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

Sunday Trust - - PAGE3COMMENT - By Ab­bas Ji­moh Kick­backs for board ap­point­ments

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.

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