• Set to name principal aides
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
There are high expectations by Nigerians that President Muhammadu Buhari, who returned to the country yesterday from Makkah, Saudi Arabia, where he attended a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), would begin to name his principal aides that would assist him superintend his administration, whose fresh term began last Wednesday.
The president had jetted out of the country a day after his inauguration to attend the OIC meeting, which drew a wave of controversy from critics who felt it could violate Nigeria’s secularity.
The trip obviously delayed the announcement of key aides that would be working with the president, raising anxiety that he might be stalling about picking his key staff.
Buhari had told THISDAY last year in a well-publicised interview that he would hit the ground running with the appointment of aides and minister unlike his first tenure when it took him quite a while to do.
But in a pre-inaugural interview aired by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) last week, the president said he had not discussed appointments with anyone, pleading to be trusted to appoint credible Nigerians into his cabinet.
Five days after his inauguration, no appointment has been announced while some of his aides, whose tenure had statutorily expired, are still in office.
In his first term, Buhari made his first appointment on the third day of inauguration, naming Mr. Femi Adesina and Malam Garba Shehu as special adviser and senior special assistant on Media and Publicity respectively. He also appointed Mr. Lawal Kazaure as the State Chief of Protocol (SCOP).
No other appointment was made again until three months later, when he named Malam Abba Kyari as his chief of staff on August 27, 2015. Another three months would elapse before the president sent the names of his ministers to the National Assembly for screening.
But the president had promised variously that this time around, he would make haste.
With his return to the country yesterday, all eyes are on him to make the haste he had promised even as Presidential Villa sources assured THISDAY yesterday that the president was set to begin to name his first set of appointees.
However, some of his aides have continued to function in their former capacity, an indication that the president might retain them.
Sources said last night that barring any last-minute change of mind, Buhari might retain Kyari, Adesina, Shehu and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha.
Shehu had last week issued the statement announcing Buhari’s Saudi Arabia’s trip and was part of the presidential entourage to the 14th session of the OIC conference.
Kyari was also among top government officials who received the president at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on his arrival from Saudi Arabia.
On his part, Adesina issued a statement yesterday in which the president condoled with two members of the Coalition of Buhari/Osinbajo Movement (COBOM), Mr. Akan Ebenezer and Chief Charles Azubuike Nwora Ojukwu, who died recently.
Technically, all the aides the president appointed in his first tenure have ceased to be in office by the conditions of service in their letters of appointment. They served at the pleasure of the president and had their appointment terminated at the expiration of his tenure.
“Anyone acting on behalf of the president now without a fresh letter of appointment does so unlawfully,” a lawyer familiar with the rules told THISDAY last night.
Whilst Buhari has absolute prerogative to appoint personal aides without consultation with anyone, the 1999 Constitution (as amended), requires him to apply to the Senate for approval of number of special advisers that would be working with him.
The appointment of ministers and other similar political appointments, including boards and ambassadorial, usually requires extensive consultations with the party and other stakeholders, and would have to go to the Senate for approval.
This, presidential sources, say may circumscribe the desire of the president to act more quickly.
When contacted last night on when the president was likely to announce his first set of appointments, Adesina told THISDAY that he could not say as only Buhari could determine that.
Buhari Returns to Abuja from OIC Summit in Saudi Arabia
Meanwhile, Buhari last night returned to Abuja from Makkah in Saudi Arabia, where he participated in the 14th summit of the OIC.
Buhari, who left Nigeria on Thursday, was received at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport by Kyari and other top government officials.
At the summit held with the theme, “Makkah al-Mukarramah Summit: Hand in Hand toward the Future,” Buhari in his address, advocated the need for member countries to unite and work together to combat common challenges such as terrorism and violent extremism.
He also canvassed support for the recharge of Lake Chad and thanked OIC for its support for various projects in Nigeria such as the second Niger Bridge.
While holding a bilateral meeting with President Idris Deby Itno of Chad Republic on the sidelines of the meeting in Makkah, Buhari told Itno that it was time for “a new way forward that completely removes the threat of terrorism from Lake Chad sub-region.”
Both leaders agreed to deliberate on a strategy aimed at guaranteeing continued battle against terrorism until the menace is completely brought to an end.