Source: www.africanakua.com | Mafany Tande Myles, Cameroon
The news about Cameroon’s Head of State “permanently ceding” his signature to the Secretary General at the Presidency of the Republic of Cameroon took most, if not all by surprise.
H. E. Paul Biya is Cameroon’s second president having taken power since November 6, 1982. The 86 year-old made this announcement public only recently following a presidential decree he signed earlier this year.
Political analysts and experts explain that this will permit Mr. Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, the Secretary General, to sign any document in the name of the president, Paul Biya. In effect, Biya will be a ceremonial figure. It also means that henceforth, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh can take decisions on behalf of Paul Biya, as well as appoint people to top positions in the Republic.
However, the decree did not say whether the President is incapacitated or unavailable. It did not also specify the area of intervention, but leaves it open given the impression that the Secretary General has general territorial and functional competence.
Looking at article 10 (2) of the 1996 Constitution, “the President of the Republic may delegate some of his powers to the Prime Minister, other members of Government and any other senior administrative officials of the State, within the framework of their respective duties.”
Moreover, article 10 (3) defines a situation whereby the President is temporarily unable to perform his duties; “where the President of the Republic is temporary unable to perform his duties, he shall delegate the Prime Minister and, should the latter also be unavailable, any other member of Government to discharge his duties within the framework of an express delegation of some of his powers.”
The present decree falls short of saying whether Paul Biya has delegated some of his powers. Moreover, he did not consider delegating signature to the Prime Minister, who is constitutionally the Head of Government.
In recent times, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh has become very influential and sometimes considered the most powerful person in the Republic after Paul Biya. Ngoh Ngoh has been very present in national life unlike his predecessors. Last year, he even signed a decree, in the place of the President, ordering and reappointing Divisional Officers who had abandoned their duty posts in the war-torn Anglophone Cameroon.
He has also intervened in many other situations of national life especially on very sensitive matters. For example, the project to host the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) was managed by Ngoh Ngoh and all reports done even by the Prime Minister’s Office have to be approved by the former before execution. This explains why there was outcry; with many fingers pointing at Ngoh Ngoh after Cameroon lost the 2019 hosting rights because of corruption, uncompleted projects and insecurity. With Ngoh Ngoh being the actual head of the AFCON project, even the committee set up to organise the event was answerable to him.
In the end rather than sanctioning him, Biya instead reappointed him to the very powerful and influential position. Observers have now concluded that Biya is preparing Ngoh Ngoh to succeed him after other potential candidates like Mebe Ngo’o are behind bars. Others have argued that the present decree is just to give official status to a practice that has been going on for some time now.
The ordinary Cameroonian questions whether this act is constitutional. Others are not even moved by this act, saying that it is not strange. Acts like these were observed during the reign of the former president of Cameroon, Ahmadou Ahidjo and also during the Biya regime. We only hope Mr. Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh upholds his responsibility with esteem; as some Secretary Generals who have held these positions have landed in prison.