The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has debunked reports of an attempt to “whittle down” the roles of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The reports, mostly on social media, claimed that a cabal in the presidency was trying to render the office of the vice president ineffective and subject the incumbent’s person to humiliation.
President Buhari in his independence anniversary address to Nigerians on Tuesday announced plans to move the National Social Investment Programmes (N-SIPs) to the newly created Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.
The programmes had been domiciled under the office of the vice president since they were created in 2016.
The programmes under the N-SIPs to be moved from the vice president’s office to the new ministry include N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfers, National Home-Grown School Feeding and Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programmes (GEEP).
However, in a statement by its spokesperson, Lanre Issa-Onilu, on Wednesday, APC dismissed the reports attributing the movement to a ‘rift’ between President Buhari and Mr Osinbajo as “one of the many fake news flying around in recent days.”
The party said the “fake news” began after the “setting up of the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) comprising some of Nigeria’s most independent-minded economists (some vocally critical of government’s fiscal policies) to 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 vice president statutorily heads the National Economic Council with members including state governors, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service and Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning.
“Constitutionally, while the power of the Vice President is derived from the President, the conspirators deliberately choose to ignore Section 141 of the Constitution, which spells out the Vice President’s statute membership in the National Security Council, the National Defence Council, Federal Executive Council, and the Chairman of National Economic Council,” the APC said in the statement.
The party said President Buhari’s decision to move the N-SIPs to the new ministry does not portend crisis at the presidency.
“The conspirators are desperately trying to link government decisions on the N-SIPs, which have been under the office of the Vice President since it started in 2016 to support the conspiracies, however mundane.
“In the same October 1 address, the President announced the recent redeployment of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF). Was this also to ‘whittle down’ the powers of the OSGF?”
Osinbajo’s ‘frontline role’
The party said the N-SIPs since 2016 has impacted “over 12 million direct beneficiaries and over 30 million indirect beneficiaries.
“The Vice President played a frontline role in the conceptualisation of these policies and programmes and the President, in demonstration of his trust for him, charged him with the responsibility of nurturing the programmes to the current stage.
“Tremendous successes have been recorded under the guardianship of the Vice President. In demonstrating the administration’s commitment to the cause of the poor, these interventionist programmes have been elevated to the Next Level with the creation of the new ministry.”
“The purveyors of the conspiracy theory about the imagined rift in the Presidency have missed the opportunity to see the commendable efforts of this government. Perhaps, if these policies were about the elites, they would have focussed on the positive imports rather than fishing for a crisis that only exists in their fatuous imagination,” he concluded.
“The SIPs are already gaining global and local acclaims across the globe on account of its nationwide social impact, particularly from endorsement by the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), World Bank, World Economic Forum, Action Aid (Nigeria), Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) among others.
“A question we should ask the conspirators and their partisan sponsors is how did they miss the import of the President’s decision to create a whole ministry to superintend the social investment programmes and humanitarian issues?
“How did they not realise that the President’s action is an indication of the importance he attaches to policies that are targeted at the poor?
“Why does it appear that the so-called analysts always do not see things from the point of view of the poor?”
The APC accused the opposition of not being critical enough in assessing government policies. It implored the media and critics of the government to be noble when reviewing public policies.
Efforts to speak with the PDP’s spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, for his party’s reaction were unsuccessful.
His known telephone lines were unreachable after several attempts. He also did not respond to text messages at the time of this report.