Seal of the President of Nigeria Category:Nati...

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Ok, this is the first time I’ll do this, lift an article from a news media but I read it a few minutes ago and felt like these are the issues we need to have at the back of our minds when we go to the polls in April. This report was written by Elor Nkereuwem (Musikilu Mojeed, Idris Akinbajo, and Elizabeth Archibong contributed), and was copied off the 234next.com website. It’s worth every minute you will spend reading it.

P:S – I took the liberty to add pictures….and to highlight portions I found……interesting (for lack of a safer word)

There is a flurry of activity in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). Piles of files and documents are being collated and officials have been detailed to analyse the huge mass of documents and data. NEXT investigations reveal that the SGF’s office is working behind the scenes for President Goodluck Jonathan who is determined to produce a comprehensive response to the report of the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) which last month accused his government of wasting funds on a behemoth work force.

Among other things, Mr. Jonathan will put up a valiant defence for the over 133 personal aides which he currently hires for the Presidency and who get paid about N780 million every year. Sources who spoke with NEXT in confidence said that although there are civil servants officially stationed in the State House, the Presidency has not only hired this large array of private aides but is furious with the Theophillus Danjuma-led committee for questioning these appointments.

The advisory council was set up in March, 2010 by the president, “to evaluate policy implementation and advise on areas requiring adjustments; to advise the President on how to maximise the benefits derivable from government’s efforts; to advise on such actions and programmes that may improve credibility and performance of the government.” Almost a year later, on January 20, 2011, the group submitted a major report, which heavily criticised Mr. Jonathan’s government.

The council had among other recommendations, advised the president to prune the bloated federal bureaucracy. But few days after the report was released, Mr. Jonathan announced the appointment of new special advisers and assistants.

Yet, determined to respond to the charges by the council, the presidency has set up a team, mandated to prepare a report that will reflect the government’s gripe with the PAC report. The team is being coordinated by officials in the office of the SGF, Yayale Ahmed, and is expected to show that the PAC, made up of eminent Nigerians including Fola Adeola and Kanu Agabi, is largely ignorant of the intricacies of government affairs.

“They have concluded that the Danjuma group is made up of people who do not understand the workings of government,” a source within the SGF’s office said, asking not to be named since he was not speaking in official capacity.

“Danjuma and his people have become infamous because of the report. To them, the group does not understand issues like national character or the constitutional provision for the engagement of assistants,”

133 aides

An official document obtained by NEXT, titled ‘List of presidential Aides as at February, 2011’ shows that the country currently pays for at least 133 personal aides to the president, the vice-president, and the first lady. These aides, who are mostly political appointees, include the Chief of Staff to the President, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Vice President, Principal Secretary to the President, Principal Secretary to the Vice President, 25 special advisers, 42 senior special assistants, 52 special assistants and 12 personal assistants. Two of the personal assistants are Malian and Senegalese tailors who sew the president’s clothes.

Activist Shehu Sani, president of the Civil Rights Congress, said most of the appointees were simply engaged by President Jonathan as campaign foot soldiers.

“The president is simply wasting our national resources and applying pressure on the economy by settling cronies, bootlickers and parasites on the corridors of power with appointments,” said Mr. Sani who wants labour, civil society and opposition parties to check the trend.

Looking through the list, some of the appointments indeed appear to be duplication of duties. For instance, there are six physicians (two senior special assistants and four special assistants) who attend to the health needs of the president, the vice president and the first lady. They include two chief physicians to the president and vice president, two personal physicians to the President and the vice president, an assistant personal physician to the president and a personal physician to the first lady. Yet some public hospitals across the country do not have a single physician.

Apart from the large number of domestic staff in the presidential villa, who are civil servants, there are also six special assistants in charge of domestic matters for the president and his vice. Their job descriptions are special assistants on presidential household matters, domestic affairs, domestic matters, household administration, social events and household matters, and domestic affairs.

