It seems President Muhammadu Buhari has handed more powers to his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, making him the most powerful man in the presidency after he told the new ministers that they have to go through the CoS to get to him.
During the swearing-in ceremony of newly appointed ministers at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Wednesday, August 21, Buhari told the appointees that they must submit all requests for meetings with him to Kyari before they can get to him.
To show that he meant what he said, Buhari repeated the directives twice, the first being at the end of the presidential retreat for the then ministers-designate on Tuesday, August 20.
Specifically, the President, in the presence of the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and other top dignitaries, told the ministers:
“In terms of coordination, 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.”
To make sure the ministers stuck with the new directives, Buhari repeated the same thing after the swearing-in of the ministers at the council chambers of the Villa, saying it was necessary to speed up the process of decision-making in the administration.
With the President’s order, this means that no minister will have access to him without Kyari’s clearance, thus making him very powerful, more like the country’s defacto Prime Minister.
The office of the Chief of Staff was first introduced by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 when Nigeria returned to civilian rule after many years of military rule. The position was modeled after the United States presidential system of government.
Speaking on the development, a retired federal permanent secretary said the president’s decision would create a major bottleneck that would make governance more problematic than it was in Buhari’s first tenure.
“The appointment of a Principal Private Secretary (PPS) could have mitigated the problem of a President who is limited in terms of how many hours he would make available for official work.
This will create absolute barrier between the President and the ministers. It will negatively affect the system, put an unmanageable burden on the office of the Chief of Staff, demoralize ministers who may have vital, urgent and sensitive issues to discuss with the president and it will just create a huge bureaucracy around the office of the Chief of Staff.
This is a wrong approach to adopt for a president who has said that he wants to improve the level of efficiency and efficacy of governance in the country. It would simply reinforce the idea that there is a circle around the president, preventing him from having access to all the information he needs.
If you are going to appoint ministers and place huge burden on them, certainly you should allow them even if is going to be a few minutes, to see you. They do not need to get clearance from the Chief of Staff, if the system is going to work but if you make it mandatory that all matters have to be cleared with the Chief of Staff, many ministers will just simply sit in their office because the system will become bad.”