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Sunday, 15 October 2017

Insubordination by Buhari's Appointees One Too Many

Insubordination by Buhari's Appointees One Too Many

President Muhammadu Buhari's appointees

Insubordination by President Muhammadu Buhari's appointees against their superiors in the past two years has become a recurring decimal that should be addressed.

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When a strong-worded memo from the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, to President Muhammadu Buhari on the actions of the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Dr. Maikanti Baru, leaked last Wednesday, not many people, perhaps, expected that such a feud had been going on between the minister and the NNPC boss.

In the memo, titled “Re: Matters of insubordination and lack of adherence to due process by the GMD NNPC – Dr. Baru,” dated August 30, 2017, Kachikwu had expressed dissatisfaction with the way Baru had repeatedly snubbed and disrespected the board of the national oil firm, which is chaired by him (the minister), as regarding decisions made by the corporation.

The letter had detailed how Baru made oil deals worth $25bn (N9tn) and also made some changes within the NNPC structure without intimating the minister and board chairman of the national oil firm’s activities.

But for the NNPC GMD’s persistent refusal to carry him along in the activities of the national oil company, Kachikwu said he would not have resorted to writing a long letter of complaint to President Buhari.

“Not only did he (Baru) not give my letter the courtesy of a reply, he proceeded to announce the appointments without consultation on board concurrence,” Kachikwu had written.

While the memo has continued to generate reactions from Nigerians and Civil Society Organisations, some have described Baru’s behaviour as “absurd” and inimical to good governance as he ought to have carried the minister along in all deals, being the national oil company’s board chairman.

However, in his defence five days later, Baru replied that no law mandated him to report to Kachikwu because the latter was just a Minister of State and not the substantive minister, that is, President Buhari.

The NNPC GMD’s response had partly read, “It is important to note from the outset that the law and the rules do not require a review or discussion with the Minister of State or the NNPC board on contractual matters.

“What is required is the processing and approval of contracts by the NNPC Tenders Board, the President in his executive capacity or as Minister of Petroleum, or the Federal Executive Council, as the case may be.”

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Although the NNPC Act indicates that the Minister of Petroleum Resources (in this case President Buhari) is the NNPC board chairman, it was the President himself who, on July 4, 2016, named Kachikwu the oil firm’s board chairman.

Even though Kachikwu and Baru gave the impression they had reconciled on Tuesday at the 23rd Nigerian Economic Summit, political analysts have said there is a need for the President to stop condoning acts of insubordination by his “appointees,” which is gradually becoming a hallmark of his administration.

A United States-based political scientist and Convener, Youths Must Arise, Mr. Femi Matthews, told Saturday PUNCH via LinkedIn that it was unfortunate that Buhari was losing his goodwill as a “tough and disciplined hero.”

The political scientist noted that prior to becoming the country’s leader in May 2015, Buhari was regarded among many Nigerians at home and abroad as someone who would not tolerate any act of indiscipline or misconduct.

He said, “However, two years down the line, it is not as we expected. Personally, I believe that for every act of insubordination in this government, it has an unwritten backing of the President himself. Most of the people who have shown acts of insubordination are his people, his appointees.

“Look at Baru not having an iota of courtesy to respond to Kachikwu’s memo for a long time. It was because the latter was frustrated that he had to write Buhari, not knowing that Baru was only acting on the instructions of the President. No one is a fool. We all know what’s happening.

“If someone that the President does not like had erred, fire and brimstone would have been unleashed on the person. The President would have called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to look into the $25bn allegation raised by the minister.

“But because they know what they are doing, that’s why the President has not said anything about the matter. Now, the two men (Baru and Kachikwu) have met and agreed. What happens to the allegations raised?”

Perhaps true to Mathews’ assertion, there have been several instances of insubordination by the President’s appointees against their bosses. However, despite Buhari’s knowledge of the issues, he has yet to respond to some of them.

For instance, apart from Baru, allegations of both insubordination and corruption have also been levelled against the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, who was appointed by Buhari on June 21, 2016.

The Police Service Commission, the body responsible for police affairs in the country, had last Sunday blamed Idris for the rot in the police force, saying he did not implement the directives sent to him.

The commission had lamented that although it had constitutional powers to appoint, promote and discipline police officers, it did not have the authority to discipline “an IG who refuses to implement decisions.”

While responding to allegations of promotion scandal rocking the force, the Head, Press and Public Relations, PSC, Ikechukwu Ani, had said it was common knowledge that most times, its decisions were not implemented by the IG.

Ani further explained that the commission had given Idris guidelines that should govern his recommendations on special promotions, however, noting that all recommendations from him (Idris) on the issue had been put on hold until he complied with the PSC’s guidelines.

