By Falilat O. Yusuf
The Nigerian Public Service, which consist of Ministries, Agencies, Departments and Commissions, is primarily the administrative machinery of government designed for the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes of the administration in power.
Since the coming to power of the Buhari Administration in May 2015, there has been a persistent public outcry over the inability or unwillingness of the administration to make key appointments into some of the Commissions and Agencies of government which are critical to the attainment of the administration’s declared objectives. More than twenty Parastatals and Commissions are currently without board members and in some cases where the President has approved the appointment of chairmen and members, the supervisory ministers have blatantly refused to inaugurate them for inexplicable reasons. For instance a key agency of government like the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), which is a constitutional body and which advises government on fiscal efficiency and ways and means of improving accruable revenues, is virtually redundant for the past three years because government is yet to appoint 30 out of the 37 commissioners whose tenure ended about three years ago. At the moment the Commission has been operating minimally, if at all, with an acting chairman, the Secretary and six members, which by all accounts, does not constitute a workable number let alone a quorum for decision making.
Other constitutionally established commissions, equally facing similar problems, are the Federal Character Commission and the National Pension Commission. Absence of the Boards for any length of time tends to jeopardize the operational activities of the commissions.
In addition to all these burning issues concerning the various Commissions and Agencies of the government, is the daunting problem associated with the takeoff of the North East Development Commission (NEDC), which seems to be becoming the albatross of the administration. The North East Development Commission was initiated to redress the horrendous and unimaginable destruction caused by the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East. The bill establishing the Commission was formally signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari more than a year ago in October 2017. Earlier both houses of the National Assembly passed the bill into law sometime in late 2016.
The creation of the North East Development Commission is to ensure the rehabilitation, resettlement and integration of the IDPs and the reconstruction of schools, hospitals, roads, bridges and other institutional structures as well as residential properties and business premises of victims of the insurgency. The Commission is furthermore mandated to address the challenges of poverty and illiteracy, which were said to have been partly responsible for the insurgency in the first place, as well as deal with environmental issues and associated challenges in the North East. President Buhari, while signing the Bill into law says “I expect the expeditious coming into force of the Commission will remedy the long years of underdevelopment suffered by the region “. Now more than a year after making that statement, the commission is yet to take off even as conditions of millions of the victims of the insurgency continue to deteriorate with most of them still lacking means of livelihood and others living in IDP camps with bleak prospects of returning home or recovering from the physical and psychological trauma they were forcibly subjected to. Fears are now being expressed that the recent deadly resurgence of the Boko Haram insurgents in parts of Borno state, is not unconnected with the avoidable delay in the takeoff of the Commission which could undoubtedly have properly addressed the problems of reconstruction and resettlement in order to ensure the return of the DPS to ancestral homes. So why the excruciating delay in the takeoff of the Commission? Credible sources have revealed that some highly influential and powerful politicians in the North East are ironically said to have been behind attempts at stultifying the commencement of the Commission, at least not during the administration of President Buhari. These politicians, although they belong to the ruling party, have been surreptitiously making moves to undermine the achievements of the President in the North East in order to ensure the people don’t vote for him in the next general elections, partly because all the institutional avenues which they used to siphon public funds for self-enrichment, have been irreversibly blocked by the president. So as part of their dubious strategy to stall the takeoff of the Commission, they embark on frequent trips to Abuja where they lavishly spend millions of Naira on key officials of the federal government with a view to stalling the Commission’s take off. In their desperate attempt to justify their campaign against the Commission these politicians have also been advocating the silly idea that since the Presidential Committee on North East Initiative, PCNI, is already on ground, the commission’s existence would be unnecessary. However in the blind pursuit of their obscene objective they failed to realize that the PCNI is an ad hoc interventional body created to temporarily cushion the impact of the insurgency on a short term basis. In any case the PCNI’s central focus of attention in the North East so far has been on advocacy issues and organization of workshops on peace building and peaceful coexistence. It has never embarked on any meaningful reconstruction or rehabilitation programme in the entire North East. In fact even the N15 Billion Bama Initiative fund said to have been released to the PCNI for the reconstruction of Bama Local Government, being the hardest hit by the insurgency, was not utilised for the purpose intended. So the commendable efforts of Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the Chief of Staff to the President, Alhaji Abba Kyari and the current Minister of Finance, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, who initiated the Bama Initiative, have been virtually wasted with nothing to show for it. So technically speaking the existence of the PCNI has not been impactful for the people of the North East as far as the reconstruction or resettlement of infrastructure is concerned. So it would be grossly inappropriate for the politicians in question to entertain the idea that with the existence of the PCNI, the takeoff of the Commission is unnecessary. In any case there is a precedent for the existence of multiple organizations all created by the federal government and all solely dedicated to the development of a particular area, the Niger Delta region, for instance. In addition to the existence of the Niger Delta Development Commission, a full-fledged federal ministry of Niger Delta Affairs was created to develop the region. Furthermore states in the Niger Delta region get 13% derivation fund direct from the Federation Account apart from the huge sums of money being spent on the region by major oil companies as part of their social responsibility agenda. On top of all these is the Amnesty Programme, which is created to ensure human capital development of the region with specific emphasis on youth empowerment. So it is not out place for the PCNI and the Commission to statutorily co-exist to address the Reconstruction, Resettlement and Integration challenges caused by the Boko Haram insurgents. It is understood that the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation has the statutory responsibility to ensure the full take off of the Commission. The SGF, himself being from Adamawa, is obviously no stranger to the atrocities of the insurgents as he might have been directly or indirectly affected. His own local government of Hong is one of the worst affected areas by the insurgency. So, it has become a matter of institutional imperative and indeed a personal challenge to the SGF to without further delay, ensure the immediate take off of the Commission.
I am appealing to President Buhari to, as a matter of urgent public concern and in the interest of the hundreds of thousands of orphans and widows and other innocent victims of the insurgency, to give clear directive to the SGF to commence the immediate takeoff of the Commission with full budgetary provision to be incorporated into the overall Federal government budget proposals for 2019.
Yusuf wrote this piece from Ilorin, Kwara State.