Federal Government yesterday sacked the heads of no fewer than 24 agencies, asking them to immediately hand over their responsibilities to the most senior officers in their respective organisations.
Presidency sources said the development followed the alleged padding of the 2016 estimates for their agencies, resulting to discrepancies and delay in the passage of the fiscal policy document by the National Assembly, a case which is causing serious embarrassment to the federal government.
One of the sources told Nigerian Pilot yesterday that, “For an administration that is promoting and demonstrably prosecuting the anti-corruption war, the padding and inflation of their various agencies is antithetical to the government’s agenda, hence Mr. President had to wield the big stick to stem more excruciating embarrassments.”
Other reasons adduced for the mass sack of the agencies’ heads, according to the sources, include politicizing of their respective roles in governance, lack luster performance and myriad actions hindering the anti-corruption mantra of the Buhari-led administration.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, yesterday morning, announced the sack of the heads of all media-related agencies after a brief meeting with them in his office in Abuja. Those affected include, Directors-General of Nigeria Television Authority, NTA, Sola Omole; Voice of Nigeria, VON, Sam Worlu; Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN, Ladan Salihu; National Orientation Agency, NOA, Mike Omeri; and Managing Director of News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, Ima Niboro.
Apart from the head of NOA whose tenure was almost close to an end, the others still had some years to serve.
Shortly after the sack of the above-named heads was announced, the federal government through the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, OSGF further announced the sack of 20 others.
A statement issued by the SGF, Babachir Lawal, listed others affected to include the heads of Nigeria Railway Corporation, NRC, Bank of Industry, BoI, Nigeria Export-Import Bank, NEXIM and National Centre for Women Development, NCWD. (See list for details.)
Like the directive of Mohammed, the SGF asked the sacked parastatals’ heads to hand over their offices to the most senior officers in the respective agencies.
It will be recalled that, as more revelations kept unfolding about the 2016 budget, the minister of Information and Culture had disowned a budgetary allocation of N398million as being part of the budget estimates by his ministry for purchase of computers.
Speaking during a budget defence session in the Senate February 10, Mohammed said the ministry’s budget was tampered with as it was not responsible for the proposal seeking the approval of the said sum.
He also told lawmakers on the N230 million and N168 million allegedly voted for the purchase of computers for NAN and the Nigeria Film and Video Censors Board, NFVCB that the estimates were strange to him.
Expressing shock over the proposal, the minister said: “No, that is not possible. That was definitely not what was proposed, this cannot be.”
It took an official of the ministry to quip to lawmakers that only N5 million was earmarked for purchase of computers in the NFVCB.
At that meeting, chairman of the committee, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, had retorted: “The difference between N5million and N168million is huge.”
He thus asked the ministry to go and get its documents together and come back with an amended budget.
Penultimate week too, Senate Committee on Education discovered the sum of N10billion tucked into the education budget.
Furthermore, Health Minister, Professor Isaac Adewole, February 8, announced that the figures of the original budget of his ministry had been changed and therefore should be discarded.
Incidents like the foregoing caused the two arms of the National Assembly to declare last Tuesday that the 2016 budget could not be passed on February 25 as earlier envisaged because it was full of errors.
At his maiden meeting with the Chief Execs, the Minister expressed his anger with the conduct of the management of the media houses, promising not to reciprocate such conduct to the opposition but rather provide an equal opportunity to all who have interest in the use of the platform.
“We intend to provide leadership for the Federal Government-owned media organisations in a manner that will make them to become the first source of credible information, so that they can effectively function as vehicles for the change mantra of the Buhari Administration, and also regain their lost glory. The combined reach of the NTA, FRCN and NAN, if effectively utilized, will facilitate the success of the change campaign. But you must first enhance your own credibility, because no credibility-deficient news organisation can successfully propagate the message of change.”
The minister also promised not to reciprocate the unfair treatment done to them when they were in opposition to the current opposition party, the PDP.
As directed by the minister, the former NOA DG has handed over the leadership of the Agency to Mrs. Ngozi Ekeoba who is the most senior director and in charge of Political, Civics, Ethics and Values in the Agency.
In a brief handover session, Omeri expressed his gratitude to the past and present administration for the opportunity given him to serve the nation as NOA Director General and for the support given to the Agency during his tenure.
Former DG VON, Worlu handed over to the Executive Director, News, Ahazia Suleiman, NTA’s Omole handed over to Felix Ohuegbu, FRCN’s Ladan Salihu handed over to Michael Olowole while former NAN’s MD Niboro handed over to Jones Afolabi.
Except for former DG NOA, Mike Omeri who was on his last days in office, having been appointed in January, 2012 by previous government of Goodluck Jonathan, others who were also appointed by same previous government – MD, NAN and DG NTA -were barely two years in office while DG VON was also appointed in March 2015.
Fires DG, Budget Office
In a similar vein, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday fired the Director General of the Budget Office, Yahaya Gusau.
A statement by Femi Adesina, Buhari’s spokesman said the president has approved the appointment of Tijjani Mohammed Abdullahi as immediate replacement.
Abdullahi is a Fellow of the Certified National Accountants of Nigeria, with experience in managing public finance.
“The new director-general (Budget) is expected to work with the Minister of Budget and National Planning to efficiently deliver on the mandates of the Budget Office of the Federation,” Adesina’s statement read in part.
While no reason was given for the sack of Gusau, Nigerian Pilot learnt that it might not be unconnected with the controversies surrounding the figures of the 2016 budget proposal before the National Assembly.
President Buhari has also approved the appointment of Ben Ifeanyi Akabueze as the Special Adviser on Planning to the Minister of Budget and National Planning.
Mr Akabueze, who was the immediate past Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget in Lagos State, has worked in senior management positions in Citi Bank, Fidelity Bank, United Bank for Africa, NAL Merchant Bank, Sterling Bank and BIA Consulting Limited, among others.
He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, Fellow, Institute of Credit Administrators, and honorary fellow, Chartered Institute of Bankers.
Appoints Abike Dabiri
Also yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the appointment of a former member of the House of Representatives, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, as his Senior Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora.
Dabiri, a former broadcaster, was very vocal during the 2015 election and was renowned for her various roles in the All Progressives Congress, APC campaign.
During the 7th House of Representatives, she chaired the House Committee on the Diaspora.