Severally, I have asked myself these questions: Why is it becoming extremely difficult for the current All Progressives Congress (APC) federal government to do the right thing? Why has the government found pleasure in doing things that are in total breach of the law and offering no apologies?
These question recur in my mind because since coming to office in 2015, the President Muhammadu Buhari government has taken some actions that contravene the provisions of the law, without giving a damn. When these breaches are pointed out, those who complain are ignored. No explanation is offered. Nothing is done to correct them. No apologies are given.
Last week, the federal government announced the appointment of Mr. Effiong Okon as the interim administrator of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). No doubt, reacting to the recent court judgment restraining the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC from functioning, the government decided that the thing to do was to appoint an administrator to run the NDDC henceforth, raising some questions as to what is going on.
A Federal High Court in Abuja had granted an order demanding investigation of five members of the NDDC IMC over allegation of N3 billion contract fraud. Ruling on an application by the Forum for Accountability and Good Governance, in suit number ABJ/CS/617/2020, Justice Ahmed Mohammed restrained the affected NDDC officials from parading themselves as Board members and performing their functions, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice. The government had to set aside the IMC and appointed an interim administrator.
The problem here is not about Mr. Effiong. The issue is doing the right thing. Much has been said about the place of IMC in the NDDC. By the provision of the NDDC Act, the IMC is a contraption not known by law. The Act establishing NDDC made provision for a Governing Board, which comprises also members of management of the commission. The Act expressly provides, in Section 1 (1): “There is hereby established a body to be known as Niger Delta Development Commission (in this Act referred to as ‘the Commission’).” It says, in Section 2 (1): “There is hereby established for the Commission a Governing Board (in this Act referred to as ‘the Board’),” which shall consist of “(a) a Chairman; (b) one person who shall be an indigene of an oil producing area to represent each of the following member states, that is, (i) Abia State, (ii) Akwa lbom State, (iii) Bayelsa State, (iv) Cross River State,
(v) Delta State, (vi) Edo State, (vii) Imo State, (viii) Ondo State, and (ix) Rivers State.”
In Section 2 (2), the Act provides that the Chairman and other members of the Board shall- (a) be appointed by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, subject to the confirmation of the Senate, in consultation with the House of Representatives. The Act also stipulates, in Section 10: “There shall be for the Commission a Management Committee, which shall-(a) consist of a Chairman who shall be the Managing Director, two Executive Directors, the Directors responsible for the Directorates established under Section 9 of this Act and such number of other members as may be determined from time to time by the Board.”
President Buhari had nominated 16 members of the NDDC Governing Board as follows: the Chairman, Pius Odubu (Edo); Managing Director, Bernard Okumagba (Delta); Executive Director Projects, Otobong Ndem (Akwa Ibom); Executive Director Finance and Admin, Maxwell Okoh (Bayelsa); Delta State representative, Jones Erue; Victor Ekhatar (Edo) and Nwogu Nwogu (Abia).
Others are Theodore Allison (Bayelsa); Victor Antai (Akwa Ibom); Maurice Effiwatt (Cross River); Olugbenga Elema (Ondo); Uchegbu Kyrian (Imo); Joi Numieh (Rivers); North West Rep, Aisha Muhammed (Kano); North East Rep, Ardo Zubairu (Adamawa) and South East Rep, Badmus Mutalib (Lagos). The Senate had, in November 2019, screened the nominees, confirmed 15 and rejected one. Instead of inaugurating the Governing Board, President Buhari appointed an Interim Management Committee (IMC), with Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei as Acting Managing Director. Other members were Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, Ag. Executive Director (Projects); Mr. Ibanga Bassey Etang, Ag. Executive Director (Finance and Administration); Mrs. Caroline Nagbo (member); and Cecilia Bukola Akintomide (member). The IMC, which is expected to be in place till the completion of the forensic audit of the NDDC, was given an initial tenure of four months, from February to May 2020. However, its tenure was extended to December 31, 2020.
It is curious that the government prefers to appoint an interim administrator to replace the Managing Director and the IMC, when there is a Governing Board already confirmed by the Senate. It is even more shocking that this is happening when the tenure of the IMC is ending on December 31, barely two weeks away. To appoint an administrator, two weeks to the expiration of the tenure of the IMC, although in obedience to the orders of the court, gives the government away as not wanting to inaugurate a Board it has constituted and duly confirmed by the Senate. The government is running round the circle instead of doing the right thing.
Forensic audit of the NDDC is not rocket science. Since February, the government has been talking about forensic audit. Ten months period is long enough for this to have been completed. It is, indeed, strange that government does not want the Governing Board to be in place while the audit is being done. In the first place, the forensic audit is not investigating the incoming Governing Board or any member of it. The audit is looking at the books of the commission, for things done in the past. It has nothing to do with the new Governing Board. Therefore, the continuous gyration from interim committee to interim administrator is just a waste of time.
It is not only in the NDDC that the government has shown obstinacy in not doing the right thing. The Service Chiefs, comprising Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Air Staff and Chief of Defence Staff, are supposed to have retired from the military long ago. These officers, who have served meritoriously, are still in the service, while many of their juniors have retired. The position of majority of Nigerians, including the Senate, is that rule on retirement of military officers should be obeyed. President Buhari would not budge. He is giving the impression that the service chiefs are indispensable. It was the same way the government presented former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu. Today, this same government that painted a picture that it was only Magu that could drive its anti-corruption war, not only suspended him from office but also investigating him. What then was the previous fixation about?
The government violated the law on appointment of the Director General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Person (NAPTIP). According to an online newspaper, by the provision of Section 8 (1) of the NAPTIP Act 2015, the director-general of the NAPTIP ought to be appointed from the directorate cadre in the civil service. The DG could also come from the law enforcement agencies, but must be someone on the equivalent rank of director in the civil service. The current DG of the agency was neither a director in the civil service nor an officer of an equivalent rank in any law enforcement agency, retired or serving. The issue about her eligibility has been ignored. Nobody is moved by the complaint about the breach. Nothing will happen.
Four years ago, President Buhari approved the removal of the Director General of the National Pension Commission (PenCom), Chinelo Anohu-Amazu. He appointed Mrs. Aisha Dahir-Umar as acting DG, in breach of the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2014, which stipulates in Section 20 (1): “In the event of a vacancy, the President shall appoint replacement from the geo-political zone of the immediate past member that vacated office to complete the remaining tenure.” Anohu-Amazu is from South East. Mrs. Dahir-Umar, who was appointed in acting capacity to complete her tenure, is from the North East. This is an outright breach of the law. After flouting the law, in appointing Mrs. Dahir-Umar to complete Anohu-Amazu’s tenure, President Buhari also nominated her to serve as substantive DG for another period of five years. The Senate confirmed her nomination and life goes on.
There are many other instances where the Buhari government did the wrong thing when the provision of the law is clear. Such act shows a high degree of contempt for the law of the land. The government knows the law and should not breach it to suit its purposes. Doing so is wrongful behaviour. As James 4:17 says: “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”