FOUR YEAR REPORT CARD OF TEAM BUHARI: 2015-2019 part (I)

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President Buhari and some of his cabinet members at the swearing in ceremony
  • After Four Years, Where is Your Report?

Prologue

Although it would take President Muhamadu Buhari some six months to put his cabinet together, four years after the administration took over the reins of power from the Peoples Democratic Party’s Goodluck Jonathan, public opinions on the performance of the cabinet members have varied from person to person, without a consensus on the overall scorecard of the administration.

The truth is that it could not have been all tales of woes, the same way there are no signs that the journey in the last four years has been auspicious. What is however certain is that each of the ministers and other cabinet members would have to shoulder their burdens respectively, based on the performance recorded against their names.

Thus, as it is the traditional of THISDAY to x-ray the works of the ministers especially, that the current dispensation is fast winding down, preparatory to the new one billed to assume office on May 29, deliberate efforts are being taken to assess each of the ministries and other portfolios and underscore how they have either enhanced and complemented the efforts of the administration at delivering change or on the other hand, stymied the development process.

To arrive at this assessment, some of the Key Performance Indicators employed by the THISDAY Board of Editors included what each cabinet member, many of whom were appointed in November 2015, met on the ground in their respective beats; the targets they set for themselves; the challenges that stood in the way of the change ideology and what they have achieved against their own targets within the time frame.
Suffice it to note that this exercise is without prejudice to any particular ministry or minister, but the assessment that is meant to run all-week, is done with the best of intentions as part of the rights of the people to know and based on raw facts, some of which are already in the public know.

Abba Kyari: The Man With the Red Cap
Wale Olaleye writes that in the last four years Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff to the President, the enforcer and protector of the office of the president, has navigated through turbulent waters and has remained unscarred

Many refer to him as The Man with The Red Cap.
He is the last bus stop before reaching the desk of Muhammadu Buhari, 76, President of The Federal Republic, and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria since 2015. He is as tough as they come. Analysts say if the President says: turn right, he turns extreme right. When the President says turn left, he turns further left with little room for manoeuvres. Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to the President, is the man whose no-nonsense demeanour has made him many enemies of those who wish to compromise the Presidential Villa.
He has told those who care to listen that his job resolves on three firm principles for which he has no apologies: ‘ I will not allow anyone to mislead the President through misrepresentation; I will not allow the President’s integrity to be violated; I will not allow Nigeria’s national interest to be subordinated’. For these, he has made many enemies – enemies who have serially launched corruption campaigns against him. What they have failed to do, however, is provide real evidence linking him with corrupt practices. The most recent social media storm involves his daughter Aisha, recently appointed to the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) as Assistant Vice President (equivalent to Assistant Manager in most companies) several months after her application. Many cite the appointment as favouritism, but others say families of public servants deserve a life too.The NSIA says the appointment followed due process, while confirming she was appointed to a lower level position.

But such is the scrutiny Kyari faces in his every move in a bitter campaign to get rid of him and target the President.
Many forget that every Chief of Staff has to follow the lead of their principal. The President is a man of few words with a very conservative lifestyle devoid of frills. The Chief of Staff makes it his duty to protect the president from from the free-wheeling political honchos, pushing them to the ruling All Peoples Congress ( APC ) while concentrating on policy.

At the Villa the Office of The Chief of Staff finds gaps not being adequately addressed by ministers and departments and intervenes through Presidential Initiatives. They have spearheaded the successful fertiliser intervention programmes, saving billions in funding and subsidies by working directly with the King of Morocco; they have given life to the 2nd Niger Bridge which is now fully under construction, the Mambilla Power Project for which designs and funding are being finalised, and also processed the renewal of Oil Mining Licenses for which almost $2billion USD had been realised. They have ensured that there is no interference in the works of anti-corruption agencies such as the EFCC and ICPC. They continue to work with the security agencies to ensure that the armed services rise to the President’s charge to curb the increasing wave of insecurity.

However, there is the need to do much more. Northern Nigeria is facing a grave security challenge. President Buhari’s 2nd term must confront headlong the disparate cells of bandits, kidnappers and terrorists spreading like cancer from the northeast of the country, through the northwest, to the north central.

The security challenge is hemorrhaging Northern societies and urgently requires new Presidential initiatives.

Boss Mustapha: The Stabilising Force!

The challenge of his office notwithstanding, the current Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Gida Mustapha, has turned out a major bridge builder and stabilising force in the Muhammadu Buhari administration, writes Olawale Olaleye

The office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation comes with interestingly huge responsibilities, beyond the book prescription of what its brief should be. Responsible for ensuring the effective coordination and monitoring of the implementation of government’s policies and programmes in the order of hierarchy, the office generally coordinates policy designs and formulation by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for approval by the government.

