Attributing poor governance in Nigeria to corruption has become exceedingly simplistic in view of its unending inclination. A more sustained attack on the adverse effects of different specific dimensions of corruption on national development might be more useful.
It is therefore time for the nation’s scholars and analysts to throw more light on such unambiguous phases of the subject – a good example being the notorious hobby of last minute contracts and appointments that successive Nigerian political leaders engage in. Such efforts might help track the problem for action considering its pervasive nature of creating stunted growth at federal, state and local areas across the country.
Just before leaving office last week, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari (2015-2023) carried out several injury-time appointments as if it came into office two months ago instead of the recorded period of 8 years. Among those who have condemned the act is a member of the ruling party and also member-elect of the House of Representatives, Chief Philip Agbese.
He explicitly criticised the appointment of a new Accountant General of the federation, which he felt was done without recourse to the rules and numerous petitions on ground against the process. Agbese also disagreed with the approval for the board of the North East Development Commission to resume work without confirmation by the Senate thereby undermining the powers of the legislature.
There were similar criticisms against the activities of the immediate past minister of aviation, Captain Hadi Sirika. The Centre for Social Change and Democracy, CSCD, had accused the minister of appointing his cronies to different offices which made it to demand a thorough investigation of the appointments, employments and awards of contracts in the aviation sector.
In particular, the Centre wants the Minister to explain how funds budgeted for the Nigeria Air project were utilized. This criticism resonated through the sector with many deprecating what they perceived as hurried arrangements to surreptitiously place our aviation sector under Ethiopian authorities. If the assignment had been diligently handled in good time, may be it would not have elicited as much uproar.
The point must be made however, that it was not the first time that the federal government or some of its powerful officials engaged in such last-minute dubious transactions.
In 2015, the hobby of getting some favourites into certain offices also took place. Even the appointment of Chief Executives of federal bodies which others did routinely was herculean to President Goodluck Jonathan’s government. At a point, there were about 13 bodies whose heads acted for years without confirmation. In some cases, it looked like a strategy to make the appointees patently malleable.
For instance, one of our colleagues at the NTA acted as Director-General for more than 2 years before government remembered to replace him. If he was not competent, why was the organization left in seemingly wrong hands for so long? If he was not incompetent why then was he removed? Yet, the same government appointed 5 different chief executives for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in 5 years, that is an average of one a year.
If federal authorities angered people by their last minute activities, happenings in the states were not less appalling. In Niger state, the government spent no less than 6 of its 8-year tenure without filling vacancies in the public service thereby explaining its decision to recruit as many as 3,000 new workers at the tail end of the tenure of the immediate past governor, Abubakar Sani Bello. The former secretary to the state government Alhaji Ahmed Ibrahim Matane said the new appointees were to replace many civil servants who had retired or died since 2017.
In Plateau state, former governor Simeon Lalong, waited till the dying minutes of his tenure to swear-in five new judges of the State High Court and a judge of the State Customary Court of Appeal. It was only then it occurred to Lalong, himself a lawyer that a robust and vibrant Judiciary capable of meeting the needs of the people for justice delivery was expedient.
In Abia State, it was only after his preferred candidate lost the governorship election that former governor Okezie Ikpeazu suddenly woke up to the need to reconstitute the Governing Councils of some critical state institutions. By appointing Eme Okoro, the immediate past secretary to the state government (SSG) as chairman of the Abia State College of Health Science and Management Technology, Okezie betrayed the real motivation for his tail-end action.
Other favourites according to media reports were appointed to head the State Civil Service Commission and the State Polytechnic. In Jigawa state, most of the last-minute activities were essentially basic contracts such as the construction and renovation of classrooms and roads, drilling of hand pumps/ conversion of diesel motorized boreholes to solar powered as well as completion and upgrading of some health facilities. But then, no one understood why they were left for the tail end of the former governor Muhammad Badaru Abubakar’s administration.
To establish that last minute contracts which many see as phoney had become part of our political culture, it is probably necessary to refer to older relevant activities. In Imo state, opposition parties publicized daily, alleged awards of last-minute jobs by former governor Rochas Okorocha. The said contracts which were yet to be executed in the last few days of the administration had been reportedly paid for in full. Okorocha was also said to have recruited over 2000 employees into the public service at about the same time while several vehicles were auctioned at give-away prices. This made the then incoming governor Emeka Ihedioha to warn financial institutions against entering into any transaction with the then outgoing governor.
Similarly, the incoming government of governor Umaru Fintiri had to caution all Banking institutions in the state that giving arbitrary loans or overdrafts to government at the time was at their own risk. He spoke against the backdrop of a number of appointments, promotions and boards of some government agencies constituted close to the end of his predecessor, governor Mohammed Bindow.
Fintiri fulfilled his threat by cancelling all last minute suspicious activities carried out before he assumed duties. He was not alone. In Sokoto state, the new governor, Ahmad Aliyu reversed with immediate effect all recent appointments into the State Civil Service made by the outgoing government of Aminu Waziri Tambuwal after March 19th, 2023. In Osun state, the new governor, Ademola Adeleke, announced the reversal of late appointments by former governor, Gboyega Oyetola which were hurriedly done without following due process. Interestingly, this included the appointment of some ‘partisan’ Obas.
The reversals of several contracts and appointments had many adverse implications not only on societal development but also on innocent victims. For example, only two days ago, there were reports that the new Kano State Governor, Abba Kabir Yusuf, had commenced the demolition of structures believed to be illegally erected on properties belonging to the government. The owners were said to be cronies of the previous government to whom the plots were allegedly allocated.
There is however doubt if the trend of phoney or unpopular last minute favours would end soon as some of the new beneficiaries were old victims. In Benue state for instance, it was interesting to hear that governor Samuel Ortom who cancelled last minute recruitment by his predecessor on account of inability of the government to pay workers’ salaries and other entitlements for several months was at the twilight of his own tenure attempting to build an airport. With what funds?
In the legislative arm of government, the situation has been the same. In the last one week, our federal legislators have suddenly become active. Part of their busy assignment was to investigate former Niger Delta Minister, Godswill Akpabio yet, they were unavailable when Akpabio reported.
Whereas, the most sanguine feature of any law making process is the quality of the average lawmaker, members of the Nigerian 7th Senate whimsically set an unbroken record of passing 46 bills in 10minutes on the last day of their tenure! Alas, we have neither reputable/seasoned legislators nor those that legendary Albert Einstein said should be “ready to live their lives for others.”