President Muhammadu Buhari has reportedly appointed Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to chair the presidential committee on the reconstruction of Federal Government boards of parastatals, agencies and commissions.
With the new development, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engr. Babachir David Lawan, stands removed as chairman of the committee, multiple sources said.
The chairman of the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agencies (NDLEA) Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah was also said to have been appointed to head the secretariat of the committee at the instance of the vice president, a source said.
“The SGF is no longer in charge of that responsibility, for obvious reasons,” one of the sources said.
The Abdallah-led team now meets frequently at Wuse II, Abuja, it was learned. Another source said the committee “is working vigorously and will soon conclude its work after which it will submit its report to Mr President.”
Although efforts by The DEFENDER to directly confirm this development yielded no results as presidential aides contacted via phone text had not replied as at time of filing this report.
It would however be recalled that the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, recently queried the SGF over alleged fraud at the Presidential Initiative on North East (PINE).
The query came in response to President Buhari’s order that the AGF should probe both SGF and EFCC boss’s alleged complications as alleged by the Senate ad-hoc committee on mounting crisis of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Northeast and Senate’s claim of security report upon which it rejected the confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as chairman of the foremost anti-corruption agency.
The Senate ad-hoc committee had accused the SGF of several misdeeds including failing to account for N2.5 billion PINE funds. The SGF had however denied all the allegations.
In his New Year message, Buhari admitted that his “government is aware of some mistakes and wrongdoings in handling the affairs of IDPs,” but assured that, “We are taking measures to correct those mistakes and punish the culprits.”
Buhari had in October, 2015 empowered an eight-member committee, headed by Babachir, to compile names of prospective appointees into federal government boards, parastatals and agencies.
Members of the committee included Alhaji Mai Mala Buni (northeast), Alhaji Zakari Ede (northcentral), Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir (northwest), Chief Hillard Etagbo Eta (south-south), Chief Pius Akinyelure (southwest), Chief Emmanuel Eneukwe (southeast) and Mr. Gideon Sammani, a senior special assistant to the president as secretary.
The DEFENDER from a national daily that following widespread complaints from various quarters on how the Babachir committee was handling the collation of names for the boards’ appointment, Buhari had in November, 2016 mandated Vice President Osinbajo to meet critical stakeholders and sort out the matter once and for all.
It was further learned that Buhari also directed that the Senate President Bukola Saraki, House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) Chairman Abdulaziz Yari, APC Governors Forum Chairman Rochas Okorocha and representatives of the governors in each of the six geopolitical zones should be part of the committee.
They were directed to review the names of the prospective appointees collated from the 36 states and FCT which was reportedly done without recourse to governors and other stakeholders of the APC. Sources said Buhari decided to handle the matter at “high level” in order to douse tension.
“The fact is that the SGF committee, to a great extent, forgot the issue at stake. They forgot that the 2015 general election was handled by members of the APC Presidential Campaign Council who should be compensated,” a source at the party’s secretariat, said.
The source lamented that most of them were “flagrantly forgotten and even sitting governors, especially in APC states were not consulted.”
In order to address the lingering issues, the Osinbajo-led committee held their first meeting on November 14, 2015 at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
Thereafter, it was gathered that six geopolitical zones nominated a governor to represent them during subsequent brainstorming.
The governors reportedly nominated a representative thus: Jibrilla Bindow (northeast), Atiku Bagudu (northwest), Simon Lalong (northcentral), Rochas Okorocha (southeast), Adams Oshiomhole (south-south), and Akinwumi Ambode (southwest).
A source from Bauchi state said in one of the meetings, all the APC governors were given a slot to nominate three people to be appointed chairmen of boards and 20 others as members.
This, he said, was besides the slot given to ministers and other top APC members, in addition to those that would be selected by the president himself.
“In our state for instance, the governor had already nominated three people from the three senatorial districts for chairmanship and has also given one slot of membership to all the 20 local government areas in the state,” the source said.
But an alleged compromise by the committee was said to have prompted president Buhari to reject the first report submitted by the SGF-led committee at that time.
“Most people of the party felt that they have not been carried along. I know that many of them complain every day. They want board appointments released so that there will be calm. The people from the southeast said they have not been appointed; the people from the northeast and even from the northwest where Mr. President comes from said that they have not been appointed,” he said.
In the same vein, the wife of the president, Aisha Buhari, in a widely publicised interview with the Hausa Service of the BBC last year, said APC members who worked for her husband’s election had been neglected.
Mrs Buhari had also stated that the president had been hijacked by a cabal that did not work for his success.
On October 24, last year, state governors elected on the platform of the APC expressed their displeasure on how they were being sidelined in the choice of those being appointed from their states by President Buhari.
The governors protested to President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at a meeting held at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja. Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong confirmed this to State House after the meeting, saying Buhari had asked governors who had complaints to put them in writing while pledging to look into them.
“So, all the states that have complaints are going to put them into writing and the President promised that he is going to look into it,” the governor had told journalists at that time.
President Buhari is expected to make appointments into no fewer than 500 parastatals.
APC members from across the states are grumbling, saying most of the seats are currently occupied by PDP members appointed by ex-president Goodluck Jonathan.
The spokesman of the vice president, Laolu Akande declined comment when contacted yesterday. He simply said: “It is the president that makes appointments.”
A presidential aide also told our correspondent yesterday that the last time he checked, Lawal was the one handling the issue of board appointments.
The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he did not know why or whether the responsibility was taken away from the SGF at all.
A top government official told Daily Trust last night that the SGF’s committee on the board appointments had finished its job as dictated in the mandate setting it up and has submitted its report.
“I am not denying the protests by some individuals and groups, but the committee of the SGF has completed its assignment and the Vice President’s committee is not a replacement for the SGF’s,” the officials who insisted on not being named said.
A committee headed by Osinbajo to review the appointments into the Governing Board of agencies is not an indictment of the SGF.