Since the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration was inaugurated on May 29 the country has witnessed several embarrassing policy summersaults and flip flops. Assistant Editor, Nigerian Pilot Sunday, MIKE ODIAKOSE, x-rays some of these U-turns and the imperative of having well-articulated policy direction.
The local and foreign media was agog a few days ago with reports that the Nigerian government has engaged the services of foreign soldiers of fortune or mercenaries to tackle members of the Boko Haram insurgents.
According to the reports, the decision to engage the foreign mercenaries is part of the efforts to meet the deadline given by President Muhammadu Buhari to rout the insurgents by the end of the year.
Impeccable military sources put the number of the newly engaged mercenaries at around 250, adding that the foreign soldiers are from the South Africa-based private contractor, Specialised Tasks, Training, Equipment and Protection, STTEP.
A Defence Headquarters, DHQ source, craving anonymity, told an online media that the mercenaries are being deployed along with fighter jets in Operation Fire Force.
“The mercenaries have been re-engaged and their platforms are being deployed,” the source said. “By platforms, I mean fighter jets, helos ,helicopters,, coms ,communication,, surveillance, medics, etc.”
Confirming the development to the Turkish news agency, Anadolu Agency, a military source said, “There is definitely something happening in that direction.”
However, the military authorities in Nigeria have denied the report about the engagement of the mercenaries, saying those who are benefiting from the activities of the insurgents aim the report at tarnishing the image of the military.
A statement by acting Defence Spokesman, Colonel Rabe Abubakar described the reports as “utterly scurrilous and a calculated attempt to smear the good image of the Nigerian military.”
Colonel Abubakar said, “The insinuation and the entire story are utterly scurrilous and a calculated attempt to smear the good image of the Nigerian military. The orchestrated campaign is aimed at rubbishing the efforts of the Nigerian Armed Forces and other security agencies who are working hard to contain the insurgencies in the North East.
The DHQ stated that the report is a covert campaign of blackmail by disgruntled elements in society designed to pit the Nigerian people against their armed forces.
“These blackmailers are not only unhappy because of the progress the military is making in the fight but more so because their illicit gains in the war has been effectively stopped.”
In spite of the denial by the DHQ, many Nigerians believe the military authorities are being diplomatic in handling of the issue as admittance of the engagement of the mercenaries will embarrass the Buhari administration in view of his earlier position on the use of foreign mercenaries in the battle against insurgents prior to assumption of office.
Personnel from STTEP were first hired by the Goodluck Jonathan administration in January to fight Boko Haram, a development that was condemned by the opposition during the last general elections.
In May as President-elect, Buhari had expressed disappointment with the way the military handled the war against insurgency in the North East and wondered why the military needs South Africans mercenaries before winning the war in parts of the North East.
While speaking in Kaduna while hosting the National Executive Council of the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Buhari said, “The military has never been so incapacitated like now. It is a shame that the Military cannot secure 14 out of the 774 local governments in the country.
“What is more worrisome is the fact that Nigeria’s military has to rely on South African mercenaries before it could gain recent success in the war against Boko Haram. This situation is shameful and unacceptable.”
To many Nigerians the u-turn on use of foreign mercenaries to tackle Boko Haram is part of what is becoming the policy summersault trademark of the present administration. 
The federal government made similar u-turn on the dismantling of military checkpoints nationwide.
President Buhari had in June ordered the dismantling of military checkpoints but the decision was greeted by public outcry as that gave members of the Boko Haram sect easy passage to almost every part of the country.
About a month after the horse had escaped from the stable, the government made the U-turn and reversed the directive. By this time the damage has already been done as the terrorists that were hitherto surrounded confined to some places in the North East used the opportunity to spread out to other parts of the country and even as far as Lagos.
Since the Buhari administration came into office it has been dogged by several policy summersaults and gaffs that are almost making Nigeria a laughing stock in the international community.
The civil servants that Buhari has been working with in the absence of ministers contributed in no small measure in embarrassing the administration almost non-stop.
For instance, after President Buhari was briefed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transport, Mohammed Bashar of the activities of the ministry, he told Nigerians that he was going to probe alleged diversion of a substantial part of a loan of $1.005 billion from the Chinese Exim Bank, obtained for the construction of a standard gauge rail line linking Lagos to Kano, but which was moved elsewhere.
Speaking at the end of a presentation on the Ministry of Transport by the Permanent Secretary at the Presidential Villa, President Buhari said that it was disappointing to find that foreign loans obtained in line with signed agreements were moved from one project to another.
“I hope that due process was followed before such diversions were carried out. Taking money from one project to another has to be done properly,” Garba Shehu, his senior special assistant on media and publicity, quoted the President as saying.
However, immediate past Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, stoutly denied the allegation that a substantial part of $1.1billion loan obtained from the China-EXIM ,Export-Import, for a rail project was diverted by the Jonathan administration and put Buhari on the spot as she exposed the ignorance and/or mischief of the Transport Ministry Permanent Secretary that misinformed Buhari. 
Okonjo-Iweala, said that there was no truth in the allegation, challenging those interested in cross-checking the facts to get in touch with the China-EXIMBank, or the Chinese Embassy.
“The alleged diversion has no substance, for the simple reason that the Kano-Lagos project was not even among the projects presented for funding by the China EXIM Bank for several strategic infrastructural projects across the country,” the minister said in a statement signed by her spokesperson, Paul Nwabuikwu.
