Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Less than 24 hours after returning from his private visit to London, President Muhammadu Buhari has explained why 35 aides of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo were sacked.
Fielding questions from State House Correspondents at the Presidential Wing of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, shortly after his arrival from London on Friday night, President Buhari described insinuations that the aides were sacked due to political and ethnic reasons as unfortunate.
“They said 35 people were sacked in the Vice President’s office. We just created some ministries and we reorganised and people are giving it ethnic and political dimensions. It is unfortunate,” he said.
According to him, the ongoing reorganisation at the Presidency is aimed at enhancing service delivery to Nigerians.
Responding to a question on what to expect from his administration after a well deserved rest in London, Buhari said: “We are going to work harder and be accountable. We have tried to make Nigerians understand why we do certain things. Accountability from bottom to top is absolutely necessary.
“Whoever is responsible for government property, [should know] it is public property, it is not personal and he has to manage it according to the law.
“That’s what I expect and I think that we have been around long enough to impress on people that we mean what we say,” he said.
According to a statement last week by Senior Special Assistant to the President Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the exercise was ordered by President Buhari in response to the general perception that the Presidency has an oversised and bloated workforce which acts as a drag on its efficiency.
He had explained that the overriding objective of the exercise was to save taxpayer money and deliver needed service to the public.
The statement confirming the sack of the aides last week read:
“The Presidency wishes to confirm that there is, on-going, an unprecedented overhaul of the nation’s seat of government, arising from which a number of political appointments have either been revoked or not renewed in the Second Term.
“The exercise, which has been ordered by the President, is to streamline decision-making, cut down multiple authorities and reduce the cost of administration.
“It is also an appropriate response to the general perception that the Presidency has an oversized and bloated workforce which acts as a drag on efficiency.
“As may have been noticed by discerning members of the public, a number of political appointees among the few that served in the office of the President were not returned for the Second Term.
“The office of the Vice President, His Excellency Yemi Osinbajo has, in compliance with the directive of the President, equally been shed of a number of such appointees.
“In carrying out these exercises, the overriding objective is to save taxpayer money and deliver needed service to the public. As far as the President is concerned, there is no scope for an excuse for administration after getting a huge mandate to run the country for four more years.”
The Presidency also denied the rumoured rifts between the President and the Vice President, insisting that the relationship between the two remains excellent and trusting.
The statement read further:
“In the light of this, the Presidency wishes to strongly deny rumours of a rift between President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The relationship between the two leaders remains excellent and trusting. Together, they will script a glorious future for the nation.
“The media reports of a soured relationship are originating from the minds and mouths of mischief makers, who are desperate for entertaining stories from the Aso Rock Villa with which to titillate the public. This ulterior motive is the basis of the wrong interpretation given to the recent exercise in the Presidency.
“There has been a streamlining of staff going on for a while. The President has always had fewer staff than the Vice President, and there were always plans to reduce the number of staff at the Villa.
“The streamlining was not personal or targeted to undermine the Vice President’s office, as the so-called insider sources quoted by the media appear to make it seem.
“The President is in absolute control of his government. The media should stop attributing non-existent powers to some people. There cannot be anyone too powerful for President Buhari to control.”