisance of the fact that we have assured the National Assembly that we are sending the budget immediately they return from the recess,” he said.
Buhari assigned portfolios to the ministers soon after all 43 of them took the oath office at the Council Chambers, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The ceremonies started at 11am with the arrival of Buhari.
Buhari creates new ministries, returns Malami, Bello, Ngige, Fashola, others
The President split the Ministry of Power/Works/Housing into two — Ministry of Power and Ministry of Works/Housing.
He also merged the Ministries of Finance, Budget/National Planning and created the Ministries of Police Affairs, Special Duties/Inter-Governmental Affairs, Aviation, and Humanitarian/Disaster Management.
Some ministers retained their former portfolios or returned to familiar terrains.
They include Minister of FCT, Bello Mohammed; Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige; Mr Babatunde Fashola (Works/Housing);Ogbonanya Onu (Science/Technology); Mr Rotimi Amaechi (Transportation); Mr Adamu Adamu (Education); Zainab Ahmed (Finance/Budget and National Planning); Abubakar Malami (Justice/AGF); and Geoffrey Onyeama (Foreign Affairs).
The President himself also retained the portfolio of the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
Mustapha was the first to be inaugurated alone, while the ministers were inaugurated in batches of five by Buhari.
The Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, and the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, were at the event.
Oyo-Ita was seen seated near the Chief of Staff to the President, Mr Abba Kyari, looking withdrawn.
The HoS, who is under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over alleged contract infractions to the tune of N3bn, was absent on Monday and Tuesday during the retreat organised for the ministers and other senior government officials.
She hurriedly left the venue of the inauguration as the session ended.
Among those who witnessed the event were the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Mr Adams Oshiomhole; APC national leader, Bola Tinubu; Chief Bisi Akande and some state governors.
Meanwhile, Buhari, while addressing the ministers, reminded them of the core objectives of his administration.
“As you are aware, the core objectives of this administration are to improve security, achieve diversified, inclusive economic growth and fight corruption.
“I am convinced that we can build a buoyant economy that supports inclusive growth and creates broad-based prosperity for every Nigerian – one that will absorb the two million Nigerians entering the labour market each year, as well as reduce the backlog of over 20 million unemployed or underemployed Nigerians.
“We must also intensify efforts to reduce internal security threats and eliminate corruption at all levels so as to ensure that our citizens have a safe and corruption-free environment where they can live and conduct their businesses, without fear and intimidation,” he stated.