So, who is right, who is wrong? Did President Muhammadu Buhari actually tell his number two man to sit up and follow due process in granting approvals to agencies under him? If he actually did, why is the office of the Vice President bristling and lashing out at an online newspaper, The Cable, for carrying the report?
On Tuesday, the spokesman to the Vice President, Mr. Laolu Akande, wrote: “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.”
Akande was reacting to the exclusive report by the newspaper that President Buhari had directed his deputy to, henceforth, seek presidential approvals for agencies under his supervision.
The report reads further: “Under the laws setting up the agencies, the president is empowered to give final approvals but TheCable understands that the provisions were not followed during the first term.
“TheCable learnt that the directive to follow due process was issued via a presidential memo on Monday.
“Currently, Osinbajo is the chairman of the governing boards of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the National Boundary Commission (NBC) and the Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA).
“He is also the chairman of the board of directors of the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), a limited liability company owned by the three tiers of government.
“In addition, the vice-president chairs the National Economic Council (NEC), a constitutional body made up of state governors and key federal government officials, as well as the National Council on Privatisation (NCP).
“With the new memo, the vice-president will now have to seek approvals for contract awards, annual reports, annual accounts, power to borrow, and power to make regulations, among other key functions.
“On Monday, Buhari appointed and Economic Advisory Council (EAC) and disbanded the Economic Management Team led by Osinbajo.
“Buhari had appointed Osinbajo chairman of EMT during his first term, although the position was held my ministers of finance under previous administrations.
“There are unconfirmed reports that NEMA and National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) will now be moved from the office of the VP to the newly created ministry of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development, headed by Sadiya Umar Farouq.
“By law, the vice-president is the chairman of NEMA, NBC and BCDA but the acts also state that presidential approvals are needed for some key decisions and actions.
“Sections 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 24 of the NEMA act provides that “funding, expenditure, contract awards and regulations” must receive presidential approval.
“Sections 24, 25, 27, 28 and 33 of the NBC act empower the president to direct on annual reports, annual accounts, power to borrow and power to invest.
“Under the BCDA law, the president also has similar powers.
“‘Suffice it to say the president has finally taken control of his government,” a minister, who confirmed the development, told TheCable.”