Lopside appointments in federal agencies

THE case against the Muhammadu Buhari administration has always rested on two distinct arguments. The first argument is that, for reasons that space will not permit, the administration has lacked the creativity, urgency and agility needed to accomplish great things in a country as complex and invariably tightly wound as Nigeria. Therefore, the argument goes, the administration has waddled when it should be running, casting a shadow of ponderousness on all aspects of the national bureaucracy. Because it is a qualitative critique, hence difficult to ‘show,’ supporters of the administration have often pushed back by describing such criticism as the handiwork of its enemies.  The second argument against the Buhari administration, perhaps because it lends itself to statistics, has proved more difficult to dismiss. This is the criticism that, for all its trumpeting of the virtues of national solidarity and ethno-regional equity, the administration has tended to favour people from a certain part of the country in the distribution of national largesse. When in doubt, President Buhari turns to an ethnic kinsman.

Last week’s open letter by Niger Delta leaders under the auspices of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) appears to have lent further credence to the second argument. Titled “Re: Addressing the Continued Injustice against the Niger Delta People Vis (sic) the Lopsided Appointments in the NNPC and its Subsidiaries/Departments,” and signed by the group’s National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, the PANDEF letter goes to great lengths to demonstrate the group’s core contention that, with the conclusion of the recent batch of promotions and reorganisation in the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), “virtually all top management positions of the corporation and its subsidiaries, departments, and ventures are held by persons from the northern zones of the country that do not produce an ounce of oil, to the exclusion of indigenes of oil-producing communities of the Niger Delta.”

Having listed the 20 management positions currently held by northerners in the NNPC, the letter contrasts them with the niggardly three top management positions in the NNPC allotted to the entire southern Nigeria. PANDEF’s letter does not explicitly say so, but we are led to the conclusion that the Buhari administration sees the NNPC as more or less a Northern Nigerian Petroleum Corporation. It goes without saying that this is not the first time that allegations of sectionalism in the making of key national appointments have been levelled against the Buhari administration. For instance, in the past, we have had occasion to call attention to the blatant lack of transparency and lopsidedness in critical appointments in the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), the Nigeria Police and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). In July 2017, we deplored the recruitments into the State Security Service (SSS), otherwise known as the Department of State Services (DSS), in which Katsina State alone had more cadets than the entire South-South geopolitical zone, drawing the ire of the Nigerian public. Of the total number of 479 recruits, 51 were from Katsina State alone, while 42 new cadets were recruited from the six South-South states. Lagos had seven cadets while Kano had 25 cadets, closely followed by Kaduna with 24 cadets and Bauchi with 23 cadets.

In previous editorials, we also drew attention to the lopsidedness in the appointments made by the Federal Government since President Muhammadu Buhari commenced a second term of office in 2019. As we noted, there were claims of nepotism against the government in terms of the preference of the president to favour his extended family in appointments into Federal Government parastatals, together with allegations of secret and blatantly skewed recruitments into Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) such as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), National Space Research and Development Agency, National Open University (NOUN), Federal Civil Service Commission, University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Rural Electrification Agency, Nigerian Navy and many more.

In December last year, even the Police Service Commission (PSC) deplored the lopsided postings in the police, saying IGP Mohammed Adamu flouted a policy that required each state of the federation to produce a police commissioner to head a state command. The PSC’s action came in the wake of the IGP’s blatantly lopsided recruitment of constables and posting of commissioners to command positions.  Reports showed that the North-West alone got the lion share of the appointments, with 12 indigenes from the zone elevated as Commissioners of Police, whereas the entire South-East had just one, just as 14 other states in the federation did not make the list at all. Sadly, when it has not reacted with barely disguised irritation, the Buhari administration, seemingly impervious to wise counsel, has tended to double down on its nepotism.

We wish to remind President Buhari of his inauguration pledge to defend the Nigerian constitution and ensure fairness in the allocation of state resources. Not only has he continued to act in violation of this oath, which is what a persistent culture of nepotism in appointments essentially amounts to, he has continued to impugn the validity of his personal standing as an anti-corruption campaigner. The president still has the opportunity to ensure that he does not bequeath a legacy of undermining national cohesion and unity. He should seize it.

 

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