The Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government has appointed several aides for the “Offices of the Wife of the President” and that of the Vice President’s wife, despite his promise to scrap the offices, ICIR reports.
Recall that Buhari, in an interview he granted to Weekly Trust in December 2014, had said he would not have an office of the first lady should he emerge as president. He gave as his reason the fact that such office is not provided for in the constitution, and suggested that the Ministry for Women Affairs should be allowed to play its role unhindered.
Aisha Buhari, following this statement, also gave her word that she would abide by whatever the constitution stipulates, and said she would perform her traditional duties only as the wife of the president.
Political observers believe these assurances contributed in no small measure to his victory at the polls in the year that followed, especially given the waning popularity of the then First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan.
However, more than three years into the administration, although linguistically the office of the first lady has been abolished, the federal government has spent taxpayers’ money to sustain, as called, offices of the wives of the president and vice president.
According to ICIR, a publication by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), which listed crucial appointments made by the administration, included seven special advisers, 48 senior special assistants, 47 special assistants, and 16 personal assistants.
Out of these 118 advisers and assistants, ten have been in the exclusive service of the wives of the president and the vice president.
Appointed on June 1, 2015, were Abiodun Adelowo, Personal Physician to the Wife of the Vice President; Tayo Basirat Fakorede, Special Assistant on Special Duties to the Office of the Wife of the Vice President; Susan Chagwa, Special Assistant on Household & Social Events to the Office of the Wife of the Vice President; Koko Iyamu, Special Assistant on Administration to the Office of the Wife of the Vice President; and Mosope Olasebikan, Special Assistant on Media & ICT to the Office of the Wife of the Vice President.
The following month, on July 2, 2015, Hajo Sani was appointed as Senior Special Assistant on Administration to the Office of the Wife of the President; Mohammed Kamal Abdulrahman was appointed as Personal Physician to the Wife of the President; and Hadi Uba was appointed as Special Assistant on Administration II to the Office of the Wife of the President.
After two years, on May 24, 2017, two additional appointments were made: Omolayo Akinfala was appointed Special Assistant on Protocol to the wife of the President, and Fadi Rose Audu became Special Assistant on Domestic Matters to the wife of the President.
Out of all ten political appointees, one, Susan Chagwa, was stated by the OSGF to have resigned from office. The date of resignation was not recorded, and it is not stated whether or not she has been replaced.
The remuneration package laid down by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) provides for special assistants and personal assistants to various office holders, such as the president, vice president, and ministers.
The document, however, fails to specify exactly how much goes to these assistants; rather it states that the figure will be provided, “tbp”.
However, it is conceivable that the ten special assistants to the wives of the president and vice president earn as much as special advisers, therefore by the end of July, 2018, N4.4 billion will have gone to them as basic monthly salaries and allowances.
While the presidency has announced the appointments of some special assistants and publicly organised swearing-in ceremonies for others, the appointments of aides to the wives of the president and vice president on different days have evidently been kept secret.
The appointment of Hajo Sani, Senior Special Assistant on Administration to the Wife of the President, found its way into public knowledge only because the University of Maiduguri Class of ’78 placed an advert in the newspaper to congratulate her. And this happened a month and two weeks after the appointment was made.