While government officials are expected to be on the same page on major policy issues, BIYI ADEGOROYE writes that discordant tunes from many members of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet smack of a government without internal harmony
A few months to the terminal date of President Muhammadu Buhari’s rule, it seems the entire government architecture is in disarray, as Ministries and departments work at cross-purposes devoid of required synergy.
In recent times, Nigerians have observed more individual actions by members of the president’s cabinet and departmental heads, especially where they were expected to maintain a harmonious position in policy formulation, execution and take collective responsibility in the defence of such.
Instead they seem to have taken varied and discordant viewpoints on government policies in a whirlwind of actions and public utterances which indicate disharmony among ministries, departments and parastatals.
Redesigning of Naira
The latest signpost in this direction is the current government plans to redesign the nation’s legal tender, the Naira, in order discourage currency hoarding and to garner the over three trillion notes, which according to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, are outside the banking system.
However, Nigerians were miffed last week when the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmad, told a committee of the National Assembly that her Ministry was unaware of the planned redesigning of the Naira.
The CBN, however, caused not a little storm when it stated that it had the nod of the president, adding that the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, is represented by two persons on the Board of the CBN.
The bank’s spokesman, Mr Osita Nwanisobi, stated “The Management of the CBN, in line with provisions of section 2(b), section 18(a), and section 19(a)(b) of the CBN Act 2007, had duly sought and obtained the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari in writing to redesign, produce, release and circulate new series of N200, N500, and N1,000 banknotes.”
The CBN reacted immediately stating that the lender of last resort requested for and obtained presidential approval before embarking on the move, apparently without concurrence of the Finance Ministry.
Observers have argued that it is at variance with global practice for a supervisory ministry to be oblivious of the actions of a parastatal under its supervision, or in particular, for the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to be in the dark about such policy which is at the centre of the national fiscal and economic policy.
Frontline economist, Dr. Ayo Teriba, argued that it was unheard of that the Federal Government or indeed any central bank around the world would embark on such major policy change without the concurrence of the Finance Ministry. “Do you think the US Federal Reserve (its central bank) or its counterpart in the UK can embark on redesigning currencies without the concurrence of the Secretary of Finance,” he asked rhetorically.
US terror alert
The posture is not any different when the US gave its Security Advisory on alleged impending terror attack in Abuja, the nation’s capital. Information Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed discountenanced the intelligence, retorting that the intelligence was baseless and diversionary.
He went further to say that the government will not be stampeded to take any action over travel advisory by the United States (U.S.) but rightfully stated that there was no cause for alarm, as security agencies were working hard to keep the country safe.
He said: “This so-called travel advisory, as far as we’re concerned, as a government, we have, in the last few months, taken a firm handle of security.
“What I said is that click-baiting, which is when you find a story which is not verified and you immediately share it, always causes panic. But I want to reassure both citizens, non-Nigerians, Nigerians living in this country, that security agencies are on top of this matter.
“Of course, the terrorists would not stop to try to embarrass or intimidate government but what I’m saying is that this country is safe; and there’s no cause for alarm, no cause to panic.
“We don’t need it. The security, our soldiers, our police are working round the clock to contain any terrorist attack. This is where we stand.
“The concrete step is that people should stop spreading unverified news. You see, look how many school shootings happen in the US? How many senseless killings happened in the US? So, have they been able to predict what’s going to happen next; which school is going to be a victim next? Do Nigerians in the US also feel safe?”
He asked those disseminating such security advisory to stop demarketing their home country. “Every country has its security challenges. We have ours and we are facing them.”
Though the Federal Government denied
govnied any such threats, President Muhammadu Buhari postponed a scheduled inauguration of the NASENI Complex and summoned an emergency meeting with security chiefs in Abuja, where he reviewed and strengthened the security network in the country.
Coming penultimate Monday, against the backdrop of the Saturday terror attacks in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, which claimed 104 lives and injured about 300 persons, the action pointed to the fact that government by its move were leaving nothing to chance.
During the over eight-month strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU), Prof. Adamu Adamu, the Minister of Education and his counterpart in the Labour Ministry, Dr. Chris Ngige, were hardly on the same page over the crisis and moves to resolve it.
Rather their inability to forge a common front was said to be responsible for the mindless protraction of the industrial action which not only disrupted the academic calendar, but also culminated in the withdrawal of many students from public schools, and relocation of hundreds of university lecturers outside Nigeria.
Similarly, on October 2 this year, Ngige had displayed a dissonant and incautious attitude when stormed out of a meeting between ASUU and the Labour Ministry organised by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, one of the sixth most senior persons in the APC-led government.
The action was reminiscent of an occurrence about two years ago when the same Labour Minister was at daggers drawn with one of the Directors-Generals under his Ministry, for several months until the matter was settled. He was also at war with the National Employers Consultative Association and the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) over an alleged mismanagement of N3.5 billion.
Kola Ologbodiya, a spokesman of the PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar’s campaign organisation said that Nigerians have moved beyond the Buhari administration and are thinking about the 2023 elections. According to him, the entire series of internal conflict in the government indicate that the incumbency factor the candidate of the APC wants to bank on is a quicksand.
“All of their activities since 2015 go to show that they do not understand the fundamentals of governance, especially in the area of harmonious activities and collective responsibility. And that is why they have roundly disappointed Nigeria,” he said.
Some prominent APC chieftains whose reactions were sought on the issue neither picked their calls nor responded to text messages. But a media analyst said the development, which is not new, attests to what he called lack of coordination in the government. “This series of internal contradictions have been part of the government in the last six years.
Remember in January 2018, following the massacre of hundreds of people in Benue State, President Buhari, as the Commander-in-Chief ordered the then IGP, Idris Katung to relocate to Benue and bring the situation under control.
“But months later, it was discovered that he failed to carry out the order, neither did the National Security Adviser follow up to ensure compliance. Though this is not a parliamentary system of government which has collective responsibility as its cardinal principle, but a presidential government, this recurrent action is very disturbing,” he said.
He added, though, that on the security alert, every government will openly downplay such intelligence report, especially in view of the global publicity given to to it, in order to reduce national apprehension, though it would act and indeed the Nigerian government has acted upon it.