President Bola Tinubu on Friday appointed the outgoing Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, as chief of staff.
Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia, a former deputy governor of Jigawa, was named the new deputy chief of staff.
The president also confirmed the former governor of Benue and immediate past special duties minister, George Akume, as Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
The announcement, which came as the president was meeting with state governors at the State House, Abuja, marked Mr Tinubu’s decision on the first set of critical positions to be filled as he struggles to kick off his administration, which has come under criticism for removing fuel subsidies without first inaugurating a team that will help cushion the effects on Nigeria’s poor.
Mr Tinubu, who assumed office on May 29, has been a political godfather to Mr Gbajabiamila, who became the House Speaker in 2019.
Mr Gbajabiamila, 62, was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2003 after being tipped by Mr Tinubu, who was at the time serving as governor in Lagos.
Before returning to Nigeria with Mr Tinubu when the country returned to civil rule in 1999, Mr Gbajabiamila was a legal practitioner in the United States, where he faced disciplinary action for stealing from clients.
He denied stealing the money, saying he only mixed clients’ funds up in a matter that he understood could raise ethical questions. Still, Peoples Gazette found that Mr Gbajabiamila accepted bribes as Nigeria’s House Speaker in the run-up to the passage of a law that restructured the country’s petroleum industry.
His appointment as the chief of staff, which would see him coordinate the president’s day-to-day actions, was widely anticipated over the past week, and his confirmation for the position came as he still remained the nation’s House Speaker.
It was not immediately clear when Mr Gbajabiamila would resign his position as Speaker, which was not announced prior to or during his announcement as the president’s chief of staff. Mr Tinubu was widely expected to be less rudderless in running government than his predecessor Muhammadu Buhari, whom most Nigerians deemed lazy, ethnocentrist and corrupt.
Mr Akume has been a key ally of Mr Tinubu’s since 2015, when he liaised with Mr Tinubu to give the All Progressives Congress a national appeal through grassroots electioneering in Benue, a key state in the country’s central region.
Mr Akume, who was largely obscured as special duties minister for Mr Buhari, would now supervise administrative departments across the federal government, including management of the federal cabinet.
Mr Hadejia will serve as the deputy chief of staff to Mr Gbajabiamila from Vice President Kashim Shettima’s office.