The national uproar that greeted the Federal Government’s long delayed appointments into boards of corporations and agencies was a huge embarrassment to the government and a shock to Nigerians. The embarrassment was richly deserved because it showed that confusion, lack of coordination, lack of consultation and sloppiness characterised the manner in which the appointments were made.
It all began on Friday, December 29, 2017 when Secretary to the Government of the Federation [SGF] Boss Mustapha announced the appointment of 1,258 board members as well as 209 board chairpersons of Federal agencies and companies. President Muhammadu Buhari dissolved the boards of most of these agencies in July 2015, shortly after he took over power. The appointments were long delayed and members of the ruling All Progressives Congress [APC] severally expressed frustration at the delayed appointments, which they eagerly awaited.
Rather than become a reason for national joy and celebration, controversy immediately enveloped the list. Within hours of its release, stories emerged that some of the appointees were no longer living. At the last count, eight such dead persons were identified among the board chairmen and members. They include Senator Francis Okpozo who died in December 2016 but was made chair of the board of the Nigeria Press Council. Retired Deputy Inspector General of Police Donald Ugbaja, who died in November 2017, was appointed member of Consumer Protection Council while Reverend Father Christopher Utov, founder of Fidei Polytechnic who died in March 2017, was appointed member of the Nigeria Institute of Social and Economic Research’s board.
Former chairman of Kaduna South Local Government Garba Attahiru, who died in 2016, was appointed to the board of Federal Medical Centre, Yenegoa. Umar Dange, a former secretary of APC elders committee in Sokoto who died last year, was appointed to the board of FMC, Ebute Meta. Dr. Nabbs Imegwu, a former commissioner in Rivers State who died early 2017, was appointed to the board of National Orthopaedic Hospitals while Comrade Ahmed Bunza from Kebbi State, who died in May last year, was appointed to the Rubber Research Institute, Benin City’s board.
Some of the board chairmen and members’ names were also duplicated. Among them was Kabiru Matazu who was appointed chairman of both FCT Universal Education Board and Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta. Another duplicated name was Habiba Umar who was made member of the boards of Federal Medical Centre, Yola and Federal Medical Centre, Birnin-Kebbi. Sabo Nanono, who was appointed chairman of the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation [NTDC] was also made member of the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure’s [NASENI] board while Umaymah Abdullahi, who was named to the board of Lake Chad Research Institute, Maiduguri was also made member of the Federal Medical Centre, Sokoto’s board.
Yet another scandal erupted the same day when Minister of Youth and Sports Solomon Dalung issued a statement and apologised for the government’s appointing board members for the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF. Under world football governing body FIFA’s statutes, NFF board members are elected at its congresses and are not appointed by governments. In fact, FIFA takes such issues so seriously that it suspended NFF from its ranks in 2014 because of what it called government interference. Dalung said the appointments were “an oversight” and said talks had begun with FIFA “to clarify the issue.” The next day, it also emerged that the Federal Government appointed board members for the National Iron Ore Mining Company, Itakpe in Kogi State even though it had signed a concession agreement in August last year with Global Steel Holdings Limited [GSHL].
The blunders attracted severe criticisms from various quarters. The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) described it as a national embarrassment and also “demonstrative of the gross incompetence” of the ruling APC. PDP’s publicity secretary Kola Ologbondiyan said, “How on earth can a government that cannot compile a common list handle intricate issues of national planning and budgeting; issues of health, education, aviation, agriculture, infrastructure and management of the huge civil service?” Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose said, “[Buhari] has just appointed five dead men as board members of government agencies based on our respect for ancestors as Africans. As it is now, we are running a new and weird form– Government of the dead, by the dying, and for undertakers.”
Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu provided the most comprehensive response on government’s behalf. Saying the discoveries did not amount to a scandal, Shehu said the errors arose because the list was in gestation for two years. He said it was prepared by former SGF Babachir David Lawal, was reviewed by a committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to accommodate state governors’ objections but the report was delayed because of President Buhari’s prolonged medical absence from the country last year. New SGF Boss Mustapha was recently ordered to release the list and he did so without further scrutiny, Shehu said.
Which, we are sorry to say, amounts to a lame explanation. To delay these appointments for so long, only to make a sloppy job of it and then turn around to use the Presidency-caused delay as excuse for the sloppy job amounts to double jeopardy for Nigerian citizens. The many mishaps in the boards’ list indicate that there was little or no consultation with governors, ministers or state party branches. If there were, these men and women would have efficiently weeded out the names of persons who are deceased or that were duplicated.
If ministers had been consulted even in a cursory manner, embarrassments such as appointing board members for NFF and NIOMCO would have been avoided. We urge the presidency to move fast to correct all these slips and in future, we urge it to get its act together and never repeat this comedy of errors.