By Abdullateef Taiwo

The latest scheme to whittle down the powers of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo of things at the presidency has remained a matter of national concern. It all started with the disbandment of the Economic Management Team (EMT) chaired by him. The presidency announced the replacement of the EMT with the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) via a statement by presidential spokesman Femi Adesina. Without mincing words, the presidency said the council would be reporting directly to President Muhammadu Buhari, thus removing the management of the country’s economy from Osinbajo’s supervision.

Before the uproar generated by the replacement of the EMT settled, then came the stripping of Osinbajo’s powers where hitherto he supervised some federal government agencies. A memo to that effect has been issued to the vice president.

Osinbajo chairs the governing boards of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA), National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) and the National Boundary Commission (NBC). He also chairs the Board of Directors of Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), a limited liability company owned by the three tiers of government, and was also Chairman of the National Council on Privatization (NCP). Multiple sources, including at the presidency, said the development was not unconnected with the scheming and machinations for 2023 when President Buhari will be completing his second and final term in office. One of the sources said though the Osinbajo-led EMT has not done much in turning around the country’s economy, the replacement was not about performance. “It is not about performance but politics of 2023,” the source said. Also a senator, who will not want to be named, said the power tussle was part of the plot to dump the Southwest ahead of 2023. “It’s 2023 calculations but in my own opinion fighting the Southwest would not be good for the polity,” the lawmaker said. Recalling how the Southwest supported the emergence of Buhari in 2015, he said it was time for the North to reciprocate the gesture. A top northern politician also linked the development to the scheming for 2023. Speaking anonymously, the politician said there was a lot of intense activity by people very close to the president on 2023. “They want to get an edge in the competition over who will succeed him (Buhari) come 2023. “The last thing that the president who is already running a very difficult administration needs is to have his vice president embroiled in a speculation and controversy that divert attention from the running of the government. “However, it’s fair for Nigerians to speculate whether this is part of the ongoing fight between El-Rufai, Tinubu and Osinbajo himself. “You can’t wish away some of these speculations. It’s part of normal politics and governance. I wish the president will say something clearly and specifically to lay to rest some of these rather disturbing speculations.

This is what he needs to do,” he said. Buhari had in July said he would not name anybody as his successor. The president said: “Succession, to me this is very funny; because if I did find anybody I will create more problems for him or her. Let those who want to be president try as much as I did. “I believe those who are interested need to know that I tried three times and the fourth time I thank God and technology, PVC.”

Indeed AljazirahNigeria reliably gathered that the battle to whittle down Vice President Osinbanjo’s influence in the polity , ahead 2023 is in stanzas for instance , the embattled Vice President , Osinbanjo, came under scrutiny in the House of Representatives   for his alleged role in the award of contract and illegally approving a N5.8 billion North East Intervention  Funds.

The House of Representatives Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness had  indicted Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in its report, accusing him of illegally approving N5.8 billion North East Intervention Fund which the lawmakers said was mismanaged by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

Presenting the committee’s report for consideration during plenary on earlier in 2018, the chairman of the committee, Ali Isa (PDP, Gombe). said as the then acting president, Prof Osinbajo illegally approved the release of N5.8 billion in June 2017 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund Account to NEMA.

The committee chairman while presenting the report said the authorization for the release of the fund for emergency food intervention in the North East contravened Section 80(4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

The section states that, “No money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the federation, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly”.

The lawmakers also stated that the authorisation did not follow due process as taxes and interest accruable to the government were not deducted or remitted to FIRS and no meeting of the Federal Executive Council approved the contracts.

The committee said the funds were credited directly to the individual banks of the companies and NEMA’s bank account, in violation of the approval limit allowed by law.

The committee said out of the N5.8 billion, NEMA got N829 million for logistics and claimed it spent N369.5 million on general logistics; N189 million on branding and packaging; N248.6 million on branding and packaging and N21.9 million on contingency.

The House, adopting the recommendations of the report, called for the dismissal and prosecution of the director-general of NEMA, Mustapha Maihaja, for fraud, corruption and embezzlement of N33 billion Emergency Intervention Fund, as well as all the government officials involved in the approval, processing, release and diversion of the fund.

It also said the Central Bank of Nigeria, being banker to the federal government, should not have been involved in giving loans to private companies and as such, should be investigated for the N2 billion loans said to have been given to four named companies.

The committee’s investigation of NEMA covered the release of N5.8 billion and N3.1 billion emergency food intervention of food security in the North East in 2017; the 6, 779 metric tonnes of rice donated by the Chinese government to IDPs in the North East and the payment of about N800 million demurrage on the donated rice.

The committee stated that N33 billion was lost by the federal government due to Mr. Maihaja’s mismanagement and outright embezzlement of funds.

The House unanimously agreed to ask President Muhammadu Buhari to relieve the DG of NEMA of his duties and hand him over to relevant authorities for prosecution.

For observers of event in the office of the Vice President, the recent directive from the President that the Vice President must seek for approval before initiating projects in  NEMA, AljazirahNigeria source confided that , the directive and the establishment of the Ministry of Humanitarian was in response to the outcome of the investigation by the House of Representatives Committee on the North-east Intervention Funds.

Fresh facts have also emerged on some decisions taken by President Muhammadu Buhari on the functions of his deputy, Prof Yemi Osinbajo.

