Prerogatives of the SGPR: Between texts and controversies, what should we trust? Since the Secretary General of the Presidency of the Republic, Ferdinand Ngoh ngoh, was elevated to the rank of Minister of State, the real extent of his power has constantly been the subject of controversy. The resurgence of debates amplifies the confusion about his real mission with the Head of State.
The General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic (SG/PR) of Cameroon was created by Decree No. 60-5 of June 21, 1960. Following Reunification in 1961, this office was abolished and its attributions devolved to the Civil Cabinet. It was revived in 1965 and 18 Cameroonians have succeeded each other at its head since then.
According to Decree No. 2011/408 of December 9, 2011 on the organization of the Government, the SG/PR is headed by a Secretary General (SG) assisted by 02 deputy SGs.
The SG assists the President of the Republic (PR) in the accomplishment of his mission. As such, he receives from the PR all directives relating to the definition of the Nation’s policy; monitors the execution of the decisions taken by the PR; coordinates the action of the Administrations attached to the Presidency as specified in Articles 5 and 37 of the aforementioned decree; investigates the files entrusted to it by the PR and monitors the execution of the instructions given; … ensures the formatting, in liaison with the SG of the Prime Minister’s Services (PM) or the Ministers concerned, of bills to be submitted to the National Assembly and the Senate; … sees to the implementation of the action programs approved by the PR and allocated to the Heads of Ministerial Departments and to the Services under the Presidency; prepares the ministerial councils, in conjunction with the SG of PM Services, the restricted councils, the councils and commissions chaired by the PR; ensures the registration of the regulatory acts signed and the laws promulgated by the PR, as well as their publication in the Official Journal; ensures the maintenance and conservation of legislative and regulatory archives; exercises the role of legal adviser to the Presidency of the Republic and the attached Administrations.
About Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh:
This function has been carried out since December 9, 2011 by Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, replacing Laurent Esso, who had been there since 2006. The native of Minta, a locality located in the Haute-Sanaga department, Center region, started his career in the civil cabinet of the Presidency of the Republic between 1997 and 1998.
From 2002 to 2006, he headed for the United States, where he was first adviser to the Permanent Mission of Cameroon to the United Nations in New- York. On August 31, 2010, he was appointed SG of the Ministry of External Relations (MINREX).
On January 4, 2019, the graduate of the Institute of International Relations (IRIC) was promoted to the rank of Minister of State, with the signing delegation of the Head of State, Paul Biya. Since then, he has continued to fuel controversy about the extent of his power.
Controversies over its management:
In August 2022, open sources were invaded by a new controversy over the use of the expression “on very high instructions from the President of the Republic” which he regularly uses in correspondence. In the opinion of many, this formula now known to all Cameroonians, would undermine the place and role of the Prime Minister, Joseph Dion Ngute. A narrowing which would aim to hide the inability of the head of state to take the reins.
Praises of a civil servant who respects his prerogatives:
An article in Jeune Afrique noted the fact that Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh is “Paul Biya’s trusted man”, an “elusive man who takes care not to display any ambition despite the support of the first lady from whom he enjoys”.
For example, he would have allowed the Grand National Dialogue to be organized in 2019 despite the fact that he viewed with a dim view an opening to the opposition and to moderate Anglophones. During this event, he resolved to play his role, that of being the eyes and ears of the President of the Republic. Other voices also hail the works of this senior state official who occupies a strategic position in the appointment and tactical choices of the country.
“The SGPR is not just anyone. He has his networks. He makes and breaks heroes. It is the vice god. He can hijack a presidential decision or influence it in one direction or the other, ”we can read. As indicated in an excerpt from the book published in 2016 by Jean-Marie Atangana Mebara, the former SGPR (from 2002 to 2006) insists that it is within the prerogatives of the said post to transmit the instructions of the Head of State to the members of the government. “Most of the ministers received the presidential instructions that I transmitted to them, without showing any particular mood. The formula was generally: “the Head of State asks me to ask you to kindly…””.
The SG must then report to the PR on the execution of these tasks. Violators face penalties that can go as far as exclusion from the government in an unexpected reshuffle. Basically, therefore, it would only be sterile polemics insofar as the SGPR simply exercises its functions like its predecessors. This postulate is based both on the texts in force and on the testimony of former occupants of the same position.