• As governance goes on autopilot
Almost one month after Muhammadu Buhari was inaugurated as the fifth elected President of Nigeria, activities in almost all sectors in the country are at their lowest ebb, following the failure of the government to make key appointments and articulate its policy direction. Unlike previous administrations where some important positions like the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Principal and Private Secretaries to the President and the Chief of Staff were appointed as soon as the President was sworn-in, all these positions are still vacant till date. This delay in making key appointments and elucidating the policy direction of the administration has grounded activities in virtually all sectors, including award and payment of important contracts, construction works and other key decisions. For instance, most of the contractors handling federal government road contracts have vacated their sites as it remains uncertain if the new administration will continue with the contracts or revoke them. This development has resulted in the affected companies laying off their casual workers pending when the administration will hit the ground running.
The private sector is also affected as prudent investors have kept their funds in the bank waiting to see the direction of the new administration’s economic policies. These wait-and-see posture is already affecting millions of Nigerians as it has a bandwagon effect on the money in circulation. Even the federal government itself has been very frugal in the release of funds as the only money reported to have been released by the government was the $21 million to the Multinational Joint Task Force that is tackling the Boko Haram sect. Within government Ministries, Department and Agencies, MDAs, the lull in activities are very transparent as the Permanent Secretaries and Heads of the department and agencies have limited powers in taking key decisions that would require final approval, and clearance by the yet-to-be appointed Secretary to the Federal Government. This has resulted in files that require input by the SGF pilling up in MDAs waiting for when the President will finally fill the vacant position. However, President Buhari has been very busy shuttling in and out of the country in search of solution to the activities of the Boko Haram sect, which appears, in the meantime to be the immediate focus of the administration. So far, Mr. President visited his Chadian counterpart, General Idriss Deby, on June 3 and met with Niger Republic’s President Mahamadou Issoufou, the following day. Thereafter, Buhari jetted off to the Bavarian Alps, in Germany, for discussions with the G-7 club of the world’s leading nations, and later to South Africa for the Africa Union meeting. He is billed to also travel to Cameroun. During his inauguration, the President promised Nigerians that he would stamp out the insurgents that have continually terrorised some states in the north in the past five years. Unfortunately, the Boko Haram sect, which was almost on the verge of being annihilated in the last weeks of the past administration, appears to have found new strength since the new administration took over and has stepped up bombings and hit-and-run attacks. This attacks followed President Buhari’s directive during his May 29 inauguration that the command control centre for the war against the insurgents be moved to Maiduguri, the biggest city in North-East Nigeria and the birthplace of Boko Haram. Since May 29, reports have it that over 200 people have lost their lives in activities linked to the Boko Haram sect. The failure of the administration to hit the ground running since May 29 has become a source of worry to many Nigerians and a political weapon in the hands of the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. PDP, through its national publicity secretary, Olisa Metuh, last week mocked the APC administration for the delay in jump-starting the new government and making key appointments. According to the PDP spokesman, “How can a serious government shout achievement and attempt to explain away the untidy fact that after three weeks, it has not been able to organise itself even to take basic steps of conventional appointments such as Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief of Staff to the President and advisers in key sectors of the economy.” President Buhari has made only three appointments. They are those of the two media spokesmen: Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina; Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, and State Chief of Protocol, SCOP, Mallam Lawal Abdullahi Kazaure. The camp of Mr. President had earlier given conflicting reasons why the government is slow in making critical appointments. President Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media, Garba Shehu, had heaped the blame on the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. “The President did say he would hit the ground running, but he has not been given the chance to hit the ground running because the administration that he succeeded, the Jonathan, did not deliver the handover notes until two or three days to the inauguration, meaning that these handover notes were submitted at a time when everyone had been consumed by (inauguration) activities. “Unfortunately, there was no time to look at them until after the President had been inaugurated. The President was left in the dark. He had to understand what the situation was and what was on the ground.” But the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress, John Odigie-Oyegun ascribed the delay in the release of the ministerial list to plans to conduct a thorough check on the background of the people the President would appoint, to prevent avoidable mistakes. He said, “We have a very capable President. He is capable as ever. The President is a very careful man. “He wants to be sure that the kind of people he will appoint are people who are passionate about the country. What is really important is the speed of the delivery of his policies.”
• As governance goes on autopilot