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Buhari: Fresh concerns on national unity over alleged lopsided appointments

By Onyedika Agbedo
06 June 2020   |   4:30 am
Soon after receiving his Certificate of Return from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the February 23, 2019, presidential election, President Muhammadu Buhari pledged to run an inclusive government in his second term.

• As Clamour For Reconstitution Of PTF Board Persists

The rising allegations of nepotism against President Muhammadu Buhari are indications that Nigerians feel his promise of inclusive governance in his second term is far from being fulfilled.

Soon after receiving his Certificate of Return from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the February 23, 2019, presidential election, President Muhammadu Buhari pledged to run an inclusive government in his second term.

“I, therefore, want to assure that we will continue to engage all parties that have the best interest of Nigerians at heart. Our government will remain inclusive and our doors will remain open. That is the way to build the country of our dream; safe, secure, prosperous, and free of impunity and primitive accumulation by those entrusted with public offices.

“The hard work to deliver a better Nigeria continues, building on the foundations of peace, rule of law and opportunities for all. We will roll up our sleeves afresh, and give it our all,” the President had said.

A year after President Buhari made the pledge, it appears he has continued to tread the old path, which elicited widespread allegations of nepotism against his administration during his first term. The rising clamour for equity and fairness in the polity, especially in the area of appointments, signals the old order still persist.

Towards promoting national unity and cohesion, Section 14 (3) of the 1999 constitution provides that “the composition of the government or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.”

Section 15 (4) of the constitution also provides that “The state shall foster a feeling of belonging and of involvement among the various peoples of the Federation, to the end that loyalty to the nation shall override sectional loyalties.”

Last Sunday, former military governor of Kaduna State, Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar (retd), in an open letter to Buhari, warned that lopsided appointments in his government was against the provisions of the Constitution and could spell doom for the country’s unity.

In the letter entitled, “Mr. President, Please Belong To All Of Us”, Umar said unless the Buhari administration changed its style of governance, Nigeria might further be faced with crisis. He particularly accused the president of favouring some sections of the country in the headship of the security agencies.

“All those who wish you and the country well must mince no words in warning you that Nigeria has become dangerously polarised and risks sliding into crisis on account of your administration’s lopsided appointments, which continues to give undue preference to some sections of the country over others.

“Nowhere is this more glaring than in the leadership cadre of our security services. Mr. President, I regret that there are no kind or gentle words to tell you that your skewed appointments into the offices of the Federal Government, favouring some and frustrating others, shall bring ruin and destruction to this nation,” Umar warned.

Umar’s outbursts came on the heels of public outcries over the recent constitution of the Board of Trustees of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (PTF) by President Buhari.

It could be recalled that the President had on May 7, this year, named a former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Suleiman Abba, as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the NPTF.

The president had also appointed Mr. Ahmed Sokoto as the Executive Secretary of the board; Mr. Nnamdi Mbaeri as representative of the Ministry of Police Affairs; Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, as the representative of Nigeria Police Force; and Mr. Usman Bilkisu as the representative of the Ministry of Justice.

Others are Mr. Ben Akabueze, Director-General of Budget and National Planning as the representative of the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Mr. Mansur Ahmed as representative of the organised labour; and Dr. Michael Adebiyi to represent the civil society groups.

The Presidency had said the appointments were in furtherance of the commitment of the Buhari Administration to retooling policing architecture in the country.

Nevertheless, many individuals and groups faulted the membership of the Board, noting that the composition favours a particular section of the country.

National Coordinator of Campaign for Equity, Oliver Akosa, last Tuesday, said Umar’s letter merely reinforced the position of the organisation on the composition of the Board, urging the president to treat the warning by the former military governor with the seriousness it deserves.

Akosa said: “We are delighted that voices of reason are talking and are reinforcing the points we have been making about the refusal of Mr. President to recognise that Nigeria is a federation and should be governed as such. Umar particularly referred to the utter imbalance in the headship of security services and warned Mr. President to retrace his steps before Nigeria slides into anarchy.

“Umar’s declaration is clearly in line with our earlier position, which drew attention to the lopsidedness in the constitution of the Board of Trustees of the Police Trust Fund, an important security agency of the country. While reiterating our position on this anomalous constitution of the PTF board, we wish to add here that cronyism, which the appointment promotes, will deepen the woes of the Nigeria Police Force, which Mr. President, ostensibly, set out to rescue from its sorry state.”

Akosa reminded the President that the raison d’être for the setting up of the PTF as contained in the Nigeria Police Trust Fund Establishment Act 2019 was to retool policing architecture in Nigeria.

He added: “To achieve this, the PTF is expected to ensure a well-funded, well-equipped and highly professional Nigeria Police Force in line with international best practices. It was also for the purpose of meeting this objective that President Buhari reestablished the Ministry of Police Affairs. All of this was aimed at reforming policing architecture in order to deepen the country’s internal security.

“But we regret to note that the proper policing architecture we are yearning for cannot be realised with the present crop of people, particularly the leadership, who have been appointed by the president to lead the PTF. If Mr. President appreciates the full import of federalism, he would not give us a police force whose ministry is headed by someone from Sokoto State and at the same time give us a PTF whose Executive Secretary is from the same Sokoto State. This arrangement smacks of utter disregard for the fine tenets of federalism.”

The Lower Niger Vanguard (LNV) had also faulted the composition of the PTF Board, saying it neither conforms to regional nor zonal balance. The group, which is a coalition of Southern and Middle Belt groups concerned with equity and good governance in Nigeria, urged the President to reconstitute the board, noting that its lopsidedness was a brazen attempt at the domination of the security architecture of the country by one zone. National Convener, Mike Melah, had said members of the group felt most scandalised by the arrangement.

“Former Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abbah, from Jigawa State is the chairman of PTF Board of Trustees while Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto from Sokoto State is the Executive Secretary. They will be working with the Minister of Police Affairs, Muhammad Maigari Dingyadi, who also comes from Sokoto State.

“Then we ask: Whose interest is this arrangement meant to serve? We pose this question because what we have on our hands smacks of over concentration of power in the hands of one segment of the country at the expense of others. We wonder what this lopsidedness is aimed at if not a brazen attempt at the domination of the security architecture of the country by one zone.

“As a pressure group committed to telling the truth to our leaders in order to get them to do the right thing, we urge President Buhari to change this arrangement. It conforms neither to regional nor zonal balance,” the group said.

On its part, the Alliance for Change through a statement by its National Coordinator, Dandison Oruwari, stated “this arrangement, in whatever way it came about, makes the Nigeria Police Force an instrument in the hands of the Northwest.”

The group noted that if the reason for the establishment of the PTF, as explained by the government, was to ensure a professionally run, well-equipped and well trained police force in line with international best practices, then the government committed a faux pas by concentrating the powers of the national police in the hands of a section of the country.

“This arrangement does not also support the plan to reform the Nigeria Police Force. Reformation begins with inclusiveness not exclusiveness. We therefore urge the Presidency to revisit the composition of PTF board,” Oruwari said.

With the increasing calls for fairness, equity and balance in the polity, Nigerians expect President Buhari to be a man of his word and keep to his promise of inclusive governance. With three years to the end of his second term, he still has ample room to do so. Whether he would toe this line would be glaring soon.