Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The presidency has dismissed as smear campaign, allegations of nepotism and favouritism leveled against Acting President Yemi Osinbajo.
One Dr. Ismaila Farouk had last Thursday posted on the internet an article accusing Osinbajo of nepotism and favoritism in the appointments he made as acting president. The article had cited the composition of the Presidential Advisory and Competitiveness Council, and key appointments like the chief executive officers of Bank of Industry and Pension Commission.
The article had also accused Osinbajo of ensuring that all his aides are either Yoruba or members of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. It compared him with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who it said appointed his aides from other parts of the country.
Osinbajo was specifically accused of appointing Yoruba men, Mr. Funso Doherty as the Director-General of Pension Commission (PenCom), and Mr. Olukayode Pitan as Managing Director of Bank of Industry. He was accused of appointing his brother in law, Mr. Olusegun Awolowo, who is the Executive Director/CEO, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, into the Presidential Advisory and Competitiveness Council.
The Acting President was also accused of appointing his deputy when he was the Pastor of RCCG, Banana Island, Lagos, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, who is minister of Trade, as the Vice Chairman of the Presidential Advisory and Competitiveness Council which he inaugurated in the Presidential Villa last Monday.
While further accusing him of strategising for 2019 with the hope that Buhari would be unable to contest, the article accused Osinbajo of filling the advisory council with either his kinsmen in the South-west or members of RCCG.
A presidential source contacted by THISDAY yesterday however claimed that Ismaila Farouk was a fictitious name that did not exist anywhere. He alleged that the article was written by some forces who were unhappy that the acting president was in control of government machinery.
He said such forces had wanted to be in control of the government in the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari and because the acting president was fully in charge, they were aggrieved and therefore thought they could pit him against the public by cooking up unfounded allegations against him.
According to him, the intention was to distract the acting president from carrying on with his commitment to ensure that issues plaguing the nation at the moment were addressed as instructed by his boss, President Buhari. He said the acting president had always worked according to the president’s instructions.
While the appointments made by Osinbajo as acting president had Yoruba and members of his Christian denomination, the Redeemed Christian Church (RCCG) in some key positions, THISDAY investigations however showed that contrary to the allegation that all his personal aides are Yoruba and Christians, a number of them are actually Muslims and from other parts of the country.
A flip through the list of Osinbajoâ€™s aides showed that Mr. Ade Ipaye, who is the head of his team as Deputy Chief of Staff, is not a Christian but a Muslim from Lagos State.
Other aides in his office are: Director of Protocol, Ambassador Abdullahi Gwari, Muslim from Yobe State; Special Adviser on Social Investments, Maryam Uwais, Muslim from Kano State; Senior Special Assistant on Legal, Research and Compliance, Dr. Balkisu Saidu, Muslim from Sokoto State; Senior Special Assistant on Economic Affairs, Edobor Iyamu, Christian from Edo State; Special Adviser on Power, Dr. Tochukwu Nwachukwu, Christian from Imo State; Special Adviser on National Economic Council (NEC), Donald Wokoma, Christian from Rivers State; Special Assistant on Social Investment, Mohammed Braimah, Muslim from Kwara State; Special Assistant on Inter-governmental Affairs, Abdul Rahman Baffa, Muslim from Kano State; Special Assistant on Economy, Peter Dimike, Christian from Imo State; Special Assistant to Power Team, Anita Otubu, Christian from Delta State; Zainab Edu, Assistant to Special Assistant on SIP, Kano State; Special Assistant to Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Bege Bala (BPE), Christian from Kaduna State; Assistant on Social Investment, Amina Edu, Muslim from Kaduna State.
Others are: Personal Assistant to the Vice President, Gambo Mansur, Muslim from Gombe State; Personal Assistant to the Vice President, Murtala Aliyu, Muslim from Kogi State; EA-DCOS, Nkoli Anyaoku, Christian from Anambra State; Special Assistant on Rule of Law, Zainab Buba Galadima, Muslim from Yobe State; Special Asssitant, Administration, Koko Iyamu, Christian from Akwa Ibom State; Personal Assistant to the Vice President, Edewede Akhidenor, Christian from Edo State.
Others are Special Advisers or Senior Special Assistants to the President seconded to the office of the vice-president. Those in this category are Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs (Office of Vice -President), Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Christian from Ekiti State, Special Adviser Dr. Adeyemi Dipeolu (Office of Vice -President), Christian from Ogun State and Senior Special Assistant to the President (Office of Vice -President) on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande.
On the appointment of the Director-General of PenCom, the presidential source explained: “There has been much talk about failure of government to replace the former Pencom Director General with someone from the same zone as hers. It is argued that this ran contrary to Section 21(2) of the Pension Reform Act 2014. However, that section only applies ‘in the event of a vacancy.’
“Indeed, in that case, the President shall appoint a replacement from the same geo-political zone of the immediate past member who vacated the office to complete the remaining tenure. This is to ensure that no geo-political zone loses out in the event of a removal and replacement of one particular member, when others from other zones remain in office.
“However, where as in this case, the entire Board is dissolved and reconstituted, the question is not about replacement of any particular person from any particular geo-political zone. Rather, it is to ensure that in the newly reconstituted Board, every one of the six political zones is represented. The new appointees, covering all zones, are as follows: Ali Usman Ahmed (North East)- Chairman; Funso Doherty (South West) -Director General, Manasseh Terna Denga (North Central) -Commissioner; Abubakar Zaki Magawata (North West) – Commissioner; Ben Oviosu (South South) -Commissioner and Nyerere Ayim (South East) – Commissioner.
“Unfortunately, another controversy arose, following the slight alteration in the list earlier announced. The nominees have not taken office. So, thankfully, it is not a matter of vacancy this time. But why this alteration anyway?
“Unfortunately, the earlier announced appointment of Abdulrahman Dikko was found to be in error, as it ran contrary to Section 19 (5) of PRA 2014 which says that ‘the chairman and members of the PenCom Board shall not own controlling shares in any of the pension funds administrator or pension funds custodian prior to or during their tenure of office as chairman or members of the board.’
“It is not disputed that Dikko is currently a majority shareholder at Premium Pension Limited, one of the most prominent pension funds administrators in Nigeria today, hence the need to immediately rectify the error by moving him to a position for which he is clearly qualified. Dikko is now the appointed Chairman of the Bank of Industry Board,” he added.
On the allegation that the acting president was strategising for 2019, the presidential source said politicking had never been a matter for contemplation by the vice-president, pointing out that he reluctantly accepted the offer to be vice-president, a reason which explains why he has never bothered to use his office to build a political structure for himself in his South-west zone.
On Enelamah, the source said contrary to the claim that Osinbajo brought the Minister of Trade and Investment into the government, the minister was actually nominated by the Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Abba Kyari, whom he said had worked with Enelamah in the course of his private business before the advent of Buhari’s administration.
He also dismissed the allegation that the acting president travels to the South-west to attend his church with a retinue of his aides. He described it as a blatant lie, disclosing that the acting president as a man of integrity and conscience always funds his trips that have to do with visits to his church and Redemption Camp, implying that if he funds his personal trips, it makes no sense to allege that he conveys people to the South-west at government expense.
He also dismissed the allegation that the newly constituted advisory council was filled with Yoruba and RCCG members, explaining that Enelamah only became vice-chairman of the council by virtue of his office as Minister of Trade and Investment.