The SGF serves as Secretary to the Council of State, the Federal Executive Council and other Constitutional Councils that are chaired by the President. Apart from coordinating the activities of the MDAs, the office also deals with constitutional, political and socio-economic matters as may be referred to the presidency.

Of course, it does not stop there. The office treats and handles a legion of other assignments, which explains its importance in the life of any administration.

Thus, when Buhari assumed office in 2015, the appointment of Babachir Lawal was with the understanding that he had a fair idea of what he was up against. He was however sacked as the SGF three years after on, specifically October 30 2017, following a report into his alleged involvement in diverting crisis relief funds.

His eventual dismissal came months after he was suspended by the president, following allegations of complicity in the misappropriation of funds earmarked for the welfare of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) through the Presidential Initiative on North East (PINE), and in his stead, Buhari appointed Boss Gida Mustapha.

A lawyer, management consultant and politician, Mustapha’s appointment was with high hopes of intense repair works, both to the image of the federal government, whose anti-graft agenda had been blighted and its relationship with the various publics, other tiers of government especially.

Indeed, it is the belief in government circles that Mustapha has so far done a much better job than his predecessor, Lawal, both in terms of managing the office and stabilising the relationship of the federal government with other stakeholders in the body polity as an artful bridge builder.

Mustapha has been variously described and acknowledged as an enviable bridge builder, because he was always consciously pulling everyone together in the direction of success, not only for the government of the federation but in a sense that could enhance the jobs of the state governments as a collective push for nation-building and good governance.

It is generally believed that the President likes and respects him, because he does his job very well and does not get involved in frivolities especially, that which does not enhance or edify the current efforts of the government at changing the obnoxious narrative. Besides, he commands the respect of his staff unlike when Lawal was in charge.

Lawal was alleged to have fought with practically everyone and created huge problems for the President as a result of his inability to manage the other tendencies in the government, particularly, in the presidency.

For instance, he was said not to have got on with the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, a situation believed to have created tension in the ‘house’ and somewhat polarised the power centre, needlessly.

But since coming on board, Mustapha and Abba did not just get on well; they have remained good partners in the management of their respective yet overlapping responsibilities in the overall interest of the government, the presidency and the president.
Expectedly, Mustapha is said to also relate very well with the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the ministers, National Assembly members and key leaders of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Perhaps, the only issue the current SGF is said to have in the administration is with the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, but that has to do with their local politics in Adamawa State, and not about his job delivery or handling of his many assignments.

An experienced lawyer, it is curious to know that Mustapha is classmate with the recently sacked Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen at the Law School. A one-time governorship hopeful and former deputy chairman of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Mustapha is one of the silent achievers of the APC merger as it were.

God-fearing and cerebral, Mustapha is believed to have distinguished himself in the less than two years that he assumed office and whatever his inadequacies, they have been greatly diminished by his record of stellar performance as the SGF, enhanced by sound human relations.

Geoffrey Onyeama: Keeping an Even Keel

Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Ministry under the supervision of Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, has managed to maintain relative stability under difficult circumstances, writes Nseobong Okon-Ekong

Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama came highly recommended. From his previous international designation as the Deputy Director General of the World Intellectual Property Orgnisation (WIPO) from 2009 to 2014, he was responsible for the regional bureau for Africa, Arab Countries, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean; the Least-Developed Countries Division (LDCs); the Development Agenda Coordination Division (DACD); The WIPO Academy and the Special Projects Division.

ECOWAS as Focal Point
Successive Nigerian governments had always made Africa the centerpiece of her oversea relations. The Buhari administration has not been different. However, it has narrowed its focus to the immediate surrounding region. The result of this was an improvement on the counter-insurgency war which led to decimation of Boko Haram.

It is instructive that the Nigerian President’s first visit after he was sworn-in was to Niger, a neighbouring country, where Boko Haram fighters had gained more than a foothold and launched successful attacks on Nigerian soil. He was in that country for an anti-Boko Haram summit on June 3, 2015.
Buhari was elected chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Togo’s capital Lome in July last year. It is a yearly rotational tenure.

In his capacity as Chairman of ECOWAS, Buhari has made a number of interventions in the sub-region. The latest was the dispatch of Onyeama, as Special Envoy to Guinea Bissau.
However, one of the major goals of ECOWAS, which is to operate under a single currency, may not meet its set target year of 2020. The Chairman of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama said achieving the ECOWAS Single Currency by 2020 would be a challenge.

