A day after signing Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract Amendment Bill into law in London, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the sack of at least 35 out of over 80 aides in the office of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, DAILY NIGERIAN can reliably report.
The president is currently in London, the United Kingdom for a two-week “private visit” and is expected back in Abuja on November 17.
DAILY NIGERIAN gathered that the affected aides, who were issued appointment letters in August included some Senior Special Assistants, Special Assistants, Personal Assistants and Technical Assistants.
Preparatory to their eventual dismissal, DAILY NIGERIAN learnt, the aides were posted out to some line ministries relevant to their designation last month.
The move was allegedly targetted at denying them access to the Villa and reducing the influence of the vice president.
“Although more than half of the aides are under the payroll of donor agencies, the cabal eased them out in order to whittle down the influence of the vice president,” said a source familiar with the development.
“None of them were queried or interdicted for any wrongdoing. It is not about cutting cost, because no aide was sacked in the president’s office nor in the office of the First Lady, where six more aides were appointed less than one month ago. They were just sacked to reduce the VP’s influence,” the source submitted.
Both spokesmen for the president and vice president, Garba Shehu and Laolu Akande respectively, did not respond to DAILY NIGERIAN’s text message seeking their reaction to the development.
There seems to be a frosty relationship between the president and his deputy since the beginning of their second term in office, with the president transferring some agencies under Mr Osinbajo’s control to either his office or some ministries.
Insiders said the president’s powerful handlers, otherwise known as the cabal, were unhappy with some critical decisions taken by the vice president in the president’s absence.
Feelers believe that top among Mr Osinbajo’s “crimes” was the sacking of Lawal Daura, erstwhile director-general of the State Security Service, SSS, when Mr Osinbajo was the acting president in August last year.
Another decision that drew the ire of the cabal was transmitting a letter to the Senate in February 2017, seeking confirmation of the then acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen.
But the president first wielded the big stick by taking away the Special Intervention Programmes, SIPs, from the vice president’s office to the newly created Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development.
The SIPs include the famous TraderMoni, the Home-grown School Feeding Programme, Government Economic Empowerment Programme, N-Power, among others.
On September 16, Mr Buhari replaced Osinbajo-led Economic Management Team with Economic Advisory Council that will directly report to his (president’s) office.
According to a report by PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday, even the controversial RUGA project has also been taken away from Mr Osinbajo’s control after the recommendation of the president’s powerful Chief of Staff Abba Kyari.
Taking a cue from Olusegun Obasanjo?
Shortly after President Olusegun Obasanjo was sworn-in for a second term in May 2003, his relationship with his deputy, Atiku Abubakar, became sour over latter’s alleged plan to contest against him at the party’s primaries.
At the peak of the estrangement, the former president fired Mr Atiku’s key aides in order to allegedly settle the political scores.
Those fired by Mr Obasanjo in July 2006 included Adeolu Akande, Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo, Chris Mammah, Shina Ayati, Sam Oyovbaire, Lawal Jafaru Isa and Garba Shehu.