By IFEANYI OTTAH
President Muhammadu Buhari promised Nigerians that he will hit the ground running immediately he assumes office.He swung into action by taking a bold step towards eradicating the dreaded Boko Haram insulgence through regional and global support and more importantly the restoration of Nigeria’s intergrity in the International Community. Buhari has also sent signals to corrupt public officials especially those that served with the last administration that there was no hiding place for them. He vowed to recover stolen funds and prosecute culpits.
However, President Buhari has come under criticism over the delay in appointment of Ministers, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), the Chief of staff and special advisers one month after assuming office and three months after winning the presidential election.
Why some Nigerians are not impressed with the performance of the new government, others argued that Buhari is moving at the right pace and that reversing the tide in a country like Nigeria at a critical time like this demands care and diligence.
An impeccable source has revealed that Buhari’s delay in constituting a cabinet is caused by his reluctance to build on the “rotten foundation” he inherited from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration. He therefore, wants to take his time to sieve through the list of those being considered as ministers.
According to the source, “you cannot even begin to imagine the situation we have met on ground. “Almost everything is in a state of decay. There is absolutely no way the new government can hope to achieve anything long-lasting without first building a new foundation.”
But human rights lawyer, Chief Mike Ugwu, is not impressed with the performance of the new government. He said: “I will say that I am disappointed in several ways. By now, the expectation is that one would have started feeling the impact of change the President promised Nigerians. The only good thing he has demonstrated is his commitment to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency. Nobody can take that away from him.
“Nobody doubts that he means business and is set to flush the terrorists out of the country. But in other areas, I expected much more. I expected him to have tackled the fuel crisis. The crisis started before he came on board and Nigerians were hoping that once he assumes office, he would tackle the fuel crisis headlong.
“Unfortunately, the President has not done anything about the crisis. He has not even said a word about it. It is as if we don’t have a government in place. Buhari is handling things like someone who is not prepared to lead the country. He was there as head of state, so every one expected him to be fast enough.”
However, former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife is of the view that Nigerians should not assess Buhari’s performance based on the few days he had spent in office.
He said: it is not too late to appoint ministers. Buhari needs time to structure his administration. For instance, he wants to prune down the number of ministries, plan to appoint only 19 ministers which I think is a right decision given the state of the economy.
“I think God loves Nigeria and that is why Buhari was elected President. Nigerians should have positive minds because the President needs positive attitude of people to succeed. I am confident that Buhari will do his best to develop Nigeria, given his integrity, pedigree and track record. If he fails, we would have failed as a people. This is why we must all ensure that we support him to deliver on his campaign promises. The President needs the support of every Nigerian to succeed.”
Meanwhile the All Progressives Congress (APC) has also assured Nigerians that there is no reason to fear over the ability of President Muhammadu Buhari to rescue the country from its present economic and social mess.
Making a detailed performance assessment of the Buhari administration in the last 30 days, National Publicity Secretary of the party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said: “There has been motion, and there has been movement, contrary to what is being peddled in some quarters.
“Let me say straight away that my party, the APC, understands and appreciates the concerns of Nigerians as far as the perceived pace of the administration is concerned. We understand that they repose so much confidence in the party and the government to act quickly to stamp out insecurity, tackle corruption, revive the moribund economy, provide jobs and generally restore hope.
“Justifiably, the expectations are high and urgent, and the Buhari administration has started addressing them, despite the enormous challenges that it faces including an empty treasury and an economy that has virtually collapsed.
“The Buhari administration got the handover notes from the former government just four days before the inauguration, hampering its efforts to have a clear understanding of the situation on ground before taking the necessary measures to address it.
If any disease is not appropriately diagnosed, it cannot be effectively treated. Any government that is truly desirous of bringing and without the necessary understanding of what is on ground.
He said the government had availed itself creditably in the fight against terrorism, especially the Boko Haram insurgency; in the fight against corruption and bringing the country back to the comity of nations.
Calling for little patience and understanding from the citizenry, APC spokesman said the way and manner the Buhari administration came into being was unprecedented in the history of the country.
Similarly, President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mallam Garba Shehu also explained why Buhari has not hit the ground running.
He said: “President Buhari did say he would hit the ground running, but he has not been given the chance to hit the ground running because the administration that he succeeded, the Jonathan administration did not deliver the hand over notes until two or three days to the inauguration, meaning that handover notes were submitted at a time when everyone had been consumed by inauguration activities.