Diplomatic Controversies and Victories
Unfortunately, the Nigerian foreign affairs ministry has been involved in unnecessary exchange of slur with the Office of the Presidential Senior Adviser on Diaspora Matters, as highlighted by the recent the release of Zainab Aliyu and Ibrahim Abubakar, the two Nigerians, who were arrested by Saudi security officials.

This is not the first time this ugly trend would be noticed, though it became gutsy this time around. The rivalry between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Senior Adviser on Diaspora Matters also came up when Nigerian students detained on allegations of cybercrime were released in Benin Republic.

Another controversy that came up in the course of Onyeama’s tenure was the episode of allegation of sexual misconduct against three members of the House of Representatives in the United States. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had insisted that there was no evidence to substantiate allegation.

Perhaps, the most potentially damaging of the controversies directly involving Onyeama was when he was put on the spot and had to explain why he did not directly pay his income taxes to Nigerian coffers.

Good Relations under Difficult Circumstances
Despite the fact that Nigeria has come under severe criticisms for her human rights record, growing insecurity within her borders and the dwindling fortunes of her hapless citizens, none of these has been as serious as to lead to a diplomatic row and/or the truncation of diplomatic relations.

For instance, relations between Nigeria and South Africa was at lowest ebb two years ago, but Onyeama said relations between the two countries are strong, although doubtful given the incidences of xenophobic violence.

It is also commendable that Nigeria was able to secure USD40 billion investment from China. In exchange, Nigeria has assured Beijing that it will adhere to the ‘One China’ policy, while announcing a shutdown of Taiwan’s office in Abuja, the capital city.

During the period under review, Nigeria signed the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty, joining dozens of other countries that signed the treaty to ban nuclear weapons. Under Onyeama’s supervision of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Nigeria has been able to further talks with authorities in Switzerland to arrange the return to Nigeria of $300 million confiscated from the family of the late maximum ruler, Sani Abacha.

Despite its willingness to maintain cordial relations with all countries, the federal government did not hesitate to call-out countries it felt were meddlesome in Nigeria’s internal affairs. In more than one instance, the diplomatic community in Nigeria was warned not to cross the line between exhorting Nigeria on good governance and dictating to the country how to govern.
In September last year, President Muhammadu Buhari addressed the 73rd UN General Assembly. The 2018 General Assembly was Buhari’s fourth outing at the annual general debate.

The Federal Government also spent the sum of $1 million to evacuate 230 Nigerians and 17 Ghanaians, who were stranded in Russia after the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Running the Embassies
There are 110 Nigerian missions abroad. Incidentally, the budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs focuses attention on 30. The ministry owes both volunteers and staff over N4.9 billion entitlements. In the 2019 fiscal year, N7.6 billion has been proposed for the ministry, but N4.123 billion was approved. This can only cover 30 out of the 110 missions abroad. Therefore the ministry may be forced to close 80 foreign missions, due to poor funding.

Mansur Dan Ali: A Need for Strategy Review

The Minister of Defence, Brigadier General Mansur Dan Ali, has made significant efforts but not enough to yield desired results, writes Chiemelie Ezeobi

When Brigadier General Mansur Dan Ali (rtd) hung his boots on August 30, 2013, he had no inkling what the future had in store. Two years down the line, he was recalled from retirement and made the Minister of Defence by President Muhammadu Buhari on November 2015.

Upon assumption of office, one of his core derivatives was to decimate the Boko Haram sect, ensure improved welfare of officers and men of the Armed Forces, support families of fallen heroes, follow due process and accountability in procurement of equipment, as well as ensure the territorial integrity of the nation is not tampered with in any aspect.

While the minister recorded failures in certain areas, he also achieved success in others. Given the paucity of equipment bedeviling the Armed Forces especially, in the fight against terrorism in the North-east, piracy in the maritime domain and militancy in the South-south, it was obvious the military’s war-chest needed a boost, a lacuna he was bent on addressing.

The minister went a step further to put measures on the ground to prevent defence procurement fraud by ensuring the Ministry of Defence buys all equipment and platforms directly from the original equipment manufacturers.

Under his watch also, the Armed Forces launched different operations and exercises. They include Whirl Stroke, Safe Haven, Crocodile Smile, Delta Safe, Sharan Daji, Iron Force, Harbin Kunama, Gama Aiki I and II, Ayem Akpatuma, Safe Conduct Mesa, Last Hold, Python Dance, Operation Awatse, Tsare Teku, Lafia Dole, Open Corridor, Gama Aiki, Tsaftan Daji, Thunder Strike, Smoke Out, Karamin Gordon and Diran Mikiya.

