President Buhari

…Nigeria/Delta leaders cry out over marginalisation in NNPC

By OBINNA EZUGWU

Although the framers of Nigeria’s 1999 constitution had, in bid to prevent total dominance of one section of the country in government, imputed the principle of Federal Character as enshrined in Section 14 (3) of the constitution to the effect that “The composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies, and the conduct of its affairs shall be in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and to command national loyalty by ensuring that there is no predominance of persons from one sectional group,” the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has continued to, as observable in various appointments, breach this constitutional provision to the disappointment of many Nigerians, even as protests by other sections of the country, particularly the Southeast and South South – the Niger Delta – which have been the most neglected, have continued.

On Saturday, leaders of the Niger Delta in a letter to the president signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, lamented what they called total Northenisation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiaries, pointing out that it was detrimental to national unity.

The group particularly noted that while the North accounts for zero of the country’s total oil production, the region, under Buhari has taken up practically all management positions in the NNPC, leaving oil producing states with next to nothing.

The leaders listed such positions held by Northerners to include: Mele Kolo Kyari – Group Managing Director, GMD; Umar Isa Ajiya – Chief Finance Officer, Finance & Account; Yusuf Usman – Chief Operating Officer, Gas & Power; Farouk Garba Sa’id – Chief Operating Officer, Corporate Services; Mustapha Y. Yakubu – Chief Operating Officer, Refining and Petrochemicals; Hadiza Y. Coomassie – Corporate Secretary/Legal Adviser to the Corporation; Omar Farouk Ibrahim – GGM, International Energy Relations, IER; Kallamu Abdullahi – GGM, Renewable Energy; Ibrahim Birma – GGM, Governance Risk and Compliance; Bala Wunti – GGM, NAPIMS; Inuwa Waya – MD, NNPC Shipping.

Others are: Musa Lawan – MD, Pipelines & Product Marketing, PPMC; Mansur Sambo – MD, Nigeria Petroleum Development Company, NPDC; Lawal Sade – MD, Duke Oil/NNPC Trading Company; Malami Shehu – MD, Port Harcourt Refining Company; Muhammed Abah – MD, Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company; Abdulkadir Ahmed – MD, Nigeria Gas Marketing Company; Salihu Jamari – MD, Nigeria Gas and Power Investment Company Limited; Mohammed Zango – MD, NNPC Medical Services and Sarki Auwalu – Director, Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR.

“The Oil Producing zones of South-South, South East and South West are left with one Chief Operating Officer Position each, and a few senior and middle level management positions in peripheral and incidental subsidiaries, departments and divisions of the Corporation,” the leaders noted.

“The NNPC Board subsists as was constituted in 2016 without changes, apart from the Minister of State, Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, and Mallam Mele Kolo Kyari from Borno state, who replaced Maikanti Bari as Group Managing Director in July 2019. AND MR. PRESIDENT REMAINS THE PETROLEUM MINISTER.

“The management pattern in NNPC is replicated in all other Oil Related Agencies such as Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF), Petroleum Equalization Fund, and etcetera.

“Employment into the NNPC and other related Agencies is not anything different. While young graduates of the Niger Delta region with degrees in petroleum engineering and allied fields remain jobless, Northerners with degrees in history are working as managers in the NNPC.

“Ironically, the South South zone produces about 95% of the Nigeria’s crude oil Resources, which account for over 90% of the nation’s foreign exchange earnings. The effects of oil exploration on the hitherto luxurious ecosystem of the Niger Delta, and damage done to the indigenous people’s means of livelihood with little, if any, improvement in their standard of living, are sad verities that make the situation in the NNPC more vexing.”

Indeed, the policy of appointing people from Buhari’s Muslim North constituency into most strategic positions in government, which began as soon as he took power in 2015, has continued unabated despite the continued protests by opinion leaders, particularly in the south

Last week, the President appointed Prof. Ibrahim Gambari to replace the late Mallam Abba Kyari who died of Coronavirus as his Chief of Staff (CoS), an appointment that has since rekindled the protest against Northern dominance of the country. The new CoS, Gambari hails from Kwara State in North Central Nigeria, but is born of ethnic Fulani parents from Ilorin.

The president had only days before appointing Gambari to replace Kyari, a Shuwa Arab from Borno State, named Alwan Hassan from Kano State as acting Managing Director of the Bank of Agriculture (BOA), having sacked the bank’s interim management team. Yet, last month, the President Muhammadu appointed Muheeda Dankaka from Kwara as the Chairperson of the Federal Character Commission, the same commission whose essence, many opine, has been defeated by the president.
On Tuesday, the president, too, named Mr. Lamido Yuguda new Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to replace Mary Uduk. The day before, he approved the appointment of Kashim Ibrahim-Imam, from Borno State, as Chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND).

