The lawmaker representing Oyo State’s Egbeda/Ona Ara Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, Akin Alabi, has said that, in a presidential system of government such as obtained in the United States and Nigeria, the post of the Chief of Staff is more powerful than that of the Vice President.
The APC lawmaker is reacting to President Muhammadu Buhari’s signing of the Deep Offshore (and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract) Act in London, where he is currently on “private visit.”
His Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, had taken the document to him on Monday, leading to speculations that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has been sidelined.
In reaction to the lawmaker’s claim, two Senior Advocates of Nigeria — Messrs Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa and Ifedayo Adedipe — said Alabi’s assertion had no constitutional basis.
Alabi, who is the founder of Nigeria’s first online sports betting portal, NairaBET, made his views known via his Twitter handle @akinalabi on Tuesday.
In a series of tweets, the APC lawmaker said the Chief of Staff “is the assistant President, while the Vice President is merely a stand-in for the president.”
“Whether you like it or not, in a presidential system of government (eg, US, Nigeria), the post of the Chief of Staff is more “powerful” than that of the Vice President. He is the assistant President. The Vice President is a stand-in for the president,” the lawmaker said.
Continuing, he said, “It is NOT the duty of the Vice President to take a bill to the president. It’s the job of an assistant. Like the Chief of Staff.
“The Vice President has been excellent performing his constitutional duties and the ones assigned to him.”
He surmised that, “If the President decides NOT to see Vice President Osinbajo as a PA, which I don’t think he should, then I’m 100% in support of that.”
Dealing knocks to those he described as noisemakers, Alabi said, “I understand the political agenda of the noisemakers but anyone ready to learn should learn.”
Wondering what Osinbajo’s relationship is with Buhari’s Chief of Staff Abba Kyari, Alabi tweeted further, “I don’t know whether there are problems between the Chief of Staff and the Vice President. Maybe there is. It’s politics and it happens everywhere.
“But with this bill signing issue, there is nothing out of the ordinary for the Chief of staff to bring a document for the president.”
Speaking with The PUNCH on Tuesday, however, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said the office of the chief of staff was unknown to Nigerian law.
He, therefore, said there was no need for such controversy.
Adegboruwa said, “The chief of staff is the head of the President’s personal staff. But our Constitution in Nigeria is different from other countries.
“The Supreme Court has held that the vice-president runs on the same ticket with the President and can act on his behalf when the President is not available.
“The second point is that the vice-president enjoys the mandate of the people through the ballot and can only be removed as recommended by the Constitution, while the chief of staff can be sacked at any time.
“Elevating a chief of staff above the vice-president is an aberration.
“What is playing out in Nigeria presently is an unfortunate development on how our system is being bastardised, where a bill is taken to the President in London to sign a law for Nigerians.”
Adegboruwa called on the President to surround himself with good legal advisers so as not to undermine the Nigerian Constitution.
“I think it is important for the President not to operate as an offshore leader,” he added.
Speaking in the same vein, Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), said the [office of the] chief of staff is unknown to the Constitution of Nigeria.
Adedipe said the chief of staff had no statutory role and was an “unelected official” and thus could not be more powerful than a person occupying a constitutional office.
He said, “What law makes a chief of staff more powerful than the vice-president?
“The chief of staff is a personal staffer of the President, as opposed to the vice-president who is constitutionally recognised to act.
“If a President is disdainful of the vice-president, it is because the society permits it.
“The fact that the chief of staff has the ears of the President doesn’t make him equal to an elected official.
“The office of the chief of staff is not known to law.”