The delay by President Muhammadu Buhari to make key appointments more than three weeks after assumption of office is taking a serious toll on government businesses, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report.
Apart from naming one protocol official: Lawal Kazaure (State Chief of Protocol and three media aides: Femi Adesina (Special Adviser, Media and Publicity), Garba Shehu (Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity), and Laolu Akande (Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo), Mr. Buhari is yet to make any other key appointment.
Although the President was elected about three months ago and should have long decided on key appointees, he claims he is bidding his time to avoid making mistakes.
However, his delay in filling important government positions, especially the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, is now hurting the smooth running of government businesses, top officials say.
PREMIUM TIMES investigations revealed that the day to day operations of the different ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) have been weakened, while coordination of important government policies and programmes has become a mess.
“The country can ill-afford further delay by the President to make these vital appointments,” a federal permanent secretary said on Wednesday. “From the presidency to the ministries, departments and agencies, everything has come to virtual standstill.”
The official, who wished to remain anonymous, as he was not authorised to speak on the issue, said although the President has since received approval from the Senate to appoint 15 persons as special advisers, he has only appointed two, and has yet to send his ministerial nominees to the Senate for confirmation.
Mr. Buhari is also yet to appoint a Secretary to the Government of the Federation and his Chief of Staff.
“Since the President assumed office on May 29, he has embarked on series of foreign trips and held several consultative meetings with various world leaders on a number of important issues bordering on security and economic development,” another official said.
“In the absence of the SGF, there has been no one coordinating and pushing for implementation of the resolutions, decisions and agreements from those meetings and visits for government.”
The President’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina, told PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday that Mr. Buhari’s slow pace was not impacting negatively on governance in any way.
“Business need not be grounded at MDAs because the permanent Secretaries and other technocrats are in place to take decisions,” Mr. Adesina said. “It is the prerogative of the President to make the appointments. He will make them (appointments) at the fullness of time.”
Our sources however disagree.
One of them, a permanent secretary, said the SGF is the engine room of government business and that the delay in making appointment into the position is doing incalculable damage to the country.
“The government has so far attended the G-7 Summit in Germany and the meeting of the Lake Chad Basin Commission as well as other diplomatic shuttles,” he said.
“But there is so far no one coordinating resolutions agreed at those meetings. It is also difficult for key agencies to link up with the presidency to provide briefings on diplomatic and economic issues.”
Although permanent secretaries are acting heads of ministries at this time, the official said there are limitations to their capacities to approve policy issues, particularly those bordering on the demands of the security agencies to prosecute military assignments.
“The permanent secretaries cannot do much,” a presidency official said. “They are looking up to ministers, or in the interim an SGF, who could give them direction on policy issues. A lot of files are pending attention, particularly on the economy and budget, which they cannot handle.”
The absence of the SGF and a minister has triggered a crisis at the Federal Ministry of Labour, as two persons are currently locked in battle over who is the authentic director general of the National Productivity Centre, Abuja.
While Faith Robert, a lecturer at the Niger Delta University in Bayelsa, claim he is the authentic chief executive of the office on the basis of an appointment letter he received from the former SGF, Pius Anyim, his rival, Kashim Akor, is armed with a similar letter of appointment signed by the former Minister of Labour, Joel Ikenya.
Although both nominees claim former President Goodluck Jonathan approved their appointments, only Mr. Akor was allowed access to the office to assume duties.
There is a logjam, and relevant officials who could help resolve the crisis, are not yet in place.