“In fact, it was the Lagos–Ibadan rail project, not Lagos-Kano rail project that was proposed in the original application to the China-EXIM Bank. But in the end, no funds were assigned for the Lagos-Ibadan rail project by the China-EXIM Bank,” the statement said.
Okonjo-Iweala stressed for the benefit of the uninformed Permanent Secretary, “The procedure is that funds for approved loans remain in the China-EXIM Bank and are released directly to the Chinese firm executing the contract only after the presentation of duly certified proof of work by the responsible Ministry, in this case it would have been the Federal Ministry of Transport, based on the agreed milestones,” he statement said.
“For the sake of emphasis, the China-EXIM Bank does not disburse money directly to government and therefore the issue of diversion does not arise,” Okonjo-Iweala said.
Since the immediate past minister rubbished the allegation of diversion of funds the federal government has not countered her claims nor apologised to Nigerians for misleading them. Even the Permanent Secretary that caused Buhari the huge embarrassment was not sanction or removed for gross incompetence.
The uncoordinated shaky start of the Buhari’s administration caused Nigeria another international embarrassment during the last United Nations General Assembly when Nigerian delegation missed a high-level meeting on insurgency and plight of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, in the North East. 
The meeting, which was conveyed and presided over by the United Nations Under Secretary General of Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien and held as part of the of the UN Sustainable Development Summit, was attended by the Prime Minister of Niger, Brigi Rafini, Chad’s Foreign Minister, Moussa Faki Mahamat, and a representative from Cameroon, European Union and the USA who appeared to be more concerned about the activities of Boko Haram than the Nigerian government.
When the news broke that Nigeria did not attend the meeting, the presidency waved off the meeting as unimportant, adding that Nigeria was not even invited to the meeting.
The Nigerian presidency claimed, “The meeting at which Nigeria was reportedly absent was not one of the official events of the United Nations for which President Muhammadu Buhari and his modest delegation are in New York.”
However, contrary to attempts by the government to downplay the importance of the meeting and portray it as low level engagement, organisers and diplomats say the gathering was one of the most important meetings concerning the destructive militancy and terrorism ravaging Nigeria and its neighbours.
“The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, is an arm of the United Nations secretariat and a meeting organised by it on an issue threatening Nigeria’s existence cannot be described as unofficial,” said a respected Nigerian diplomat who requested not to be named so as not to anger the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
“This is definitely a diplomatic blunder,” the diplomat said. “It portrayed us as an unserious country and the President should bring culpable officials to book rather than offer tepid excuses.”
A brochure of the meeting listed “High level representation from the government of Nigeria” among the panellists expected to speak at the meeting.
Due to its importance, the meeting was also broadcast on official UN online television and radio channels.
Policy summersault also characterized the implementation of the Single Treasury Account. President Buhari had initially ordered each Federal Government Ministry, Department or Agency to start paying into a Treasury Single Account, TSA, for all government revenues, incomes and other receipts.
This directive applies to fully funded organs of government like the Ministries, Departments, Agencies and Foreign Missions, as well as the partially funded ones, like Teaching Hospitals, Medical Centres, Federal Tertiary Institutions, etc.
Agencies like the CBN, SEC, CAC, NPA, NCC, FAAN, NCAA, NIMASA, NDIC, NSC, NNPC, FIRS, NCS, MMSD, DPR are also affected.
Indication that the directive was not properly analysed before the presidential directive emerged after some days as the policy was beginning to take shape as the federal government for the umpteenth time made a U-turn again and exempted Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and several other agencies from the Treasury Single Account, TSA, policy.
The other exempted MDAs are the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN; Bank of Industry, BoI; Nigeria Railway Corporation ,NRC, and the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria ,FMBN. Others are Bank of Agriculture, BoA; Niger- Delta Power Holding Company, NDPHC; National Integrated Power Project ,NIPP; National Communication Satellite Limited, Galaxy Backbone Ltd and Ajaokuta Steel Company Ltd. The rest are Urban Development Bank, Nigerian Export – Import Bank, NEXIM, and Transcorp Hilton Hotel. 
A circular from the AGF’s office to the Director, Banking & Payments System Department of the Central Bank of Nigeria ,CBN, with reference number FD/LP2015/C/ADC/20/1/ /DF dated September 14, 2015 and signed by M K Dikwa, for the Accountant- General of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Finance, Funds Department, Abuja, FCT., titled: Approval to Exempt Some MDAs in line with the e-Collection Mop- up Exercise, conveyed the change in the TSA policy.
It is also on record that the administration dissolved the Boards of all Federal Parastatals, Agencies and Institutions in the country without recourse to the laws setting up the boards
Buhari’s media aide, Femi Adesina, announced the dissolution of the boards via a statement. However, the decision was amended when the government woke up to realise that law protects some boards and no one can sack them with a wave of the hand.
Similarly, the presidency made U-turn on its order to remove operatives of the DSS from the Presidential Villa and restrict them to only the entry gates despite the fact that they were specially trained to protect whoever occupies the office of the President.
Nigerians are hoping that now that the ministers will be inaugurated the rate of policy summersaults and flip-flops from the presidency will be curtailed and eliminated, as Nigeria is gradually becoming a laughing stock in the international community.
With the incoming ministers, it is hoped that each policy and directives of the government will be thoroughly examined from all sides before they are pushed out. Well articulated policy direction, which is still uncertain till date, will equally give the government a focus and should be made public, to lift Nigeria out of the looming recession.

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