President Buhari does not have the luxury of time anymore. He should speed up the system
In about two weeks’ time, it will be exactly one year that Mr. James Ocholi, SAN, Minister of State for Labour, died in an accident in March 2016. He is yet to be replaced thus denying Kogi State representation at the highest decision making organ of government. “This is wrong and unconstitutional,” said Daniel Makolo, a lawyer. “It is the duty and responsibility of all authorities and persons exercising executive, legislative or judicial powers in Nigeria to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of the constitution strictly.”
Unfortunately, that has been the story of the Buhari administration. Midway into its four–year tenure it is confounding that the direction of the administration remains unclear, since it still appears, like its early days, to do with little or no assistance from aides. Despite being overlooked, the refusal to fill critical positions in government could constitute a significant destabilising factor with ripple effect on the polity. Indeed, the failure to replace sacked heads of the boards, ministries and departments, is tearing the ruling party apart and adding to the prevailing tension.
The federal government had, on October 26, 2015, inaugurated an eight-man committee headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal for the reconstitution of the boards of federal agencies, parastatals and commissions. The terms of reference were clear: to determine and recommend to the president the governing boards of federal government agencies and commissions to be reconstituted immediately.
Almost two years later, the vacancies exist. These include some critical and strategic boards. But perhaps nothing could describe the perverse state of governance than the length of time it is taking to clear ambassadors to represent the country abroad.
We agree with President Buhari on the need to exercise the greatest circumspection in choosing his aides and other key government officials. It is also to be expected that he pays close attention to the need for geo-political balancing in critical positions, as enshrined in the constitution. But none of these can still stand as acceptable excuse for the long delay in giving character and direction to the government.
And if issues that are constitutionally regulated are treated with laxity, others that are not restricted could wait forever. Indeed the administration’s policy inertia is compounding the ills of the economy. For instance, even with all the anticipated positive impacts of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) on the oil and gas sector of the economy, it has remained mired in inexplicable stalemate, unable to find its way back to the legislature from the executive to which it was returned in 2014. The PIB aims to re-position the oil and gas industry for greater efficiency, openness and competition.
Hopes that the advent of a new government would bring a sense of urgency to the review, presentation and passage of the all-important piece of legislation would appear to be misplaced. Almost two years after ascending power, the Buhari administration does not seem to have a grip on the way forward. While the executive deterred, the uncertainties created by the stalemate has confused investors and weakened their confidence, leading to massive divestment in the sector.
President Buhari does not have the luxury of time. He should sit up and lay out the concrete measures he intends to take to revive the economy and end the sufferings of Nigerians who have been short-changed for far too long. The critical challenge in the economy and governance generally includes hiring men with ideas that will add value and improve performance. The administration will not get these by keeping its doors shut, leaving many of the boards and parastatals vacant. Government is a system. It functions at optimum level when everyone plays his or her parts.