Jalal Arabi, the Permanent Secretary at Nigeria’s State House suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari, quietly left his post yesterday, Presidency sources have revealed to SaharaReporters.
President Buhari's controversial Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, had prevented Mr. Arabi’s suspension from taking effect, despite the president’s instructions.
Two sources at the Presidency told SaharaReporters that Mr. Kyari had shielded the permanent secretary, described as quite close to him after the president ordered the man to proceed on suspension. In fact, one source said Mr. Arabi owed his position to the Chief of Staff. According to this source, the permanent secretary failed the examination for elevation to the cadre of permanent secretaries, but Mr. Kyari facilitated his appointment without an interview.
Nigeria's First Lady, Aisha Buhari, who last week took full control of her husband's healthcare, reportedly complained to Mr. Buhari that the permanent secretary had refused to release funds to enable her to properly care for him. The development led to Mr. Buhari’s decision to send the permanent secretary packing.
Mr. Arabi’s removal might be part of a strategy to integrate Mrs.Buhari into her ailing husband’s inner political circle in order to ensure that she does not join forces with political elements seeking to oust him from power on the account of his worsening ill health.
Our sources added that, in addition to the First Lady’s complaint against Mr. Arabi, the permanent secretary was also cited in the $43million Ikoyi apartment money scandal, also, he had previously earned the president’s censure over a series of indiscretions, included his failure to pay State House staff for six months. Before he went on suspension, Mr. Arabi arranged to pay much of the arrears, leaving only two months outstanding.
A source said the permanent secretary’s failure to pay State House staff on time made him widely unpopular and generated widespread animosity towards him by hapless staff whose finances have been severely stretched.
One source stated that Mr. Arabi is a brother-in-law to Mr. Adamu Muazu, former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who owned a multi-apartment building in Ikoyi, Lagos where officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) recently discovered more than $45 million in cash.
Staff at the State House accused Mr. Kyari of orchestrating a slash in the budget of the President's office. “Everybody in the Villa is now suffering. We fuel our official cars from our pockets and some of us travel as much as six times without receiving any estacode,” said one of the workers at the Presidency. The lean economic situation, said the source, had led some staff to request to be transferred from the Villa.
Another staffer said Mr. Kyari’s decision to slash the budget was in part undertaken to clip the wings of Mrs. Aisha Buhari, adding that the First Lady’s office now has no budget and solely relies on handouts from the President’s budget overseen by Mr. Kyari.
Some Villa sources claimed that Mr. Kyari, Mr. Arabi, and other members of Mr. Buhari’s kitchen cabinet had been taking advantage of the president's failing health to advance their parochial agenda. The sources said the Kyari group was behind the decision to keep Mr. Buhari from traveling abroad for further medical treatment.