Also this month, the president appointed former IGP, Suleiman Abba as chairman of the Police Trust Fund, with the secretary also from the north. Abba was sacked by former president Jonathan for breaching protocol by performing official duty for Buhari as president-elect, when the sitting president was still in office. The appointment is obviously a reward for loyalty.

“He (Buhari) is a person who doesn’t care about other ethnic nationalities in the country,” said Afenifere chieftain, Chief Supo Sonibare. “He cares for his own alone. He is not even fair to some parts of the North but few people in the region.

“The way he is going about the affairs of the country is an indication that he is not in control but being teleguided by few selfish individuals with sinister motives.”

On March 10, Alhaji Bashir Jamoh resumed duty as the Director General of NIMASA, having been appointed earlier by the president to replace Mr. Dakuku Peterside whose first tenure as head of the agency expired the same day.

Although the Rivers State born Peterside was eligible for reappointment, and in line with the administration’s broad policy of re-appointing heads of parastatal and agencies, industry watchers had reasoned that given his track record, he would be given a second term; but that was not to be as Buhari chose, Alhaji Jamoh, father-in-law of Sabiu ‘Tunde’ Yusuf who doubles as his Personal Assistant and Private Secretary in his stead.

Never, statistically, in the history of the country’s democracy – even in the military era – has any president achieved such dominance of every sphere of governance by one ethno-religious group. Many observers who spoke to this newspaper agreed that the latest Buhari’s appointment have given validation to fear of growing regional domination by a section of the country, which has no precedence in the country’s history, and firmly put Nigeria, many say, under the control of the North.

It bears stating that as it stands all key sectors of economy and security; the revenue generating agencies and the entire security architecture of the country are firmly in the hands of the region, in a country of nearly 200 million people of diverse cultures, religions and ethnicities.

“Federal character provides for equitable distribution of appointments, but that has been disregarded by the current government,” noted Aare Oladotun Hassan, President, Yoruba Council of Youths Worldwide.

“Basically, Nigerians are overfed with these northern hegemonic appointments. It has really gone out of hand and has become a permanent malaise. But it will lay a very wrong precedent. If another zone gets into power, they may be tempted to do the same. And it’s not a good thing. It is dangerous.”

In December last year, the president appointed Muhammad Nami, another northerner from Niger State to replace Babatunde Fowler, from the Southwest as Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), and Edward Adamu to replace Muiz Banire as chairman of Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON).

Until Fowler’s replacement, he had been the one single South westerner, a zone that played key role in Buhari’s emergence as president in 2015 and 2019 to head a parastatal of note in the government. In the event, he was replaced upon the expiration of his first tenure, and not with someone from his zone.

“If you look at the appointments he has made so far, all the key appointments have been given to Hausa/Fulani Muslims. Majority of the service chiefs are from his own part of the country. So, what do you want us to say?” wondered Chief Abia Onyike, spokesperson for Alaigbo Development Foundation.

Fowler’s and Peterside’s replacements means that with the exception of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), all other key regulatory, revenue generating and security agencies are now headed by the northerners.

The list includes Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) headed by Ms Bala Usman; Nigerian NNPC headed by Mele Kyari (whose board is also exclusively northern); PenCom headed by Hajia Dahir-Umar; Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) headed by Mohammed Nami; Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) headed by Hameed Ali; Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), headed by Ahmed Kuru; Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), headed by Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta; Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), headed by Umaru Ibrahim, among others.

For Barrister Nisi Ade Ademuwagun, former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Ikeja branch, it has become glaring that the present government of Buhari doesn’t care about the rest of the county but for only his own ethnic and religious group.

“That is why,” he said, “there is massive movement and agitation for restructuring. Buhari has been unfair to other sections of the country which is dangerous for the unity and coexistence of the entire peoples of Nigeria. He has made us to see that Nigeria is not one”

As it is with key parastatals and agencies, it is even worse, evidently, with the security architecture of the country. Virtually all arms- bearing security apparatus, be it the military, police and civil defence are firmly in the hands of the north.

Buhari came to power first in 2015 on the crest of northwest/southwest alliance which birthed the All Progressives Congress (APC). Many, especially in the Southwest had reasoned, even against evidence of precedence, that he would run a north/southwest coalition government. But hardly had he taken office on May 29 that year when he made his intention of northern domination known.

