When Abuja’s ‘gunmen’ delay the President’s men (1)

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

IS there a dearth of good men and women in the new governing party and indeed Nigeria’s pool of elders that can tell the president that he needs to settle the outstanding human resource challenges even in his office? Are there no men and women who are close enough to tell truth to power in Abuja now, especially the bitter truth that he does not have to wait till September to name the men and women that should work with him? Is there no bold one among the elders in the land to tell the president that running a government without the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Chief of Staff and Attorney-General of the Federation can complicate governance matters for him in future? So, don’t we have good people from Calabar to Maiduguri who can tell the President that he cannot continue to run Nigeria and fight corruption as a sole administrator? Is there no one to whisper to the retired General that he does not have to be ready with all members of the cabinet before he can begin to make his cabinet? Is there no researcher in the president’s kitchen cabinet to advise on the piecemeal approach of the United States’ model in cabinet making? Is there no intelligence operative to leak a lead to Nigeria’s chief executive officer (CEO) that people now explore the black market to procure chances to meet him because there is no reliable structure yet to book appointments with him? There are more questions arising now but of all the questions, the most critical one is why the president cannot name the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and his Chief of Staff (COS-P) more than five months after his election?

This writer had earlier asked questions about why the presidency had been without the president’s men. Then I had drawn attention to the expediency of appointing officers that would assist the president in running his office efficiently and even in making his cabinet. I had added then that in modern presidential system of government, there is a sense in which we could say that the president’s men could be more useful to the president than the ministers that people are waiting for.

Specifically then, I had drawn attention to the constitutionality of the Office of the SGF and the nexus that does not exist between the OSGF and the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF). The 1999 Constitution actually lists the Office of the SGF as first among the presidential appointments.

As I had earlier noted, since 1999 when we began this fourth republic, SGFs have been appointed and reappointed on May 29, shortly after swearing in and not late than three days after. In Nigeria’s strange presidency, the office of the Chief Of Staff, not listed in the constitution has been added. The then President Olusegun Obasanjo created the office, (Chief Of Staff to the President) in 1999 and maintained it till he left in 2007.

President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who felt the office was otiose scrapped it on August 8, 2008 and stuck to the SGF’s and Principal Secretary to the President (PS-P) model. Besides, there is a Permanent Secretary in the President’s office who is responsible to the Head of Service. The Permanent Secretary here is not part of the president’s men inside the Presidential Villa. But Mr.

Stephen Oronsaye, initially appointed Principal Secretary (to President Obasanjo) in November 1999, however, combined the Office with that of Permanent Secretary when he was sworn in, in 2002.

In the United States model, there is a Chief of Staff to the President but there is no Secretary to the Government of the Federation. The Secretary of State is the Foreign Affairs Secretary, an equivalent of our Foreign Affairs Minister.
Whatever the nomenclature or structure within the presidential bureaucracy context, the president’s men are critical to the operational efficiency of the presidency. For instance, the absence of the SGF several months after this government was sworn in, set off some irregularity last month when the Director-General of the Department of State Service (DSS) was fired and replaced. Before that, the INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega’s tenure had expired and a temporary replacement had been announced.

Curiously, the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF) announced the firing and hiring in the DSS and expiration of Professor Attahiru Jega’s tenure and appointment of an Acting Chairman for INEC. The DSS and INEC chief executive officers (CEOs) are not civil servants. They are public servants.

The Office of the Head of Service did not announce their engagements because both are political appointees. So, the announcement of these appointments by the Head of Service was quite irregular. It smacks of the military junta then when the Office of the Head of Service was merged with the SGF’s.

It will be recalled that the Ayida Panel’s Report and White Paper on same in 1995 demerged the Office and since then, extant rules and practice have separated the Office. The Head of Service deals exclusively with the Civil Service of the Federation while the Secretary to the Government of the Federation deals with the Public Service of the Federation generally. The Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) also a creation of the constitution, deals with the recruitment, discipline and promotion of the civil servants that the Head of Service (HOS) coordinates.

That is why the constitution provides for a kind of coordination between the OHCSF and the FCSC. And so, the office of the SGF is the clearing-house for all the president’s men, including the advisers. The SGF announces all presidential appointments. That has been the norm and that is why if the Head of Service himself is to be fired and another to be hired, it will not be announced by the office of the Head of Service:

It will be announced by the SGF’s office. Another reason why last month’s announcement had been irregular is this: the Office of the SGF (OSGF) still exists even without the SGF’s appointment. There are indeed at least six permanent secretaries in the Office of the SGF, and three of them could have been used to announce presidential appointments and allied matters.

For the record, there are permanent secretaries of General Services Office (GSO), this is the office in charge of administration and finance and clearing of issuance of letters; Special Services Office (SSO), which is in charge of security and intelligence; the Cabinet Secretariat is the office that acts as Deputy Secretary’s to the Cabinet. The SGF is also the Secretary to the Cabinet and Secretary to the Security and Defence Council.

There is the Office of the Ecological Fund; Office of the Political and Economic Affairs and then Special Duties, that coordinates the National Honours and other essential duties. In other words, the permanent secretary in charge of GSO, or Cabinet Secretariat, or indeed the Special Services Office, could have been made to announce that sack of and appointment of the Director General, Department of State Service and not a director in the office of the Head of Service as it was done last month.

The Permanent Secretary in charge of Special Services Office (SSO) liaises with the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) on national security and intelligence issues, which makes it also relevant for such an announcement.
• To be continued tomorrow.
• Oloja is Editor of The Guardian.

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  • Okolo Chuks

    Just wait till September… This is change, a clear departure from the norms.

  • E. S. Bilewu

    Why the worries, there are permanent secretaries in all the ministries who are now carrying out the duty of ministers, may be those who are worried for ministers planned to introduce corruptions. September is knocking the door let us wait.

    • Get it Right the first time

      but you have to be careful of the Super Perm sec that took control of Gowon’s Government such that his military guys did not have any other options as to push Gowon out of Government. The super Perm sec were more corrupt than Gowon Federal commissioners and now I am noticing the senate president inviting the Finance Perm Sec to the senate and she answered that her boss has to be informed. Please forget Diezani who refuse to an investigation by the house

  • Asuquo Bassey

    Nice and well balanced/researched article, please I need more. Let PMB appoint SGF and Chief of Staff immediately and get his ministerial list to the Senate for approval/confirmation without further delay. God bless Nigeria