By Emmanuel Uffot
The age-long grumblings over President Muhammadu Buhari lopsided appointments which he has been exhibiting since assumption of office in May 2015 has re-echoed again with eminent socio-cultural leaders from southern and middle-belt Nigeria have sued the President, for N50 billion over marginalisation of the people of the region in the appointments to security, quasi-security agencies and “strategic agencies” of government.
A total of 16 plaintiffs that came together to sue the president include Chief Edwin Clarke, a prominent Ijaw leader, Afenifere leader, Reuben Fasoranti, President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo John Nwodo, a leader of the Middle Belt Pogu Bitrus, Ayo Adebanjo, Alaowei Bozimo, Mrs Sarah Doketri, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Air Commodore Idongsit Nkanga, a former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, Prof Julie Umukoro, and Elder Stephen Bangoji.
Joined as defendants in the suit are, The Federal Republic of Nigeria, Buhari, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori and the Federal Character Commission.
The suit was instituted on behalf of the defendants by 10 Senior Advocates of Nigeria comprising Solomon Asemota, Tijani Ayanlaja, Chuks Muoma, Albert Akpomudje, Tayo Oyetibo, Pius Akubo, Mrs Nella Andem-Rabana, Mike Ozekhome, Akinpelu Onigbinde, and Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa
The issue of lopsided appointments made by President Buhari which is heavily skewed in favour of the North has been a source of concern among people of the South who have overtime questioned the president’s disregard to the tenets of federal character as stipulated in the Federal Character Commission in making his appointments.
But like a recurring decimal, the burning issue still continues with a recent one being the glaring lopsided appointments into the reconstituted board of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC last month that sent tongues wagging with the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF at the frontline of those that that made issue about the glaring lopsided appointment in NNPC that had over 70 percent management staff and board from the North.
PANDEF frowned at a situation whereby the NNPC is being ‘ Northenised’ at the expense of the South, especially the South-South region that lays the golden egg.
In the appointments that the pan Niger Delta group raised issues about, no fewer than 20 northerners were appointed into management positions in the NNPC, a development the Group Managing Director of NNPC justified as being on merit.
The top management appointments which PANDEF among other concerned people from the South had made issues about include, Umar Ajiya- Chief Finance Officer Finance and Account Yusuf Usman- Chief Operating Officer, Gas and Power, Farouk Garba Sa’ad Chief Operating Officer Corporate Services, Mustapha Yakubu, Chief Operating Officer Refining and Petrochemicals, Hadiza Coomasie Corporate Secretary / Legal Adviser to the Corporation, Omar Ibrahim Group General Manager International Energy Relations, Kallamu Abdullahi, Group General Manager Renewable Energy, Ibrahim Birma, General Manager Governance Risk and Compliance and Bala Wunti Group General Manager NAPIMS.
Others NNPC appointees from the northern region into NNPC recently are- MD, NNPC Shipping, Inuwa Waya; MD, Pipelines and Product Marketing, PPMC, Musa Lawan; MD, Nigeria Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, Mansur Sambo; MD, Duke Oil/NNPC Trading Company, Lawal Sade; MD, Port Harcourt Refining Company, Malami Shehu; MD, Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company, Muhammed Abah; MD, Nigeria Gas Marketing Company, Abdulkadir Ahmed; MD, Nigeria Gas and Power Investment Company Limited, Salihu Jamari; MD, NNPC Medical Services, Mohammed Zango; and Director, Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, Sarki Auwalu.
Going by the appointments which PANDEF accused the President of glaring nepotism, it stated that entire southern Nigeria was allotted only three top management positions in the NNPC a development it stressed goes against the provisions of the federal character which is entrenched in the Nigerian Constitution.
“The oil-producing zones of South-south, South-east, and South-west are left with one Chief Operating Officer Position each, and a few senior and middle-level management positions in peripheral and incidental subsidiaries, departments and divisions of the corporation,” the Niger Delta group stated.
The group refer to “Chapter 2, Section 14 (3) of the Nigerian Constitution which provides that the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies”.
To underscore its point PANDEF detailed Nigeria’s crude oil production figures by states in the South to justify its opposition to the NNPC management structure under President Muhammadu Buhari as follows: Akwa Ibom 504,000 barrels per day ( bpd)-31.4 per cent; Delta 346.000 bpd-21.56 per cent; Rivers 344,000 bpd-21.43 per cent; Bayelsa 290,000 bpd-18.07 per cent; Edo 33,000 bpd-2.06 per cent; Ondo 60,000 bpd-3.74 per cent; Imo 17,000 bpd-1.06 per cent and Abia 11,000 bpd-0.68 per cent. Oil production in the northern zones is zero percent.