“Unfortunately, there was no time to look at them until after the President had been inaugurated. The President was left in the dark. He had to understand what the situation was left in the dark. He had to understand what the situation was and what was on the ground. That was why he set up a different transition Committee. It was only last week that the committee led by Dr. Ahmed Joda scrutinized the handover notes and handed over the report to President Buhari.
“To be fair to him, he would have hit the ground running, if the previous government had handed over the notes early. However, the Jonathan government did not even permit any minister to interact in any way with the Buhari Transition Committee. Evidently, we had our hands tied behind our backs until we took over. Thus, there is nothing shady about it.”
Shehu explained that the ministerial appointments had yet to be made because the Committee needed to conclude its findings first. The committees 800- page report was presented to President Buhari only last Friday.
Shehu insisted that the President has so far shown determination to fulfil his electoral promises to Nigerians. He contended that the administration is just coming on board and the President has been busy setting out suitable modalities on how to actualize his plan of restoring Nigeria as contained in the manifesto of the APC.
He cited the invitation of President Buhari to attend the G7 Summit in Germany recently as a sign that the international community is obviously acknowledging Nigeria’s significant role in global affairs especially with the recent change in government.
He also said the president would do all within his power to guarantee that the Nigerians would not regret entrusting him with national responsibility by electing him during the March 28 presidential poll.
BUHARI’S PLAN TO RECOVER STOLEN FUNDS
The President had penultimate Tuesday vowed that billions of dollars stolen from government coffers by past government officials would be recovered by his government.
Speaking with state governors during his maiden meeting with them at the state House, President Buhari said what happened in government in the recent past was worse than what happened during the second Republic which led to the overthrow of the Shagari administration, but promised that he would do his best to restore sanity to the system. Buhari further said that his administration has received firm assurances of cooperation from the united states and other countries on the recovery and repatriation of funds stolen from Nigeria.
He announced the setting up of a committee under the leadership of the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo to look at the Excess Crude Account and see what can be shared immediately to cushion the effects of the economic crunch on the states. Buhari said although there are procedures and processes for running government agencies and departments, such processes and procedures were “thrown to the dogs.”
He, however, assured state governors that the days of impunity, lack of accountability, and fiscal recklessness in the management of national resources are over in Nigeria.
While expressing shock that the state governors would allow the money in the excess crude account to be spent without accountability since 2011, President of Buhari noted that he would address the issue shortly.
There are financial and administrative instructions in every government parastatal and agency. But all these were thrown to the dogs in the past. Honestly, our problems are great, but we will do our best to surmount them.
“The next three months may be hard, but billions of dollars can be recovered and we will do our best,” he told the governors.
Buhari declared that the payment of national revenue into any account other than the federation Account was an abuse of the constitution, adding that what he heard was going on in many agencies and corporations, particularly the NNPC, was clearly illegal.
On the refund of monies spent on federal projects by state governments, President Buhari assured the governors that the Federal Government will pay, but insisted that due process must be followed.
The President also promised special assistance for the three North-Eastern states badly affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
He also said that a comprehensive statement on the economic and financial situation inherited by his administration will be made to the nation within the next four years.
“We will try and put the system back into the right position. What happened in the second Republic has apparently happened again and even worse, but we will restore sanity to the system,” Buhari assured the governors.
On an immediate life line for states that owe salaries running into many months. President Buhari said that a Committee headed by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, will look at the Excess Crude Account and see what can be shared immediately.
The governors, led by Chairman of the Governors Froum, Abdulaziz Yari of Zanfara state, requested that President to, among other things, ensure the obedience of existence supreme court ruling that all monies go into the consolidated Federation Account.
The governors also implored the President to give a directive that all revenue generating agencies must pay into the consolidated Federation Account.
While also calling for the revenue o f the Revenue Allocation Formula, the governors appealed to the Federal Government to refund monies expended by states on Federal projects as well as a special consideration for the three North Eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe that have been under Boko Haram infestation.
They further called for full disclosure of the amount that accrued into the Excess Crude Account from 2011, and how the money shrank without official sharing.
Meanwhile, President Buhari said that his administration has received firm assurances of cooperation from the United States and other countries on the recovery and repatriation of funds stolen from Nigeria.
Speaking at an audience with members of the Northern Traditional Rulers Council led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar. President Buhari said that it was now up to Nigeria to provide the international community with the facts and figures needed to drive the recovery effort.
“In the next three months, our administration will be busy getting those facts and the figures to help us recover our stolen funds in foreign countries,” the President told the traditional rulers.