Today, June 7, President Bola Tinubu officially swore in George Akume as the new Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). The Benue-born senator was initially announced to take on the role on June 2 alongside Femi Gbajabiamila, who’ll be Tinubu’s Chief of Staff. Akume’s fame among many young Nigerians is still in training, so who is George Akume, and what do we know about his new role?
[Akume (L) Tinubu (M) and Gbajamiamila(R) / The Cable]
Who is George Akume?
Akume was born on December 27, 1953. He hails from the Wannune Tarka Council Area of Benue state. Akume was a former governor of the state from May 1999 to May 2007—the same time as Tinubu, who was then governor of Lagos state. He ran under the flag of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). After office, he served as the Benue North-West Senatorial District senator from 2007 to 2019. In 2011, he defected to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which was the brainchild of Tinubu. He served as the minority leader of the Senate between 2011 and 2015.
Akume ran again under the now-merged All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015 and won. He ran again in 2019 but lost his seat to the PDP. Former President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs that year. Having bid his time and supported Tinubu’s candidature, Akume has now been rewarded with the position of SGF.
What does the SGF do?
Under the Tinubu administration, Akume takes over a position that Boss Mustapha previously held while working with our former president, Buhari. The SGF’s mandate is to:
- Monitor and coordinate the implementation of government policies and programmes.
- Serve as the frontline advisory institution of the Presidency.
- Drive policy formulation, harmonisation, and implementation.
- Monitor institutions of governance.
The office of the SGF has various functions. They include:
- Handling constitutional, political, and economic issues referred to it.
- Providing support services to Administrative Tribunals, Commissions, and Panels of Inquiry.
- Coordinating national security and public safety matters.
- Dealing with matters concerning the conditions of service of political office holders.
- Processing appointments to the leadership positions of statutory bodies, commissions, and agencies.
- Overseeing National Honours Awards.
- Handling petitions and appeals addressed to the president.
- Processing requests for approval of duty tours and medical treatment abroad.
- Liaising with Secretaries to State Governments.
- Providing office accommodation and support services to political office holders.
Are there any controversies surrounding Akume?
Akume has his fair share of political controversies. They go all the way back to his time as governor when he was accused of corruption. In 2013, Akume was embroiled in a certificate forgery suit brought against him by an indigene of Benue state. At the time, he was the Senate Minority Leader. However, the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and his alumni, the University of Ibadan, cleared him of any forgery allegations.
In October 2021, the Benue state government petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) to investigate Akume over allegations of fraud to the tune of ₦4.56 billion.
How have reactions to his appointment been?
Akume’s appointment has elicited mixed reactions from political analysts. On the one hand, some describe his appointment as a “round peg in a round hole.” On the other hand, critics say Tinubu’s appointment of Akume means it will be “business as usual.”
With his history as a political journeyman, what Akume brings to this new role remains to be seen. For his sake and Nigeria’s, we hope he performs well.