By Peter Duru, Johnbosco Agbakuru, Rotimi Ogunmoyela and Dirisu Yakubu
The list of appointments into the boards of federal agencies and corporations, released on Friday, is enmeshed in controversy after the names of five persons, said to be dead, appeared on it.
The dead persons alleged to be on the list are Senator Francis Okpozo (Delta), Rev. Father Christopher Utau (Benue), DIG Donald Ugbaja (retd), Garba Attahiru (Kaduna) and Umar Dange (Sokoto).
The list had a total of 1,468 persons. Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, and a former Minister of Aviation and spokesperson for the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation in the 2015 elections, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, among others, expressed outrage over the development.
The Presidency admitted the appearance of the names of Okpozo, Ugbaja and Utor on the list and apologised for the error. In a response, the spokesperson for the Presidency, Mallam Garba Shehu, however, said the error was not enough to describe the list as scandalous.
In dismissing the list, Fayose, in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Lere Olayinka, said, “Now, he (President Muhammadu Buhari) just appointed as many as five dead men as board members of government agencies… based on our respect for ancestors as Africans.
“As it is now, we are running a new and weird form ‘crazy’— Government of the dead, by the dying, and for undertakers”. Fani-Kayode simply described the list as scandalous. In the Presidency’s response, Shehu said “no human undertaking can be free of mistakes.” According to him, the error in the list was not enough to describe the exercise as scandalous.
“There is no scandal”, he stressed. The spokesman explained that the names of the deceased persons on the list came about because it was compiled by former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal. “The list has a history which explains the controversy around it”, Shehu stated. “In 2015, Mr. President requested all state chapters of the party to submit names of 50 party members for board appointments.”
He said the names were compiled by the national secretariat of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and forwarded to SGF. “However, complaint arose from some governors who felt they were not carried along in the process.
To answer this, the President constituted a committee under Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to review and reflect the interests of the governors”. Shehu said action was delayed on the report of the committee as President Buhari took ill. “The President’s trips for medical attention slowed down completion of the process,”he said. “The current SGF was only directed to complete that process by releasing the list which he apparently did without altering it.” Okpozo, appointed Chairman of the Nigerian Press Council, was a Second Republic senator from Delta State and died in December 2016 at the age of 81.
Buhari had than sent a letter of condolence to the family and eulogised him for championing the cause of social justice in the Niger Delta. Ugbaja, listed as a member of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), died on November 29, 2017. Utov, appointed member of the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research, died in March, 2017.
Appointment of Deceased persons, confirmation of APC’s incompetence-PDP The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in its reaction on Saturday described as an unpardonable national embarrassment, the appointment of deceased persons as members of various federal boards by President Muhammadu Buhari-led government.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan in a statement said the development has further confirmed the party’s position that the APC administration is completely confused, disorganized and grossly incompetent, adding that Nigerians can now see the level of recklessness and shoddiness inherent in the management of the nation by the ruling party.
The party noted that the situation has further exposed why the nation’s economy has been in shambles in the past two and a half years, saying a government which cannot tidy up a routine issue of board appointment for over two years cannot successfully take on complex issues of governance. “Nigerians can now see why the nation’s economy has been in shambles in the last two years. When we say that this government is completely inept, some Nigerians did not know to which level, but now they do.
“This inability to tidy up a simple issue of list of 209 appointees has completely exposed the extent the APC government is bereft of simple organizational skills to manage a country like Nigeria, which is in dire need of development.
“How on earth can a government that cannot compile a common list, handle intricate issues of national planning and budgeting; issues of health, education, aviation, agriculture, infrastructure and management of the huge civil service? “How can they possibly initiate and successfully implement national and international instruments for national development in today’s competitive world? “This also explains why nothing has been working under the APC government. Furthermore, the mix up in the list also exposes the corruption in the APC government.
“The fact is that the government of our dear country has been in wrong hands in the last two years and the situation will continue to worsen unless the nation is rescued from them in 2019,” the statement read.