Eleven of the presidential aides on the list work for the unconstitutional office of the First Lady. They are Ike Neliaku and Oroyemisi Oyewole, both senior special assistants on administration to Mrs. Jonathan; Mary Oba, a special assistant on administration; Grace Koroye, coordinator, Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS, and Martha Owuzurumba, coordinator, African First Ladies Peace Mission. Other aides of Mrs Jonathan are Hannah Offor, a special assistant on protocol, Isiaku Aliagan, her media assistant, and Elizabeth Austin Amadi, her personal physician. On August 13, 2010, Mrs. Jonathan’s stylist, Agnes Aineneh, was appointed a presidential assistant. Two ladies-in-waiting were also appointed for the president’s wife. In the United Kingdom, the term Lady-in-Waiting, according to Wikipedia, is used to describe a woman attending a female member of the royal family other than the Queen or Queen Consort. In Cambodia, the term refers to high-ranking female servants who served food and drink, fanned and massaged, and sometimes provided sexual services to the King. It is however not clear what Justin Adaba and Amina Iye Ahmadu do for Mrs. Jonathan.

Yet, there are other aides of the First Lady that are not on the list. Among them are her steward, Benson Okpara; her luggage officer, Geoffrey Obuofforibo; her aide-de-camp, Jacob Tamunoibuomi; her orderly, Abigail Jonah, her chief security officer; Francis Ibiene; her director of protocol, Mfama Abam; her principal protocol officer, Nuhu Kwache; and another media assistant, Ayobami Adewuyi.

It remains unclear the exact number of official staff permanently employed by the federal government for the state house in addition to the 133 personal aides. This would include bureaucrats, directors, security personnel, administrative staff, and cleaners. Indications are that this figure would be higher than that of the special aides since the State House has budgeted an additional N1.42 billion for the payment of salaries of these other staff this year.

The cost to the nation

The Nigeria Labour Congress is seeking a minimum wage of 18,000 naira for civil servants. The total sum used in paying the annual salary and allowances of the 133 presidential aides is N775, 207,125. This money will pay the basic salary of 3,600 civil servants. The money is also more than the Federal Ministry of Education needs this year to construct new schools (N202 million) and provide infrastructure in existing ones, including all the 103 unity schools (N102 million).

This money, even by government estimate, can construct 100-room hostels in each of the nation’s five first generation universities which will comfortably accommodate thousands of young undergraduates who have no place to sleep in our universities. (Cost of constructing a 25-room hostel is N41million.)

Between Jonathan and Yar’Adua

Investigations by NEXT indicate that Mr. Jonathan has more appetite for personal aides than his predecessor. After he was sworn-in in May 2010, following the death of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Mr. Jonathan retained almost all the special aides appointed by his late boss. But he has also appointed 57 new ones. In the nine months that he has been president, Mr. Jonathan has appointed a chief of staff, a deputy chief of staff, nine special advisers, 23 senior special assistants, 21 special assistants and two personal assistants.

Human rights lawyer, Bamidele Aturu describes the appointments as “extreme recklessness”. “It’s wasteful and irritating,” he said. It shows brazen disregard for the people of Nigeria most of whom live below the poverty line. We should ask the president whether he wants to create a new country for himself in the villa.”

The situation in other climes

In the United States, there are 470 employees working in the White House. But most of them are employees on permanent appointments who have worked there for years. President Barack Obama only appointed a handful of key advisers.

Similarly, in South Africa, according to the 2009 annual report of the presidency, President Jacob Zuma appointed only seven advisers while the remaining 582 members of staff were mostly career civil servants.

Government officials in relevant agencies expressed differing views on the legality and appropriateness of the Presidency’s huge number of aides. An official of the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation, and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), the body empowered to fix salaries and allowances of political office holders, who did not want his name mentioned for fear that he might be victimized, said most aides ought to be sourced from the government departments and should be on secondment to the State House for as long as their services are needed.

