Mixed reactions have continued to trail President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to the newly sworn in ministers that all submissions for his attention or meeting requests be channeled through the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari.
Twice the President has reechoed the directive. It was first made at the end of the presidential retreat for the then ministers-designate on Tuesday.
Specifically, the president in the presence of the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and other top dignitaries, told the ministers that, “ in terms of coordination, kindly ensure that all submissions for my attention or meeting requests be channeled through the Chief of Staff, while all Federal Executive Council matters be coordinated through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
As if that was not enough, President Buhari again after the swearing in of the ministers at the council chambers of the State House, Abuja yesterday restated the order, saying it was necessary to speed up the process of decision-making in the administration.
With the President’s order, no minister will have access to him without Kyari’s clearance. First appointed on August 27, 2015, the Borno born lawyer was reappointed on July 5, this year, despite the protest for his sack.
The protesters in June alleged that Kyari was the eye of the cabal in the Villa.The presidency, however said the protest was sponsored. The following day, another group of protesters marched to the villa supporting Kyari.
The Office of the Chief of Staff was first introduced in 1999 when the country’s returned to civilian rule. President Olusegun Obasanjo started it when he copied the US presidential system of government.
Speaking on the development, a retired federal permanent secretary, said the president’s decision would create a major bottleneck that would make governance more problematic than it was in Buhari’s first tenure.
“The appointment of a Principal Private Secretary (PPS) could have mitigated the problem of a President who is limited in terms of how many hours he would make available for official work.
“This will create absolute barrier between the President and the ministers. It will negatively affect the system, put an unmanageable burden on the office of the Chief of Staff, demoralize ministers who may have vital, urgent and sensitive issues to discuss with the president and it will just create a huge bureaucracy around the office of the Chief of Staff.
“This is a wrong approach to adopt for a president who has said that he wants to improve the level of efficiency and efficacy of governance in the country,” he said.
For the retired permanent secretary, the directive would create a major problem for both the president and the Chief of Staff.
“It would simply reinforce the idea that there is a circle around the president, preventing him from having access to all the information he needs.
“If you are going to appoint ministers and place huge burden on them, certainly you should allow them even if is going to be a few minutes to see you. They do not need to get clearance from the Chief of Staff, if the system is going to work but if you make it mandatory that all matters have to be cleared with the Chief of Staff, many ministers will just simply sit in their office because the system will become bad,” he said.
He recalled that in previous administrations, ministers had unfettered access to the president, adding that, “ministers are very important people who are responsible enough to know that the president is limited in terms of how much time he would give them an attention”
He further said that the elevation of the office of the Chief of Staff to superintending the ministers was not a healthy development.
According to the State House website, the “Office of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces is overseen by the Chief of Staff to the President.
“The Chief of Staff manages the President’s schedule and correspondence, and any other duties that may be assigned by the President.”