Pitfalls The New SGF, Boss Mustapha, Must Avoid
Following the sack of Babachir David Lawal after six months of suspension, President Muhammadu Buhari, last week appointed Mr Boss Gida Mustapha as the 19th Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). Mustapha is the immediate past managing direc
There were reports that Babachir engaged in illegal activities, including receiving kickbacks from desperate Nigerians seeking to be appointed into vacant boards of federal parastatals, commissions and agencies, even those expected to be dissolved by the president.
While denying the allegation, Babachir said political appointments, including those into boards of parastatals, commissions and agencies, were the prerogative of the president. He added that the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC), or the respective agencies, was responsible for employment and not his office.
“The attention of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) has been drawn to a publication in the Saturday edition of The Sun newspaper of May 21, 2016, with the caption, “Fraud Rocks Board Appointments,” by one Ade Alade.
“The report alleged, among other things, that “some top officials in the Office of the SGF are collecting as much as N50million from candidates seeking appointments into the board of Grade ‘A’ federal agencies and parastatals,” Babachir said in a statement he personally signed.
He explained that on the appointment of boards of Federal Government parastatals and agencies, there was a Presidential Committee on Board Appointments, with membership drawn from the six geo-political zones of the federation, none of whom is an official of the OSGF. He said the committee, which liaised with all the states of the federation, was saddled with the responsibility of identifying and recommending qualified and eligible nominees for board appointments for Mr. President’s consideration.
He recalled warning the public about the existence of fraudsters who sent messages to inform people that their names had been shortlisted for Federal Government appointments, and therefore, advised Nigerians to ignore the activities of the fraudsters. He, therefore, described the publication as baseless, mischievous and politically motivated, calling on members of the public to be vigilant about scammers using the name of the Office of the SGF to perpetrate fraud.
Despite his denial, the controversy persisted, leading to his removal as the chairman of the Presidential Committee on the Reconstitution of Federal Government Boards of Parastatals, Agencies and Commissions by President Buhari. The president appointed Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to chair the committee.
The chairman of the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah, was also appointed to head the secretariat of the committee at the instance of the vice president.
Notably, while Boss Mustapha is currently not a member of the presidential committee, he may still be able to wield influence and may also be reconsidered by Mr President. It is expected that he would live above board and consider merit above other interests. Politicisation of appointments Babachir was also said to have been responsible for the failure of many nominees from the states to pass security screenings into Federal Government boards of ministries, departments and agencies, a development that was largely responsible for the delay in the constitution of many of the boards.
A member of the Executive Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) told Daily Trust on Sunday in Abuja that Babachir also shared part of the blame as his eight-man presidential committee set up on the reconstitution of the board was not cooperating with stakeholders and not carrying them along.
The former SGF, however, denied the accusation, saying the fact that he was the chairman of the committee did not give him the responsibility to nominate people from the states through their party leaders. He said he did not have anything to do with the nomination.
The eight-man committee, headed by the then SGF, also had Alhaji Mai Mala Buni (North-East); Alhaji Zakari Idde (NorthCentral); Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir (NorthWest); Chief Hillard Etagbo Eta (SouthSouth); Chief Pius Akinyelure (South-West); Chief Emmanuel Eneukwa (South-East) as members, while Mr. Gideon Sammani was the secretary.
The terms of reference of the committee, among other things, is to determine and recommend to Mr. President, the Governing Boards of Federal Government parastatals, agencies and commissions; identify the available positions for the chairmanship and membership levels in each of the affected parastatals, agencies and commissions as provided for in their respective enabling laws, and allocate such positions to each state and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), including slots for presidential discretion.
But a party official, who pleaded not to be named, as he was not authorised to publicly comment on the matter, said members of the committee were lords unto themselves, rather than relating with constituted authorities from the states.
When asked to be specific, the party official said many of the states agreed that their party chairmen would be the ones to submit their list to the committee through the geo-political zones.
“We are, however, surprised that apart from the names submitted to the committee by the state chairmen, there were some which we did not know where they came from,” he said.
He added that they were told that many of the nominees from the states were rejected after security screening. According to him, it was discovered that they were indicted in one illegality or the other, mostly bordering on contract irregularities.
Daily Trust on Sunday reliably learnt that an earlier list submitted to the Office of the SGF was rejected.
On October 24, last year, state governors elected on the platform of the APC protested against how they were being sidelined in the choice of those being appointed from their states. President Buhari, however, asked governors who had complaints to put them in writing, and pledged to look into them.
It, therefore, behooves the new SGF to be an impartial arbiter instead of getting directly involved in state politics, especially in matters between some incumbent governors and their predecessors. The grass-cutting scandal The grass-cutting scandal was largely seen as the case that cut Babachir Lawal to size and eventually led to his downfall. The Senate had, on December last year, asked President Buhari to suspend and prosecute him over contracts awarded by the Presidential Initiative on the North-East (PINE). This followed the interim report of its ad-hoc committee on “mounting humanitarian crisis in the North-East” led by Senator Shehu Sani. The report accused the former SGF of receiving a N200million contract to clear “invasive plant species” in Yobe State, through a company known as Rholavision Nigeria Limited.
In his response, Babachir dismissed the report as “balderdash” and accused the lawmakers of an attempt to bring him down at all cost. ‘File pilling’ Former aides to Babachir told our reporter that the former SGF would hardly leave files unattended to, “except when he had a rough time with the Senate and was put under undue pressure.’’ There was no need to pile files up in the Office of the SGF as it’s believed that they only required “final approvals.” The new SGF Receiving the handover note from the permanent secretary, Ecological Fund Office, Dr Habiba Lawal, who had acted in that capacity since April 19 after Babachir was suspended, the new SGF, Boss Mustapha pledged to work with members of staff and the 21 agencies under his office to ensure the success of the President Buhari administration. Relationship with the ruling party As a high ranking appointee of Mr President, the SGF is expected to be loyal to the ruling party. The new SGF is, therefore, expected to avoid banana peels and effectively coordinate and monitor the implementation of government policies and programmes for the overall development of the country.