Even as the outcry by PANDEF and others over the appointments in NNPC seems to have muscled the president to rejig the appointments to accommodate some people in the South like Magnus Abe from South South, Stephen Dike from South East and Pius Akinyelure from the South West with Mallam Mohammed Lawal, North West, Tajudeen Umar from North East and Adamu Mahmood Attah from North Central this is seen as a drop of tea in the ocean.
For instance many concerned Nigerians have often queried why a greater percentage of the appointed Group Managing Directors since 1999 comes from the North.
A roll call of the 11 GMD of NNPC since 1999 are Jackson Gaius Obaseki- South South, Funsho Kupolokun-South West, Abubakar Yar’Adua-North West, Mohammed Bakindo-North, Shehu Ladan-North, Austin Onuwon- South South, Joseph Dawha- North, Ibe Kachukwu- South South, Maikantu Baru- North and incumbent Melee Kyari.
This is not the first time President Buhari has been criticized over lopsided appointments by individuals and groups. One of such criticisms dating back to 2015 just few months after his assumption of office and his first appointments came from Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA. The group amused by the Presidents initial appointment which was heavily skewed in favour of the North had frowned at the lopsided top level appointments allotted to Muslim northerners which it blamed as the fundamental and underlying reason for the massive disunity and divisions that exist amongst the diverse ethno-religious communities in Nigeria since 2015.
HURIWA had accused Buhari’s administration of creating an atmosphere which planted seeds of discord that has fully germinated and evolved into a near hydra headed monster threatening to tear down the walls of unity which has held Nigeria since October 1st 1960 as an Independent political sovereign nation together.
Beyond the obvious nepotism pursued by Buhari’s government the National Coordinator of HURIWA Emmanuel Onwubiko had equally lampooned the president from not only favouring the North in appointments but zeroing on Hausa/ Fulani Moslems while on the other hand with hunting Christians in the name of fighting corruption. They had pointed at the former Chief Justice Walter Onnogen corruption saga
“Now, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has started using the Code of Conduct Tribunal to witch hunt Christians holding top level positions in government at the centre such as the then Chief Justice of Nigeria Justice Onnoghen, the acting Registrar General of Corporate commission Mrs. Azinge and many others have been removed from office over nebulous charges just for their faith and Ethnic identity just as all the Internal Security Services are all headed by Hausa/Fulani MOSLEMS thereby marginalizing the rest of the nation including Christians, animists and African traditional worshippers.”
A glance into President Buhari appointments since assumption of office in 2015 which he has been accused severally of favouring the North include, Abba Kyari (Late) Chief of Staff, Babachir Lawal former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, replaced by Boss Mustapha, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, Chief of Army Staff, Air Vice Marshal Sadigue Abubakar, Chief of Air Staff, Abdul-raheem, Chairman Federal Character Commission, Hameed Ali, Comptroller General of Nigerian Customs Service, Babagana Monguno, National Security Adviser, Ahmed Idris, Accountant General of the Federation, Lawal Abdullahi Kazaure, State Chief of Protocol/ Special Assistant on Presidential Matters.
Others are Lawal Daura ex DG SSS from North West replaced by Bichi, Col Abubakar Lawal ADC, Garba Shehu Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, Habibu Abdullahi MD Nigeria Ports Authority, Monday Riku Morgan, Chief of Defence Intelligence, North Central, DG Nigeria Maritime Administration, Safety and Security Agency, NIMASA Baba Jauro, Executive Vice Chairman/ Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Communications Commission: Umaru Dambatta [Kano State, North-West], Director General, Budget Office of the Federation: Aliyu Gusau, [Zamfara State, North-West, Comptroller-General, Nigerian Immigration Service: Kure Martin Abeshi, [Nasarawa State, North-Central, Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives, Suleiman Kawu, Kano State, North-West Director, Department Of Petroleum Resources, DPR, Modecai Baba Ladan. [Niger, North-Central, Managing Director, Asset Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON, Ahmed Lawan Kuru. [Kano, Commissioner for Insurance and Chief Executive of the National Insurance Commission, Mohammed Kari [North-West, Acting DG EFCC Ibrahim Magu and Chairman INEC Prof Mamood.
Instructively the bulk of these appointments are from the North East and North West with North Central also marginalized like the South with the most hit being the South East
However with the APC still swimming in murky waters with the president accused by party faithfuls of not doing much to dose the rancor tearing the party apart, this suit is another exposition that many believe will further add to the many troubles confronting the president.