President Muhammadu Buhari has dropped Ita Enang as his aide on National Assembly Matters (Senate), PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.
Mr Enang, a former senator from Akwa Ibom state, was appointed a senior special adviser to Mr Buhari during the president’s first term.
He has continued to act in that capacity in Mr Buhari’s second term, even when his appointment, like that of several other aides, has not been renewed.
A source close to the Presidency told PREMIUM TIMES, Sunday evening, that President Buhari has dropped Mr Enang as his aide on National Assembly Matters.
The president has picked Omoworare Babajide, a former senator from Osun state, as Mr Enang’s replacement, the source said.
The belief in the Presidency is that Mr Enang did not perform well in managing the relationship between President Buhari and senators in the eighth Senate, despite being a former senator himself, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
The relationship between President Buhari and the Bukola Saraki-led Senate was characterised by deep animosity.
Mr Saraki was elected a senator in 2015 under the same party — the All Progressives Congress — with Mr Buhari, but the two parted ways politically.
Mr Saraki later defected to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and became a critic of the Buhari administration.
He contested but failed to win the 2019 PDP presidential primary. He was also unable to return to the ninth Senate.
“He (Enang) didn’t have the temperament to deliver anything substantial,” the source said of Mr Enang’s performance as Mr Buhari’s aide.
“Despite the experience he has and the senators being his former colleagues, he could not resolve the frequent crisis the senators were having with the president.”
But another source said the final trigger of Mr Enang’s sack was his recent comments on the controversial Ruga project of the federal government.
The Buhari government was forced to suspend the programme after an outcry over the plan to set up grazing areas for cattle herders in states of the federation. Critics said it was an attempt to grab land from indigenous communities.
The government said the project was optional, but details of the project showed it was initially conceived for all 36 states and Abuja, and at least in one state, Benue, federal officials tried to proceed with the plan despite opposition from the state government.
Mr Enang was reported last week as calling on states in southern Nigeria to support the initiative by making land available, saying N2.3 billion had been provided by the administration for its implementation. He denied that the programme’s intent was to “Islamise” or Fulanise” the country.
Our source said the Presidency was “very angry” with Mr Enang for making those comments. The source said the remarks were unnecessary since the nation had moved on from the Ruga controversy and the president had discarded the idea.
“It was seen as unnecessary and as insubordination,” the source said.
The source said Mr Enang may, however, be compensated with another position – possibly the president’s adviser on Niger Delta matters.
The new appointment is among those to be announced this week by the presidency.
The Mr Enang’s spokesperson, Essien Inyang, told PREMIUM TIMES on Monday he was not aware the former senator had been dropped by the president.
The Presidency did not respond to telephone calls on Monday seeking comments.