Contrary to the reported directive issued by President Muhammadu Buhari on two occasions last week, the Presidency has clarified that access to the president is open to ministers.
Buhari had, during a retreat for then incoming ministers, permanent secretaries and top officials of government instructed the ministers-designate to pass all submissions and requests for him through the Chief of Staff (CoS) while all cabinet matters must be routed through the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF).
“In terms of coordination, kindly ensure that all submissions for my attention or meeting requests be channelled through the Chief of Staff, while all Federal Executive Council matters are coordinated through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation,” the President had said.
Buhari repeated the instruction during the inauguration of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday, saying that ignoring the vertical and horizontal communication will come at a price.
But a statement issued in Abuja by Garba Shehu Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media & Publicity), maintained that the role of the CoS has not changed and called for a halt to the debate.
The stamens read: “Recent media and social media reports on the responsibilities of the Chief of Staff to the President have suggested that the role has changed. This is not the case.
Today, under the Buhari II administration the role of Chief of Staff remains the same as it was under Buhari I.
“It is worth stressing that the role and responsibilities of the Chief of Staff and the method of communication and arranging scheduling between Cabinet members and the President are, in Nigeria, based on the US model, where the same system operates – and has done for decades – in precisely the same way.
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“That role is to act as the head of the presidential administration at Aso Rock; to be an adviser to the President on any and all matters; to be the line manager for all staff at Aso Rock; and to manage appointments and scheduling for the President.
In the traditional presidential system, it is a primary function of a Chief of Staff, which may vary according to the needs and desires of each President, to supervise key State House Staff, control access to the office and the person of the President, manage communications and information flow and this includes that which binds the relationship with the two other arms of government.
“During the President’s first term those were the responsibilities of the Chief of Staff, and they remain the same responsibilities today. There is no change.
“When President Buhari explained to ministers that they would be expected to communicate with him and arrange scheduling to meet with him primarily via the Chief of Staff, he did so as many of the Buhari II Cabinet ministerial appointments are new appointments and cannot, therefore, be expected to know how matters of liaising with the President operate.
“This is to stress that access to the President is open to ministers. It is not true that this is denied them in the Second Term.
“The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) on the other hand is responsible for ensuring the effective coordination and monitoring of the implementation of government policies and programmes. All cabinet matters must go through him.
“Under this dispensation, a performance evaluation of ministers and Permanent Secretary will be maintained by the SGF. Two weeks after assuming office, they are expected to sign mandate acceptance documents.
“It is time to end the unnecessary controversy, for the key appointees of the President to carry out their jobs.”