By Michael West

The board appointments into federal government-owned agencies and parastatals that ought to have been fully effected within three months after this administration came to power are being made piecemeal in a fashion that is inconsistent with the norms of governance elsewhere. As usual, the presidency had last December 2016 announced that President Muhammadu Buhari would make appointments into all boards by January 2017. This was confirmed by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu. Although a similar promise was made on December 28, 2015, one year after, most federal government agencies are still without boards. Shehu explained that the delay was because of an issue of interest to members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), adding, “The process will be fully back on track at the beginning of the New Year.” Here we are in the third month of the year, March, yet, it’s another mirage.

Recently, the chairman of Stanbic Bank Plc. in his presentation at the 14th Daily Trust Dialogue in Abuja, lamented the absence of boards in place to regulate the affairs of federal agencies and financial institutions, which in turn is expected to stimulate fiscal policies and revive the ailing economy. “The Federal Government should immediately appoint directors to the boards of every regulatory agency. Keeping a Lone Wolf at the head of a regulatory agency is dangerous and therefore detrimental to business confidence. The important lesson from the recent Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria imbroglio is that a single rogue regulator can hold the entire system to ransom, help destroy business confidence and hamper economic growth. This only became possible because the checks and balances which our laws envisaged, through the appointment of Boards, Council members or Commissioners, were not in place.”

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Unlike the usual practice, Rotimi Amaechi, Transport minister, was said to have got the nod of Mr. President to fill up the board of agencies under his ministry. Information revealed the minister had an altercation with the Chief of Staff to the President, Abbah Kyari, for substituting his (Amaechi’s) candidate with the sitting chairman of the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC. As at today, many of the juicy board appointments are being filled in a manner shrouded in secrecy; no thanks to the nepotistic and despotic tendencies of the President, which his close aides, associates and hangers-on are latching on to for selfish advantage.

In response to the bickering silently ravaging the ruling party, the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, had frontally attacked her husband for abandoning party chieftains that toiled for his victory. “More than half of those people are not appointed into the government. Some people that are not politicians, not professionals were brought into the government. They don’t even know what we said we want and what we don’t during the campaign. They even come out and say to people ‘we are not politicians,’ but they are occupying the offices meant for politicians. Some have parted with their wives, some lost their children, some women too have parted with their husbands because of politics, a lot happened during the time,” she fumed.

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Meanwhile, allegations of bribery had been openly leveled against the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir Lawal. Financial inducements reportedly played a determinant factor about who gets what as many of the recommendations from the states and zones were said to have been flagrantly altered when they got to the SGF’s office. But the SGF had since denied the allegation, saying he did not receive kickbacks from candidates seeking board appointments. Tainted by controversies and lack of trust in the Lawal committee, a Bukola Saraki-led team is reviewing the list all over again for the President’s assent.
I think the problem with this issue of board appointments lies squarely with the President. The excuses for delay are not tenable if, almost two years into this administration, an integral accomplishment like board appointments is yet to be fully put in place. The reason for this lackluster style of governance is because Mr. President does not know or trust people enough for such appointments. Buhari failed to build network of contacts across the Niger. He scarcely knows good people beyond his base in the north. All the while, whenever he ran for election and lost, he had quietly recoiled into his shell until another four years. He did not socialize. He distanced himself from the elites and was equally not seen amongst the masses he claims to represent either. So, it is difficult for him to easily identify people he can trust to help actualize his vision or dreams for the nation. Unfortunately, this was the same reason it took him seven months to come up with those he could have appointed as ministers in less than two weeks after taking the oath of office.
Now that President Buhari is back to office with a renewed vigor after 49 days of medical retreat, he should put machinery in place to fast-track the process and do something about this long overdue appointments.  We hope the discrepancies witnessed so far in the unorthodox way of board appointments will eventually give way to usher in laudable offers for party leaders, stakeholders and loyalists. Enough of this endless game of waiting


Michael West, a Media Consultant, writes via mikeawe@yahoo.co.uk