“Special assistants and personal assistants to the president should be seconded from ministries i.e. they should be civil servants,” the official said. I don’t believe that the President has the right to appoint special assistants from outside the service, unlike his special advisers.”

The spokesperson to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Salisu Na’inna, however disagrees. “The President has all the right to choose his assistants and advisers and there is no constitutional limit to the number he decides upon,” Mr. Na’inna argued. “Anybody who has a circular to the contrary should produce it.”

What the law says

Section 151 of the 1999 Constitution provides that, “The President may appoint any person as a Special Adviser to assist him in the performance of his functions.

“The number of such Advisers and their remuneration and allowances shall be as prescribed by law or by resolution of the National Assembly.

“Any appointment made pursuant to the provisions of this section shall be at the pleasure of the President and shall cease when the President ceases to hold office.”

But the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission says the President and heads of other arms of government are appointing too many aides. In its latest executive report on reviewed remuneration package, the commission noted “there is non-compliance with the provisions of the remuneration packages such as contained in either the Report of the Commission or the Act itself.

“Such violations by the three tiers and arms of Government,” the commission further said, “include arbitrary appointment of high number of Personal Assistants which is adding more cost to the running of Government at the various levels.

“It is difficult to determine what value they add to service delivery or to governance. The Commission advise that all these illegal appointments by the 3-Tiers of Government be stopped and officers concerned be relieved of their appointments. Also the three tiers and arms of Government should eliminate or limit the number of Personal Assistants to reduce cost of governance.”

Civil Society is angry too

Members of civil society groups were also quick to condemn Mr. Jonathan for his large army of personal aides citing the lack of regulation as a cause of the trend, which persists in the National Assembly as well.

“Section 151 of the 1999 Constitution allows the president to appoint a number of advisers approved by the Senate to help him in his work,” says Eze Onyekpere of the Centre for Social Justice. “But what the president does is to appoint all manner of aides that have become a drain on our national resources. We should blame this on the dereliction of duty by the National Assembly, which has failed to prescribe the number of aides the president could appoint as well as their emoluments. The legislature should quickly call the president to order,”

Mr Sani also described the President’s numerous appointments as an act of frivolity. “Jonathan’s many aides are simply campaign foot soldiers employed to be paid with government money. And for a government that has less than four months to leave, what assistant or advice does he need at this time? I think that Nigerians – labour, civil society and opposition parties should openly condemn and resist this wicked act,” he said in Abuja over the weekend.”

Osita Okechukwu, spokesperson of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, also believes the appointment of many aides is a reckless political strategy.

“By appointing such ridiculous number of aides, the president is building a brigade for the election. For instance, Bianca Ojukwu was appointed to capture APGA. His action shows that all he is saying about reforming the economy is an orchestra of deception. Can you reform the economy when you are increasing the recurrent expenditure profile instead of trying to limit it to enable you to have more funds for capital projects like the Mambilla power project? It’s wastage and this does not give confidence to investors. Foreign direct investment cannot come to a country with that level of wastefulness,” he said.

Response from the presidency

The Special Adviser to the President on Communications, Ima Niboro, wouldn’t comment on his boss’ penchant for appointing special aides. He did not respond to text messages and calls to his mobile telephone on the matter.

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Comments
  1. hajho says:

    It is outrageous that public office holders in nigeria abuse power and state funds. Its a great mockery to our democracy. their actions are totally vulgar and reckless. I do not agree with such behaviour.

    Like

    • Hajho, when I read that article I was heartbroken because I realized that this road to ‘paradise’ for Nigeria is farther than we think!

      Most unnerving is that Mr. President is empowered by law to do whatever he wants to do – ‘as he pleases – as far as it concerns the appointment of aides. And yet they fight NLC over the payment of a paltry N18,000 as minimum wage? Divide N780, 000, 000 by 133 people and then by 12, and then it’ll show you that this present government (and the one coming after it) will remain the biggest jokes on the face of the earth except our constitution is purged of the laws that cripple the existence of a country it is supposed to support.

      Like

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