He was said to have introduced more harmonised conditions of service for all military personnel, tailored towards improving their lives after retirement. Among the feats recorded was the implementation of prompt payment of troops’ operational allowances.
With military brutality rife across the board, the establishment of human rights desk in all military formations has also be credited to Dan Ali. Many would however contend that despite the presence of such desks and units, human rights abuses still thrive in the military.

Under his watch, 82 of the Chibok schoolgirls who were abducted in April 2014 were released. This was in addition to the 21 who were earlier released after negotiations between the government and the Boko sect. Yet, many of them are still being held behind, including Leah Sharibu of Dapchi School in Yobe State.

Notwithstanding his successes, Dan Ali has also made so many gaffes in office, which is probably why he does not grant press interviews. The most visible blot on his tenure is the carnage going on in his hometown in Zamfara State. Daily, the media and the online space is inundated with reports of bizarre killings and plundering of livestock and farm produce in the state.

But in spite of the measures put in place, instead of abating, the scourge of armed bandits has continued to have a field day. The general consensus has been that the minister was particular about his personal security, an allegation that was backed by Security Watch International. The group had accused the minister of ensuring adequate deployment of military checkpoints around his house in Zamfara State without recourse to the safety of others.

Dan Ali also showed poor form in the handling of the armed herdsmen militia. When states like Taraba, Ekiti and Benue came up with legal frameworks, like the anti-open grazing laws, to tackle the menace, Dan Ali had said the law was confrontational and that it was the reason the herdsmen were aggressive.

Another minus for Dan Ali is the complaints by soldiers, especially those fighting Boko Haram insurgents in the North-east, about the irregular payment of their cash allowance.

Although he would cite ensuring that troops who have stayed for a reasonable time in the theatre of operations are rotated and new ones inducted as one of his achievements, the soldiers on the field plead otherwise. Most of them have often complained about their deployment over-stretching the due date.

Under Dan Ali’s watch, the Boko Haram terrorist sect has killed hundreds of Nigerian troops in different operations, particularly targeted at military bases.

Another stain on Dan Ali’s record is the abduction of Leah Sharibu, a Christian girl, who is still in captivity for refusing to denounce her faith. On February 19, 2018, 110 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi, Yobe State.

Also, on March 1, 2018, Saifura Ahmed and Hauwa Liman of the International Red Cross were abducted alongside Alice Ngaddah of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). While Ahmed and Liman were later executed consecutively, Ngaddah is still in captivity.
The challenges facing the minister boil down to the lack of adequate funds to man the ministry. Given the serious nature of the challenge, it has restricted spending in the procurement of needed platforms in the fight against insecurity. Already, troops are overstretched in both internal and external security operations, which often translate to poor welfare package.

In summary, regardless of the achievements he’s recorded in the last three years, the glaring insecurity across the country makes a mince meal of them. From the continued Boko Haram assault in the North-east to militancy and piracy in the South-south, herdsmen militia and banditry in the Mid-west, the jury is still out on Mansur Dan Ali.

Abubakar Malami: A Tenure Marred by Disobedience to Court Orders

Encouraging government to disobey orders of courts may be Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami’s greatest undoing, reports Tobi Soniyi

Considered a member of the President Muhammadu Buhari kitchen cabinet, the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), savours a lot of privileges. His closeness to the president is as such not in doubt. He was the national legal adviser for the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), a party founded by Buhari in 2010 and one of the legacy parties that fused into the All Progressives Congress (APC), the party that produced Buhari as president in 2015.

Section 174 (3) of the Constitution lists his responsibilities thus: “In exercising his powers under this section, the Attorney-General of the Federation shall have regard to the public interest, the interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process.” But how has the AGF been able to balance these three interests, which are sometimes conflicting?

Since the president has made the fight against corruption a major pillar of his administration, the ministry of justice is crucial to realising that objective. Knowing this for a fact, Malami enthusiastically committed himself to the task of helping the president with the anti-corruption war. But in doing this, he would have to clash with his primary constituency – the bar and the bench. And sometimes, he chose to ignore the rule of law, to satisfy the president.

For instance, Malami supported and justified the decision of the Department of State Service (DSS) to raid the home of judges.