A source in the Presidential Villa confided in Aljazirah Ngeria that members of the cabal in the Presidency were bitter about the roles played by the Vice President, when he stood in for Buhari, when the latter went on medical leave.

The source cited the emergence of Walter Onnoghen as the substantive Chief Justice of the Federation and the removal of Lawal Daura as the Director-General of the Department of State Services on August 7, 2018 as two of their grievances against Osinbajo.

Buhari had on November 10, 2016 sworn in Onnoghen in acting capacity despite the recommendation of the National Judicial Council, which stated that he should be appointed as Chief Justice of Nigeria being the most senior justice of the Supreme Court.

The President did not forward Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for consideration despite public outcry.

Recall that it was Osinbajo, who acted as President, during Buhari’s absence from the country, that forwarded Onnoghen’s name to the Senate on February 7, 2017 and swore him in on March 7, 2017.

Also, the Federal Government had on January 15, 2019 arraigned the ex-CJN before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

But Osinbajo had during a conference of the Online Publishers Association of Nigeria, claimed Buhari was not aware of Oongohen’s trial until Saturday, January 12.

The Vice President, who at the event, expressed misgiving about the trial of Onnoghen and other judges, had said, “It has consequences such as we have today, such that people say how such an important person can be subjected to trial without the Federal Government.”

He had also said Buhari believed that there should not be interference by the executive in other organs of government.

But the President did not wait for Onnoghen’s trial at the CCT to be concluded before suspending him on January 25.

Justifying his action, Buhari had said, “Although the allegations in the petition are grievous enough in themselves, the security agencies have since then traced other suspicious transactions running into millions of dollars to the CJN’s personal accounts, all undeclared or improperly declared as required by law.”

Also, Osinbajo, when he was acting President, removed Daura, as the director-general of the DSS on August 7, 2018 and appointed Matthew Seiyefa, who was kicked out by Buhari in September of the same year.

The source, who confided in one of our correspondents, attributed Osinbajo’s travails to the roles he played in Onnoghen’s issue and Daura’s removal.

The source said, “The VP underestimated the level of vindictiveness some of these people have towards him.

“They accused Osinbajo of sidelining them when he took critical decisions during Buhari’s medical leave. If you remember, there was a lot of drama surrounding the confirmation hearing of (Walter) Onnoghen and the removal of Daura.

“They were also not happy about the issue of the presidential panel on recovery of public assets. Obono-Obla developed a life of his own in handling the assignment given to him. They thought the VP was not in control.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s wife, Aisha, has rubbished the N500bn Social Investment Programme of her husband’s administration, saying that it has failed “woefully,” especially in the North.

Aisha, who hails from Adamawa State, said the situation in her home state, as far as the SIP implementation was concerned, was pathetic.

She also cited Kano, a highly-populated northern state, as another example where she believed the programme has failed, despite the huge funds the Federal Government had budgeted for it.

The SIP is domiciled in the Office of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, but its direct implementation is done by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Social Investment, Mrs. Maryam Uwais.

Mrs. Buhari expressed her feelings in Abuja during an interactive programme she organised for women at the Presidential Villa.

She disclosed that though Uwais informed her that 30,000 women would be beneficiaries in Adamawa State, four years had passed and there was no evidence that the SA had kept her word.

The President’s wife spoke in detail, expressing her disappointment.

She went on, “Concerning the N500bn voted for SIP, that was part of 2015 campaigns where they promised to give out N10,000, feed pupils in primary schools and give N5,000 to the poorest of the poor.

“The SSA to the President on Social Investment is a lady from Kano and I am sure that my husband decided to put somebody from Kano because of the population and political impact it made. I have never asked how the money is being used or is being given out.  I met Barrister (one of the President’s aides on SIP) once and he promised me that for my state (Adamawa), we should get 30,000 women to be given N10,000. Up till now, I haven’t heard from him.

“I don’t want to raise the alarm that my state does not benefit from it, where the SGF (Secretary to the Government of the Federation) came from; I kept quiet because I don’t want people to say that I talk too much. Recently, I saw a 74-year-old man selling petty things in Kano, I asked him how much is his capital, he told me between N3,000 and N4,000. Don’t forget that we have campaigned to give the poorest of the poor N5,000 every month.

“So, I don’t know where the social investment is. Maybe, it worked out in some states. In my own state, only a local government benefited out of the 22. I didn’t ask what happened and I don’t want to know, but it failed woefully in Kano, it’s not a good sign and it’s not a good thing.

“We have a lot of women that do business locally due to the cultural thing in the North; they are at home doing their business. Some are millionaires, some have thousands of naira, they need the assistance but they do not get it. Most northern women do not belong to any market association.

“I was expecting the N500bn to be utilised in different methods in the North for the aim to be achieved. I don’t know the method they used, but most of the northern states do not get it. My state does not get it.

Indeed there is intense power tussle for the Presidency in 2023 as the hawks in the North have begun plans to ensure power remains in the region.

Two northern governors are leading the campaign and have launched the battle in Abuja.

To remove any obstacle AljazirahNigeria reliably gathered the Vice President’s influence must be weakened and a search for a presidential candidate begun in earnest . Osinbajo is running against forces who have been waiting for this time to take a pound of flesh.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *