Catalogue of divisions in the Presidency
Key actors in the Buhari administration are at loggerheads, and the tension created by the feuding parties continue to reflect a fractured and diminished presidency. AJIBOLA AMZAT (Features Editor) reports.
Mid-September, Honorable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe kachukwu in excitement asked Nigerians on Twitter to ask him any question on social media, and he would answer. But for five weeks, the minister himself had waited for a response to the letter he wrote to his principal, President Muhammadu Buhari without a word from the presidency.
Kachiukwu wrote the letter after several attempts he made to meet the President failed. In the seven-page letter which was later leaked to the press , Dr. Kachiukwu complained about “Insubordination and lack of adherence to due process” by the Group Managing Director (GMD) of NNPC, Maikanti Baru.
For almost a year, the minister’s relationship with the GMD “has been fraught with humiliation, sidelining and campaigns of character defamation.”
Though President Buhari had eventually invited Kachiukwu for a meeting, the letter revealed that all is not well within the top hierarchies in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. And the situation is not so different in other ministries, departments and agencies of the government under Buhari administration.
Recently the rumour mill went into overdrive with suggestions that the couple might split.Early in the year, rumour mill went into overdrive with suggestion that there was a growing disaffection between Buhari’s Minsiter of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi and Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika. Amaechi reportedly could not put up with the insubordination of the junior minister from Katsina State and decided to assert his authority as minister overseeing all agencies within transportation ministry.
Not long after the rumour spread, the speculation was confirmed at a public event where the two ministers nearly had a fist fight. Sirika denied there was public fight between him and the transport minister but his photographs which used to hang side by side with Ameachi’s on the wall at airports and buildings owned by the ministry have disappeared. He has since dismissed the disappearance of his photographs in airports as insignificant. “I believe that my photo will not give Nigerians anything, rather, it is my actions that will,” he told journalists in Abuja.
Though Amaechi and Sirika were able to manage their disagreement before it became full blown, the dispute between the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole and the Chief Executive Officer of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Usman Yusuf, is already a public knowledge. The Senate has accused Professor Yusuf of spending N292 million on health care training “without recourse to any appropriate approving authority” among other infractions. Although the NHIS boss denied the allegation, the minister ordered his suspension pending the completion of investigation of the corruption allegations against him. But Yusuf who also hails from the same state as President Buhari refused to comply with the suspension order. Citing section 4 and 8 of NHIS Act, he insisted that only the president could suspend or remove him from office.
But as an agency of the health ministry, NHIS is subject to the supervision of the health minister. And it is on this basis that his suspension stands, said the minister. The duration of the suspension was over last Friday, but Yusuf is yet to be recalled. Regardless of the verdict of the investigation, the dispute in the health ministry is symptomatic of the division within the presidency.
Earlier in the year, the media was awash with the reports of the tension between the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun and Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Colonel Ibrahim Hameed Ali. The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is a parastatal under the Federal ministry of Finance and the customs boss is answerable to the Finance Minister.
But when he resumed office, Ali allegedly told the Finance Minister he was answerable only to President Buhari. He reiterated the point during the last budget screening.
Last year, he sacked and promoted a number of custom officers without the approval of the Minister of Finance. The Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) recognizes the finance minister as the Chairman of the Board of the Customs and the person who should authorize the sacking and promotion of officers and other key matters concerning the operations of NCS.
The ban lift on importation of rice through the land borders was also carried out by Ali without clearance from Finance which is the supervising ministry. And attempt by the Senate to force the customs boss to comply with certain provisions of CEMA has been resisted. This violation has created a frosty relationship between Mrs. Adeosun and Mr. Ali.
In December, Premium Times exclusively reported the clash between Ali and Director-General of the Department of State Service (DSS), Lawal Daura. The two accused each other of unprofessionalism and illegality.
The clash began with a letter written by Mr. Daura to President Buhari, accusing the Nigerian Customs Service, (NCS), of introducing a $25,000 as new Temporary Import Permit (TIP), levy on each vessel that berths to discharge petroleum products in Nigeria. The security chief said the levy was illegal because it was not provided for on the PPRA template, not receipted, and could increase the cost of petrol by 56 kobo per litre.
In his reply to the president, Mr. Ali denied the truth of that claim, saying the DSS under Mr. Daura appeared to be more interested in smear campaign and personal vendetta than in thorough investigation and anti-corruption efforts of the administration.
He instead advised Mr. Daura to approach issues professionally and not allow sentiments or personal vendetta to drive his actions.
Perhaps none of the infighting among the men and women in Buhari administration illustrated a divided and diminished presidency as the rejection of Ibrahim Magu as the Chairman of Economic anf Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). The letter which the Senate relies on to withhold the confirmation of Magu, the President’s nominee was written by DSS, an agency of the presidency.
In the letter signed by one F.O Adams and Folashade Bello on behalf of SS Director-General, SS, Mr. Magu is said to have “failed integrity test and will eventually constitute a liability to the anti-corruption drive of the present administration.”
In addition, the office of the Attorney-General and EFCC have been in dispute over procedural issues.
The Attorney-General, Abubakar Malami, is said to have accused the EFCC boss of violating section 10(1) of the EFCC (Enforcement) Regulations 2010.
The regulation mandates the EFCC to forward the outcome of investigations along with its recommendations to the AGF in cases or complaints that are “serious or complex”.
But EFCC has not been complying according to the AGF, thus breaching the regulations guiding its operations.
EFCC officials believe Malami is seeking to take over the prosecution of cases handled by the commission in order to water down the anti-graft war, but sources in Malami’s office said the chief law officer was trying to reassert himself.
It is not clear if the president has also invited other actors in his government for a peace talk as he invited Dr. Kachiukwu on Friday. What is clear, as the events in the last two years have shown, is that Buhari administration is divided, and the fracture leaves his presidency diminished more than he will be willing to accept.
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