His first sets of appointments were overwhelmingly north-leaning. Of the first strategic appointments made at the time, which included the Secretary to Government, Chief of Staff, Attorney General and sundry others, only two were southerners. Femi Adesina who was appointed to deputise Garba Shehu as special adviser on media and Senator Ita Enang who was named adviser on National Assembly matters.

Often cheered on, strangely by his supporters, particularly in the southwest, the president continued to embolden on his lopsided appointments. And while he had cut the southwest a little slack such as making Mrs. Kemi Adeosun finance minister, Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Works, Power and Housing and Fowler chairman of FIRS among few others, he appears to have gone for broke this time around, having won power a second time and won’t be eligible to stand for a third.

His first sets of appointments were quite instructive. Adamawa State- born Boss Mustapha and Borno’s Abba Kyari were first returned as SGF and Chief of Staff respectively, foreclosing the suggestions of him ceding SGF to the southeast.

He proceeded to appoint about eleven aides, only two of whom were southerners, both photographers. They included: Mohammed Sarki Abba – Senior Special Assistant to the President (Household and Social Events); Ya’u Shehu Darazo – Senior Special Assistant to the President (Special Duties); Dr Suhayb Sanusi Rafindadi – Personal Physician to the President; Amb. Lawal A. Kazaure – State Chief of Protocol; Sabiu Yusuf – Special Assistant, (Office of the President).

Others are: Saley Yuguda – Special Assistant (House Keeping); Ahmed Muhammed Mayo – Special Assistant (Finance & Administration); Mohammed Hamisu Sani – Special Assistant (Special Duties); Friday Bethel – Personal Assistant (General Duties); Sunday Aghaeze – Personal Assistant (State Photographer); and Bayo Omoboriowo – Personal Assistant (Presidential Photographer).

Other appointments the president made upon his return to power were Prof. Mohammed Nasir Sambo, Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS); Godwin Emefiele, CBN governor; Ahmed Idris, Accountant General of the Federation; Ahmad Shakur, acting DG, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR); Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, DG Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and Mele Kyari, GMD, NNPC. Again, it had overwhelming northern majority.

Of his first 26 appointments made, 19 were from the North, and 7 from the South. Gradually, the president has since, many say, perfected northern domination of the country.

“Some people say we have come back to square one, but I think we have come back to square zero if there is any such thing,” noted Chief Okey Okoroji, APGA chieftain and one time governorship aspirant in Lagos State. “He (Buhari) is spending his time avenging those who he thought did not vote for him. You know who he is. Remember his 97 percent versus 5 percent logic.”

Yet, this will be the first time in the nation’s democratic history that all three arms of government would be headed by one section of the country, the North. President Buhari, North West is head of the executive; Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, North East is head of the legislature, while Justice Tanko Mohammed, Chief Justice of Nigeria and head of Judiciary is also from the North East.

“The way President Buhari is going about the governance of Nigeria is an indication that the APC has no capacity to govern,” said People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governorship aspirant in Ondo State and former commissioner for environment under Governor Olusegun Mimiko, Barrister Sola Ebiseni.

“It is now clear to all that Nigeria was better governed when PDP was at the helms of affairs”

The irony of it all has not escaped many who have pointed out that the current Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General. Tukur Buratai was due to retire in 2017, but is still being retained; the tenure of Acting Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chairman, Ibrahim Magu had expired but is still in office, among others. And even if there were other grounds, such as corruption for which Fowler had to be replaced, the President could not find any worthy person in the southwest or south in general.

“As it is, the government of today has no respect for the constitution,” Chief Goddy Uwazurike, lawyer and former president of Igbo think tank group, Aka Ikenga. “If it did, it wouldn’t be carrying on with this kind of security architecture for instance.

“I find it strange that when it comes to appointing security chiefs, no Igbo person is found worthy. We have had presidents in the past and all their security appointments had been spread. It is only now that we are hearing that security chiefs can only come from one side because they are promoted on merit. It is preposterous and untenable.”

Yet, even as unprecedented as the lopsided appointments have become, some say they would wish it’s the only thing Nigerians will have to confront under Buhari. The increasingly shrinking of civil space and rising economic hardship, they say, are much worse.

“What we have now is military dictatorship,” noted Akogun Tola Adeniyi, former MD of the Daily Times of Nigeria. “It’s been so since the president populated the entire security apparatus of the state with his kinsmen and cronies.”