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Buhari clears over 40 pending memos, appoints agency heads

By Terhemba Daka, John Akubo, Joke Falaju, Ernest Nzor (Abuja) and Oluyemi Ogunseyin (Lagos)
24 May 2023   |   4:15 am
It’s six days to the exit of President Muhammadu Buhari from office, but while the transition activities are expected to begin today with a valedictory Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, the president is surprisingly marking his last few days ...

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed (left);  Comptroller General of Customs , Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd); President Muhammadu Buhari  and Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mohammed Bello at the commissioning of new Nigeria Customs Service corporate headquarters in Abuja…yesterday.  PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA

• Buhari: Niger Republic will defend me after hand over
• President defends huge debt profile, seeks Senate approval for N22 billion reimbursement to two states
• Explains closure of land borders, says only God can secure Nigeria’s borders
• Buhari appoints 33 new directors across aviation agencies, Gwandu as NASENI’s new CEO
• Buhari setting trap for Tinubu with last-minute engagements, Shehu Sani alleges
• Ndume to sue FG for $800m World Bank loan

 
It’s six days to the exit of President Muhammadu Buhari from office, but while the transition activities are expected to begin today with a valedictory Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, the president is surprisingly marking his last few days in office with an unprecedented bust of energy not seen in the last eight years amid last-minute rash approvals and appointments.

  
Despite a very busy Tuesday packed with a series of activities and projects commissioning, President Buhari presided over an extraordinary FEC meeting at the chamber in the State House, Abuja, which saw the council considering over 40 memos from various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
 
This was the second extraordinary FEC meeting in two weeks coming 24 hours before the valedictory council meeting today. It was gathered that 28 memoranda that could not be considered last Wednesday will be reviewed alongside others as the regime winds down before Monday’s handing over.
 
Shortly after the meeting, Buhari said he has built personal cordial relationships with the neighbouring countries, stressing that should anyone disturb him after leaving office, his Niger Republic neighbours will defend him.
 
Speaking at the commissioning of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) corporate headquarters in Abuja that reportedly cost N19.6 billion to construct, he noted that he will relocate to his country home in Daura, Katsina State, which is far away from Abuja and closer to the neighbouring Niger Republic.
 
“I said these few things about my personal belief because I have only six more days to go. And I try to plan to be as far away from Abuja as possible. I came from an area, which is far away from Abuja.
 
“That is why when I became the Head of State, my first visit was to Niger, Chad and Cameroon because based on personal and national issues, those neighbourhoods are very important. If you don’t secure the confidence and cooperation of your neighbours, you are in trouble. Your children and grandchildren will be in trouble.
 
“It is very good that I established a relationship with my neighbours. I said if anybody disturbs me, I have a good relationship with my neighbours, Niger people will defend me,” he said.
 
Speaking further, he said he pointed out that the country has vast borders and only God could secure the nation from the activities of criminals, adding that his decision to close Nigeria’s borders at some point was in the interest of the economy to encourage Nigerians to produce food for their consumption. He said though the move was initially criticised, Nigerians eventually appreciated it.
 
“Please note that from Lake Chad to the Benin Republic is more than 1,600 kilometres, only God can effectively guard the borders. So, you need a person who has the energy and the competence to supervise it. I deliberately closed the borders because knowing Nigerians, they order rice with Niger address, and then bring the rice here.”
 
“With our potential, we have people, we have land, and weather – how many nations are as lucky as Nigeria in the world? Only few nations are. So, closing that 1,600 kilometres border from Lake Chad to Benin with Nigerians insisting they eat boiled rice – I mandated that you must eat what you grow or you die. I tried to make my point and later Nigerians appreciated it,” he said.
 
Buhari stated that he nominated Hameed Ali as Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) because of his experience and competence, adding that the late Sani Abacha, a former military head of state, gave Ali “problematic” tasks to accomplish.
 
“As for Hameed Ali, I asked him to be in charge of customs. No matter what people say about the late Sani Abacha, may his soul rest in peace, I knew him very well, when somehow he became the head of state, the biggest problematic area was around Kaduna. He picked Colonel Ali and dumped the problems on him. My decision for Ali to come to customs was a deliberate one. I brought him to ensure that I have peace of mind.”
 
The president also defended the huge debt profile bedeviling his administration, which is put at N77 trillion, saying that his administration invested in infrastructure as a deliberate way to fight poverty and create jobs for economic development and prosperity.
 
Speaking at the virtual commissioning of three bridges, three secretariats and one road project undertaken by his administration, he said: “We do not act on infrastructure by accident. It has been a deliberate choice for our government as a tool to fight poverty, create economic growth and employment and to open the path of prosperity for our people.”
 