Still on Idris, the lawmaker representing Bauchi Central Senatorial District at the Senate, Isah Misau, had on August 26, 2017, alleged that the IGP collected about N120bn annually as payment for special security services rendered by the police to corporate organisations and very important personalities.

Saying that over 50,000 personnel involved in the act had not benefitted from the money, Misau, a retired Deputy Superintendent of Police, had also alleged that the special promotion of officers by the force was fraught with corruption.

Meanwhile, some Nigerians were amazed when on Tuesday, the Federal Government, through the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, filed two separate sets of charges against Misau for spreading “injurious falsehood” against the IGP.

A Lagos-based lawyer and social commentator, Ms Kike Babalola, said she couldn’t understand why a suit would be filed against Misau for the “mind-boggling revelations.”

She said, “Sincerely, I can’t believe what’s happening in this country. Is this a joke? With all the weighty allegations against the IGP, why would the Federal Government be muzzling Misau with a lawsuit and not tell the EFCC to probe the allegations? I mean, this is really pathetic!

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“Now, how would Buhari defend himself when people say his anti-corruption war is watery? To me, it is. This whole anti-graft fight is a facade. The whole scenario is becoming uninteresting to watch. This has confirmed the President’s ineptitude in combatting corruption on a large scale.”

In the meantime, another instance of insubordination and corruption perpetrated by one of Buhari’s appointees was by the suspended Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Prof. Usman Yusuf, who was appointed by the President on July 29, 2016.

Within just a year in office, Yusuf was alleged to have committed a fraud to the tune of N919m in the agency.

However, when the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who supervises the scheme, asked Yusuf to step down for three months for investigations to be carried out, the NHIS ES snubbed the minister, saying he had no power to ask him to be suspended.

Giving a reason for his inability to comply with the minister’s directive, Yusuf said, “Except removed from office by the President under the circumstances specified in the NHIS Act, my appointment is for a period of five years. This is subject to a further term of the same period at the discretion of the President.”

Nevertheless, the minster’s directive prevailed in the end, and after investigations, a panel set up by the Ministry of Health to probe Yusuf found him culpable of the charges and in September 2017 submitted its report to the President for necessary action.

But while the President has yet to act on the panel’s report, Adewole on October 6 suspended the NHIS boss indefinitely.

Apart from his act of insubordination to the Minister of Health, Yusuf had also in April 2017 failed to carry out a directive of a committee set up by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, over an industrial crisis at the agency, regarding the secondment of 15 officers by him (Yusuf) to the NHIS.

For several weeks in March 2017 when the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.), was asked by the Senate to appear before it wearing his uniform and he refused to do so, some political analysts described his behaviour as insubordination to the law-making body.

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Ali had been summoned by the Senate for questioning on the controversial vehicle duty he had announced then but later suspended.

The Customs boss had also not been seen in Customs uniform since he was appointed by President Buhari in 2015.

In his view, Lagos-based political scientist, Dr. Samuel Igbobie, advised President Buhari against allowing his reputation to diminish by not acting promptly on issues of insubordination that had been committed by his appointees.

Noting that the act was fast becoming an attribute of the President’s administration, Igbobie said the situation could lead to rendering the anti-corruption war fruitless.

He said, “Insubordination is a serious problem in governance. What is even noticeable is that those who have committed the act are the President’s own men, the people he appointed. Maybe he loves them too much to be disciplined. But if that’s the case, this whole anti-corruption war is over.

“If the President is refusing to act on these issues raised by his men’s bosses, his administration will lose its reputation for anti-graft war. Of course, many people have already doubted the whole war. His inaction will make many people think of him as an ineffective leader. Then, his other appointees might take advantage of his inaction.

“They might also summon the courage to flout their organisations’ and superiors’ directives because they know they can get away with it. This is not good for his administration and the country.”

Citing an instance of the President’s inaction on negative reports about his appointees, Igbobie suggested that nothing had been done about the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, because the latter was Buhari’s man.

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Lawal had been suspended on April 19, 2017, after he allegedly flouted due process and misappropriated N270m meant for the rehabilitation of persons displaced by Boko Haram insurgency and for the redevelopment of the North-East.

Probably not believing that he could be suspended by Buhari, Lawal had on the day he was suspended reacted to the development by asking journalists, “Who is the Presidency?”

Asking Buhari to stop delaying acting on reports of allegations against his appointees, Igbobie said, “It is high time the President stopped being overprotective of his men.

“If indeed he is here to fight corruption, he should show that there is no one who cannot be probed, even his closest allies. It is time for demonstration, not mere talk.”

-written by Jesusegun Alagbe

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