Yemi Osinbajo has been stripped of some of his powers over some Federal Government agencies under his supervision, indications emerged yesterday.
Sources in the Presidency confirmed to Daily Trust that the vice president, through a memo, had received a presidential directive on Monday asking him to seek presidential approvals for those agencies. The vice president chairs the governing boards of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA), the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), and the National Boundary Commission (NBC).
He also chairs the Board of Directors of Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), a limited liability company owned by the three tiers of government as well as the Chairman of National Council on Privatisation (NCP). The new directive came in the wake of alleged irregularities in running the affairs of the agencies. There was no reason given by the Presidency on the latest directive.
However, a statement issued last night by the Office of the Vice President said the Number Two citizen never breached due process in running the affairs of the agencies. Also, reports in some quarters suggested that recent developments were part of the resolve of President Buhari to further decentralize some of the powers vested within the confines of the Presidency in line with the dictates of his “Next Level Agenda.”
Two days ago, President Muhammadu Buhari disbanded the Economic Management Team (EMT) headed by the vice president and replaced it with an Economic Advisory Council (EAC). One of the sources at the Presidency told the Daily Trust that the memo stripping the vice president of powers to give final approval to the agencies was issued last week, but that Prof. Osinbajo received it on Monday.
“Yes, that has been there since last week. He has been directed to be seeking presidential approvals on all the agencies under his supervision,” the source stated. However, Osinbajo, in a statement yesterday by his spokesman, Laolu Akande, described as false, insinuations that he did not follow due process in the supervision of agencies under him. The vice president denied that he did not normally comply with established rules where presidential approvals were required.
The statement reads: “Our attention has been drawn to a sensational report by The Cable published on September 17, 2019, which claims that His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, has directed Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, to seek approvals for agencies under him. “The report suggests, falsely, that agencies under the supervision of the Vice President do not normally comply with established rules where presidential approvals are required.
“This is obviously misleading and aims only to plant seeds of discord in the Presidency, while attempting to create unnecessary national hysteria. “The agencies in question are established by law and the Vice President has always insisted on due compliance with the enabling statutes and other established regulations.
“Depending on the particular scope of activity in question, agencies may require management approval only, at the level of the Director-General or Chief Executive Officer. In this category falls the great majority of their day-to-day activities. “
However, other activities, or procurements, with value exceeding a certain threshold, require Board approval. These may get to the agency Board chaired by the Vice President. In a few cases where Presidential approval is required, the Director-General must seek such approval from the President, through the Vice President.
These rules have always guided the activities of statutory agencies and the ones under the Vice President’s supervision have always been so guided. “To claim that in the first term of the Buhari administration, agencies of government have not been complying with the provisions (of getting final approvals from the President) is false, and the attempt to suggest the Vice President’s complicity in such irregularities is simply mischievous and reprehensible.
“The effective and mutually respecting relationship between the President and the Vice President is well known to Nigerians and it is futile to insinuate otherwise. “Even though the Vice President has a statutory role as Board Chairman of some government agencies under his office, with appropriate approval limits, which often do not include contract approvals; it is ludicrous to even insinuate that a Board Chairman approves contracts.
“Evidently, the Federal Executive Council, which oversees Federal Ministries and agencies of government, is chaired by the President, and it is in its purview to approve or ratify award of contracts within the prescribed threshold. “The Vice President remains committed to the service of his fatherland and will continue to do so despite the purveyors of fake news. We urge media organizations, as gatekeepers, to uphold truth, balance, fairness and objectivity in their reports.”
Though the Act of the National Assembly establishing some agencies domiciled their oversight in the Office of the Vice President, Section 130 (2) of the 1999 Constitution, said: “The President shall be the Head of State, the Chief Executive of the Federation and Commander -in- Chief of the Armed Forces.” Also, Section 148 (1) of the Constitution said, “The President may, in his discretion, assign to the Vice-President or any Minister of the Government of the Federation responsibility for any business of the Government of the Federation, including the administration of any department of government.”
A government official said in confidence that the vice president was also briefed that NEMA and the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) would be moved from his office to the newly created Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social development, headed by Sadiya Umar Farouq. One of the recently retired permanent secretaries, told the Daily Trust that it was better not to read meanings, either political or otherwise to this development.
President has discretion to assign roles to VP- Ex NBA chair A former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Austine Allegeh, SAN, yesterday debunked rumours making the round of an alleged friction between President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo, saying that nothing should be read into the replacement of the VP as the head of the EMT or other responsibilities. Speaking in a telephone chat with Daily Trust, Allegeh said that the decision of President Buhari to replace the VP as head of the EMT was a simple decision.
When informed that the President had also directed that Prof. Osinbajo should henceforth not give outright approval to the agencies, Allegeh said that it was the President that determined what to do in respect of how his government would be run.
The former NBA President mentioned that it was in the wisdom and absolute discretion of the President to replace Prof. Osinbajo as the head of the EMT or whatever. “No friction should be read into this neither…It is not to whittle down the powers of the VP. It is the President’s absolute discretion to give the VP more work in other areas,” he said.
‘Politics at play’ But a top northern politician who spoke to one of our correspondents last night, linked the development to the scheming for the 2023, urging the president to speak on the matter. The politician, who does not want to be named, said: “There are likely to be speculations regarding anything the president does now.
“One, because this is his last term. Two, because there is a lot of intense activity by people very close to him as they want to get an edge in the competition over who will succeed him (Buhari) come 2023.” According to him, “The last thing that the president who is already running a very difficult administration needs is to have his deputy embroiled in a speculation and controversy that divert attention from the routine running of the government.
“However, it is fair for Nigerians to speculate whether this is part of the ongoing fight between El-Rufai, Tinubu and Osinbajo himself. “You can’t wish away some of these speculations…It is part of normal politics and governance. I wish the president will say something clearly and specifically to lay to rest some of these rather disturbing speculations. This is what he needs to do,” he said.