He emphasised that while he shared the concerns of Nigerians, the debts are tied to projects that have been executed in very transparent circumstances and are there for everyone to see.
 
He stated: “As we look at the debt profile, I urge us to also look at the assets and investment profiles, some of which were paid for by debt and some by investment income.
 
“In eight years, I am proud to say that we have doubled Nigeria’s stock of infrastructure to GDP from about 20 per cent to over 40 per cent and that is no small undertaking.
 
“The projects that we hand over today apart from others such as rail, sea and airports, gas pipeline projects that have been previously completed, symbolise our country’s sharp focus on delivering prosperity.”

MEANWHILE, President Buhari has asked the Senate to approve the reimbursement of over N16 billion to Borno State Government for the construction of the Dabua-Chibok federal road. The president also sought the approval of N6 billion for Plateau State Government as refund for the construction of a federal road in the state.

 
Buhari’s request was contained in a letter read by Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, at the plenary session on Tuesday. In the letter to the Senate, Buhari said the requests were based on the recommendations and directives of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing. He said the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had also approved the reimbursement of the funds at its meeting in March through the issuance of provisory laws.
 
The president stated that a cabinet committee had inspected the roads constructed by the state governments and reviewed all necessary documents relating to the constructions.
 
In a rash of last minute appointments, the President yesterday approved the appointment of 33 new directors in agencies under the Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace.
 
In a statement by the Head of Press and Public Affairs, Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace, Odatayo Oluseyi, the new appointees are to help reposition the agency to perform its statutory duties as enshrined in the Acts and help address appropriate placements and federal character requirements.
 
The statement highlighted some of the modifications as “the creation of new directorates in some of the agencies, prominent amongst which are the Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, Corporate Services, and Aviation Security directorates.”
 
The reorganisation, however, necessitated the appointment of Kabir Yusuf Mohammed as the new Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria.

Similarly, Tayib Odunowo has been appointed the substantive Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency to take over from Matthew Lawrence Pwajok who reverts to his substantive position as Director of Operations of the Agency.
 
The Directors-General of the Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau, Akin Olateru; the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, Prof Mansur Matazu and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Captain Musa Nuhu, are to run the remaining course of their tenures in line with the Acts setting up their respective agencies.
 
Also, the Rector of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria, Captain Bako Mansur Modibo, has been granted a one-year extension, also in line with the Act setting up the college.

 
Dr. Bashir Gwandu was yesterday appointed as the substantive Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) by President Buhari, who doubles as the chairman, governing board of the agency.
 
Gwandu replaced Prof. Mohammed Sani Haruna, the former helmsman, who relinquished his position after the expiration of the 10-year tenure of five years each as the EVC/CEO of the agency. Gwandu took over the baton of the agency from Mrs. Nonyem Onyechi’s interim leadership, who served as the officer overseeing the agency, following the departure of Haruna last month.
 
In a letter from the Office of the Secretary to The Government of The Federation Ref: N0 SGF.51/S.4/T/93 addressed to Gwandu, the date of his appointment reads May 12, 2023 as he officially resumed office on May 22.

MEANWHILE, a former Kaduna Central senator, Shehu Sani, has alleged that President Buhari’s last-minute engagements are a trap for the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Ahead of the May 29 handover to Tinubu, Buhari has been commissioning some projects.
 
But according to Sani during his interview with Arise TV yesterday, it is only a trap for the incoming president, Tinubu.
“President Buhari’s last-minute engagement is a trap for the Tinubu administration. The award of contracts, sourcing of loans and mass employment at the twilight of his administration cannot be said to be done with good intentions.”
 
Sani also called out Buhari for uncompleted projects ahead of his exit. “Let it be on record that the Abuja to Kaduna and Kano roads are uncompleted,” he said.

 
“If the President is commissioning it, he is commissioning an uncompleted project. I can recall that Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was denied the railways glory because he couldn’t complete it.”
 
In a related development, Ali Ndume, Senator representing Borno South senatorial district has vowed to sue the Federal Government over a move to collect $800 million loan from the World Bank despite criticisms from Nigerians.
 
Recently, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, announced that the government had secured $800 million loan from the World Bank to provide post-petroleum subsidy palliatives for over 50 million Nigerians ahead of June 2023.
 
But speaking in an interview on the Morning Show on Arise TV yesterday, Ndume said he was opposed to the loan plan and expects every Nigerian to speak against it.
 
The senator further stated that he was not part of those who approved it, adding that it was done in the House of Representatives.
 
“The loan issue is something that is in public domain, I am going to court to stop it. If you take the loan by the time they distribute the money we would pay back in the next 40 years. I am against the loan. I would expect that every Nigerian would speak against it,” Ndume said.