The Presidency may have preempted the panel it set up to investigate the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir David Lawal as fresh indication suggests it has shortlisted eight possible candidates as a replacement just five days after the suspension.
Babachir was suspended to pave way for the Vice President Osinbajo-led panel to investigate him over the over N200million grass cutting scandal, News Punch understands.
The embattled SGF may have been considered sacked, as emerging report according to The Nation Newspaper suggests that the Presidency has already shortlisted two ministers, two senators, and four others as possible replacement.
The Nation Newspaper detailed that the presidency may have foreclosed the return of Lawal and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Amb. Ayo Oke, to their offices.
It was gathered that the new SGF might assume more roles, as it was during the tenure of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The President is said to be considering a reduction of the workload of his Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, by devolving more schedules to the new SGF.
The horse-trading to succeed SGF Lawal may have started in earnest.
It was learnt that three geopolitical zones may produce the next SGF, depending on the disposition of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The zones are North-East (seeking the retention of the office), the North-Central and the South-East.
But the real battle for the slot is between the North-East and the North-Central.
Those being recommended from the North-Central are Minister of Agriculture Audu Ogbe (based on performance in office); Senators George Akume and Barnabas Gemade.
From the Northeast are a yet to be named Minister, a former Ambassador to Botswana, Hajiya Fatima Balla-Abubakar, a former Minister of Labour and Productivity, Sen. Joel Ikenya, and an architect.
It was learnt that the name of the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu kept recurring but it was unclear if the Presidency would give the slot to the Southeast less than two years after the exit of former SGF Anyim Pius Anyim.
A source said: “The battle for SGF Lawal’s job is also assuming a religious dimension, with Christians demanding the replacement of the suspended occupant with another Christian.
“But the President pays more attention to merit and capacity than religious or ethnic colouration.”
“Buhari might strengthen the office of the SGF in order to reduce the heavy workload on the Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari who is doing a lot now. There are some schedules which ordinarily ought not to be handled by the Chief of Staff but since such matters demand trust, the President saddles him with them,” the source said.
“He spoke of a plan to restore the Office to the era of Sir Ufot Ekaette under the administration of ex -President Obasanjo.