At 1.35pm, Monday, September 16th, Laolu Akande, Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, tweeted: “VP Osinbajo presiding over weekly Economic Mgt (Management) Team. Agenda: AfCFTA (The African Continental Free Trade Area), financing Infrastructure, PMS Management Info System & co. Ministers attending: Finance, B&NP, Industry, T&I, Works & Housing, Water Resources & the Ministers of State: Petroleum, B&NP (Budget and National Planning), Trade and Industry.
“Also (present are) heads of CBN, NNPC, FIRS, NBS, DMO, NIPC & DG Budget, Special Advisers, and the Accountant-General of the Federation among other aides. (The) Information Minister who is a full-fledged member of (the) EMT is also present.”
The meeting is statutory and holds monthly. And it had been so since President Muhammadu Buhari constituted the Economic Management Team with Osinbajo as the chairman, contrary to the practice in the past whereby the Ministers of Finance headed the team. Key members of the Osinbajo-led EMT include the Ministers of Budget and National Planning; Finance; Agriculture; Information; Trade, Industry and Investment; Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); and the Director-General of the Debt Management Office (DMO).
A few hours later, Femi Adesina, Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to President Buhari, issued a statement announcing that the President had dissolved the EMT and constituted an Economic Advisory Council.
He announced the council’s members to include Prof. Doyin Salami – Chairman; Dr. Mohammed Sagagi – Vice-Chairman; Dr. Mohammed Adaya Salisu (Senior Special Assistant to the President, Development Policy) – Secretary and Prof. Ode Ojowu, Dr. Shehu Yahaya, Dr. Iyabo Masha, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo and Mr. Bismark Rewane as members.
Adesina announced that the advisory council would replace the current Economic Management Team (EMT) and report directly to the President.
According to Adesina, “The Economic Advisory Council (EAC) will advise the President on economic policy matters, including fiscal analysis, economic growth and a range of internal and global economic issues working with the relevant cabinet members and heads of monetary and fiscal agencies.
“The EAC will have monthly technical sessions as well as scheduled quarterly meetings with the President. The Chairman may, however, request for unscheduled meetings if the need arises.”
The news took Nigerians by shock. And, in torrents, they expressed dismay at the curious need to unceremoniously terminate the EMT composed of the VP, several ministers and replacing same with a private sector Advisory Council.
Many intoned that it was a move that underscored the fact that Osinabjo is a virtual outsider with no influence in the presidency otherwise how would such move be made without his knowledge. Other discerning Nigerians opined that the President and his immediate circle decided to cut the VP to size because of his growing influence, especially as 2023 beckons.
Interestingly, the latter premise was the thrust of a widely syndicated article entitled “Abba Kyari, El Rufai & Co Open War Against Osinbajo Ahead of 2023…VP’s Rising Profile Worries Aso Rock Cabal…Plot to sabotage Southwest Bid for Presidency By Clipping Osinbajo’s Wings,” by a public affairs analyst, Baba Ahmed.
Ahmed stated that the hurried dissolution of the EMT was by no means the beginning of the Cabal’s moves.
“When Buhari announced the ministers’ portfolios and created a new Ministry of Social Development, Humanitarian & Disaster Management, many saw the hands of the Cabal trying to take away the most popular and acclaimed programs of the Buhari administration from the VP. How that move is to be done remains to be seen,” Ahmed wrote.
He added that with the Presidency going to the southwest in 2023, Abba Kyari, the President’s Chief of Staff in cahoot with other prominent political figures concluded that it was necessary to pull down the rising profile of the VP and drive a wedge between him and the President as quickly as possible.
“With the Economic Management Team dissolved and the Social Investment Programmes consigned to a Ministry, it is clear that that the Cabal has somehow confused and blindsided the President to render his VP redundant,” Ahmed stated.
As if these were not enough, the President has directed Vice-President to, henceforth, seek presidential approvals for agencies under his supervision.
Osinbajo is the chairman of the governing boards of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the National Boundary Commission (NBC) and the Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA). He is also the chairman of the board of directors of the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), a limited liability company owned by the three tiers of government; and the National Economic Council (NEC), a constitutional body made up of state governors and key federal government officials, as well as the National Council on Privatisation (NCP).
Under the laws setting up the agencies, the president is empowered to give final approvals but these provisions were not followed during the first term. With the new memo, the vice-president will now have to seek approvals for contract awards, annual reports, annual accounts, the power to borrow, and power to make regulations, among other key functions.
As things stand, it seems that the gloves are off and the moves to whittle down the popularity and influence of Prof. Osinbajo are now at full throttle.