Opinion: Buhari’s consistent disregard for laws

by Adesina Tosin

The Punch of the 13th of March 2017 has as its headline “Controversy as Buhari extends perm sec’s tenure twice.” The story has it that President Muhammadu Buhari has extended the tenure of the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Education, Dr Jamila Shuara, by another year.

This makes it the second such extension for Shuara, whose tenure expired in February 2016, when she turned 60 years. The extension of her tenure contravenes the Civil Service Code which states that an officer will retire from service after serving for 35 years or attaining the age of 60 years, whichever comes first. But in the case of Shuara, she has remained in office despite attaining the mandatory age of sixty. Her first tenure extension was in February 2016 and the second extension came when the President was on his medical vacation to the United Kingdom. How the President managed to issue the letter is still a mystery, considering that he handed over to Professor Yemi Osinbajo as the Acting President. The case of Shuara is one out of many examples of disregard for laws governing the civil service by President Buhari.

President Muhammadu Buhari on 27th August 2015 appointed Colonel Hammed Ali as the Comptroller General of customs.  Col. Ali served as military administrator of Kaduna State between August 1996 and August 1998, during the military regime of General Sani Abacha. He was brought back from retirement by President Buhari to head the Nigeria Customs Service. The Customs is supposed to be headed by a Comptroller General who is appointed among the deputy comptrollers general, according to the stipulated laws Section 3.11:1 of the federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette No 24 vol. 89 of 25th March 2002 states that the choice of the comptroller general of customs shall be by appointment of a suitable deputy comptroller General of Customs (General Duty) but President Buhari prefers a former army officer to head the Customs Service; a decision that was condemned by Nigerians but the outcry fell on deaf ears as Buhari went ahead with his appointment. Col. Hammed Ali is having problems with the Nigerian Senate over his recent refusal to appear in uniform before the senate to defend the Service’s planned verification of payment of customs duties on imported vehicles. The man in the eye of the storm has stated unequivocally that he wasn’t appointed the head of customs to wear uniform.

As if that was not enough, President Buhari appointed a retired Director General of the Department of State Security Services Mr Lawal Daura as the head of the nation’s secret police in the year 2015 following the dismissal of Ita Ekpeyong as its former head on July 2, 2015. The performance of the DSS under his watch is a matter for another day.

The process of appointing these three individuals among others has called into question the way we run public office in Nigeria. Our elected leaders have become so powerful they can do and undo, and they don’t give a damn (apologies to former President Jonathan). They have a penchant for disregarding the laws of the land. As a way of justifying the bizarre extension of Mrs Shuara’s tenure, President Buhari described it as an extension based on “Principle”. What Principle supports disregard for stipulated laws and provisions of the law?

This administration built its campaign on the change mantra but it is fast abandoning and even contradicting the spirit of its avowed cornerstone. What is the fate of deputy directors, assistant directors and other individuals in the Ministry of Education who aspire to the coveted office of Permanent Secretary when the woman who must make way for their emergence has refused to vacate the stage? If Shuara’s predecessors enjoyed generous tenure extensions like her, would she be so opportune to occupy her present office?

The law is clear on the appointment of people into these offices. People have been trained for a minimum of 20 years before reaching the cadre of being appointed as the head of a Ministry, Department or Agency. As a result, they are prepared to assumed leadership. Extension of tenure of retired heads of Ministry is an aberration.

In like manner, about eight senior police officers were retired prematurely when the new Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris was appointed on the basis of being in a higher cadre than the newly appointed Inspector General, as contained in a June 22nd 2016 letter the then newly appointed IGP Ibrahim Idris sent to President Buhari. Why do we have to sacrifice our best brains for an individual? Why doesn’t the President choose his new IG among those in the higher cadre rather than reach for Ibrahim Idris, an Assistant Inspector General of Police?

President Buhari needs to convince a lot of onlookers that he is not bringing ethnicity into play in these appointments, especially in the case of Shuara. President Buhari should explain to Nigerians why Shuara is the only individual that can run the Federal Ministry of Education. Must Hammed Ali be the one to run the Nigeria Customs Service when we have lots of individuals of adequate ranking, who have been trained for the job and have worked with different Comptrollers General in the Past? Also, why must we bring Lawal Daura out of retirement to head the DSS?

Are we in dearth of talents in Nigeria? What plan do we have to grow the next generation of leaders in Nigeria when we keep recycling old ones? President Buhari has set a bad precedence in the extension of Mrs Shuara’s appointment as this will embolden other politicians to continue in their disdain for laws and policies. As president, he is the number one political leader in Nigeria and any action he embarks on will tell a lot about him.

Developed nations of the world won’t take Nigeria seriously until we start doing the right thing. We can’t build a strong nation when we persistently demonstrate disregard for the laws of the land and we won’t produce the next generation of leaders who will take Nigeria further if the old ones refuse to go.

The President should as a matter of responsibility terminate the appointment of Mrs Shuara as the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education for the appointment of a new individual by the Federal Civil Service Commission. Our institutions must be protected from unnecessary political interference.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Adesina Tosin Nathaniel is a Forward Looking Nigerian Youth

For more of his writings visit www.donteewrites.blogspot.com. His social media handles are @Donteewrites

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