How Has He Fared?
As minister for justice, Malami has taken some bold decisions. One of such decisions is the withdrawal of the case of forgery against the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu. Malami discontinued the trial after he was told by the lawyers he hired to prosecute the case that the investigative report and evidence could not support the charge.
In yet another case, while the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) was pushing for his predecessor, Mohammed Adoke, also a SAN to be prosecuted for complicity in the controversial settlement of the Malabu oil deal, Malami wrote to the court stating that he was not sure Adoke has a case to answer, because he was merely carrying out presidential directive.
In a letter to the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, Malami wrote: “Having fully examined the entire case file, I am inclined to request you to consider the charge in relation to the composition of the parties, the offences, the proof of evidence and the case summary in view of the fact that nothing in the proof of evidence appears to have directly linked parties to the offences as charged.”
During the administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission ordered the federal government to pay N135 million to people, who sustained injuries when the security agencies invaded an uncompleted building in Apo district of Abuja. Adoke did not comply with the order. But Malami ensured the victims were paid immediately he became justice minister.
Last year, he urged judges to disregard letters from the Chairman of the Special Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, asking them to declare their assets. The panel was obviously exercising powers it did not possess. The AGF had to call the panel to order.

After submitting his ministerial scorecard to the Presidency last week, the minister said: “Fundamentally arising from the cases that were conducted by Federal Ministry of Justice, the ministry succeeded in saving the government around N4.5 trillion relating to claims presented in respect to these cases, which were conducted and concluded.”
THISDAY has not been able to independently verify that claim.

Malami has also made efforts in tackling the seemingly intractable crisis of congestion in the nation’s prisons. Through his efforts, many prisoners have regained their freedom.

The minister also gave opportunity to those arrested and detained in connection with the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast to have their days in court. Many have been in jail for over six years without trial. A special arrangement was made with the judiciary, which led to the arraignment of these suspects before a federal high court in Niger State. This has led to a reduction in the number of suspects detained in barracks in the northeast.

To his credit, Malami worked to fast track the release of $322 million kept in foreign banks by the late military ruler, Sani Abacha and his family. The $322 million that was repatriated in December 2017, was money that was frozen by the Swiss Attorney-General and was not domicile in Switzerland, but in other countries, mainly Luxembourg.
The money was disbursed through Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT) to 302,000 poor households across the country.

What Are His Flaws?
The minister has not been able to balance the tripartite responsibilities of ensuring ‘public interest, ‘interest of justice’ and compliance to ‘legal process’ imposed on him by the constitution. There is a case to be made for his willingness to encourage the executive to become lawless. The federal government did not obey the court’s judgment freeing the leader of Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Ibrahim El Zakzaky.
When a federal high court granted bail to the former National Security Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan, Sambo Dasuki, the government would not obey it. Malami justified the decision on the ground that national security should take precedence over the rule of law.

According to him, “The repeated court orders for respect of Dasuki’s right to freedom did not supersede the rights of Nigerians killed by the actions of Mr. Dasuki.”
In taking that position, the minister appeared to have constituted himself into a court of law. If there are security reasons for which Dasuki should not be released, the proper step to take is to give the reasons to the judge while opposing the bail application. It is for the judge to weigh the evidence and come to a conclusion and not for the justice minister to sit on the judgment of the court. Many therefore considered the position taken by the AGF as a negation to his oath of office.

Under a different government, the role the justice minister played in the return, reinstatement and promotion in the civil service of Abdulrasheed Maina, a fugitive wanted for corruption, would have earned him a sack.

The Head of Service, Mrs. Oyo-Ita, and the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission, Mr. Joseph Akande, confirmed receiving letters requesting the reinstatement of Maina from the office of the AGF. But the AGF, in one of his embarrassing moments on the job, while testifying before the ad hoc committee set up by the House of Representatives to probe the controversy surrounding the reinstatement of Maina, could not remember writing those letters.

Others also view it as a weakness, the inability of the AGF to constructively engage the judiciary. He seems to prefer confrontation. This has been counterproductive for the anti-corruption. He is ready and willing to act, sometimes recklessly, to assist the executive in undermining the independence of the judiciary.

In his inaugural address to the staff of the ministry of justice, Malami said his tenure would mark the end of giving out cases to private lawyers, when there were many brilliant lawyers in the justice ministry. Today, unfortunately, Malami did not keep to his words. Lawyers in the ministry have accused him of giving cases to private legal practitioners, who are his friends while lawyers in the ministry are busy doing nothing.

The minister has also been accused of interfering with the prosecution of some corruption cases. Immediately, he assumed office, he wrote the EFCC asking that all high profile corruptions cases be handed over to his ministry. This put him at loggerheads with the EFCC and had negative impact on the anti-corruption war. Had the AGF provided the necessary assistance to the EFCC, the commission would have done better.