Okechukwu Uwaezuoke with agency report
United States President Donald Trump has sacked the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and immediately replaced him with the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Mike Pompeo.
The president also nominated Gina Haspel to become the first woman director of the CIA.
Tillerson’s sack was announced less than 24 hours after he departed Nigeria’s capital Abuja, following his meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
His meeting with Buhari was the final leg of his five-nation African tour that saw him visit Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Chad and Nigeria.
Thanking Tillerson for his service on Twitter Tuesday, Trump said the new secretary would do “a fantastic job”.
“Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!” Trump said on Twitter.
Tillerson, a former chief executive of ExxonMobil, was only appointed to the job just over a year ago.
Trump sacked Tillerson when he had barely touched down in the U.S. after his tour of Africa, in which he pledged U.S. support for nations, such as Nigeria and Chad, fighting terrorism.
His sack was linked to his recent criticism of Russia and a series of public rifts with Trump.
Reporters for U.S. media outlets, including the Washington Post and CNN, however, said Tuesday that Tillerson was actually fired on Friday – the day he visited Djibouti and Kenya.
He then cancelled some of his activities in Kenya the following day, saying he felt unwell.
On Monday, Tillerson said he agreed with Britain’s assessment that Russia was likely to be responsible for the poisoning in Britain of a Russian double agent and that those involved must be punished.
But his words weren’t matched by the White House.
In recent months, Trump and Tillerson have had several public disagreements, specifically over how to deal with North Korea.
In one instance, Tillerson pointedly refused to deny calling his boss a moron.
Tillerson also appeared out of the loop last week when Trump announced he would meet with North Korea’s leader and become the first sitting U.S. president to do so.
Tillerson’s departure represents the biggest staff change in the Trump cabinet so far and caps months of tensions between the Republican president and the 65-year-old former Exxon Mobil chief executive.
A senior White House official said Trump asked Tillerson to step down on Friday but he did not want to announce it while he was on a trip to Africa.
The official said Trump works well with Pompeo, a former congressman from Kansas who is seen as a loyalist within the administration, and wanted him in place before the U.S. president’s planned talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and trade negotiations.
Tillerson, the AFP also reported, did not speak to Trump before he was sacked Tuesday and has not been given a reason for his ouster, a top aide said.
“The secretary did not speak to the president this morning and is unaware of the reason, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve, and still believes strongly that public service is a noble calling and not to be regretted,” Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein said.
Tillerson arrived back in Washington before dawn Tuesday after departing Nigeria on Monday.
The former secretary had every intention of remaining because of the tangible progress made on critical national security issues.
“He established and enjoyed relationships with his counterparts,” Goldstein said.
“The secretary will miss his colleagues at the Department of State and enjoyed working together with the Department of Defense in an uncommonly robust relationship,” he added, in a nod to Tillerson’s close working relationship with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
U.S. stock index futures pared their gains and the dollar also trimmed gains versus the yen while extending losses versus the euro amid the news.