Federal Boards Dissolution: Civil Society Groups Hail Buhari, Offer Advice On Way Forward

Source: thewillnigeria.com

BEVERLY HILLS, July 21, (THEWILL) – Civil Society Groups working on Transparency, Accountability and Good Governance in Nigeria have commended President Muhammadu Buhari on the Dissolution of Boards of Federal Government Parastatals, Agencies and Departments on July 16.

The commendation came in a statement signed by representatives of 17 Civil Service Groups on Tuesday. In the statement, they also offered some useful advice to the President on the way forward.

The statement reads: “The undersigned Civil Society Groups working on Transparency, Accountability and Good Governance in Nigeria wish to publicly commend President Muhammadu Buhari for his bold and courageous decision to dissolve the Boards of Federal Parastatals, Agencies and Departments in Nigeria.”

“The landmark decision taken by Mr. President and announced on July 16th, 2015 is not only timely but has come as a great relief to the management and staff Federal Parastatals, Agencies and Departments nationwide, and to ordinary Nigerians who have watched helplessly as Boards have become the conduit for corruption in the country.

The stakeholders of the respective agencies who have operated under fear and bondage following the unwholesome activities of the so called board members especially in the last eight years have also applauded this decision. We in the civil society movement welcome and support Mr. President’s decision for the following reasons:

“ Appointments to serve on the Board of any government agency, parastatals or Department ought to be based on the track record, experience, professionalism, industry exposure, competence and integrity of the appointee. The appointment therefore should be an opportunity to give -back, by bringing this wealth of knowledge and influence to help the agencies and parastatals in developing enduring policies and strategies to move the organization to higher level in pursuit and realization of its mandate.”

“Unfortunately, what we find in Nigeria, especially in the last 6 years, was a situation where job seekers, influence peddlers, sycophants, political party jobbers clearly lacking in experience, knowledge, competence and integrity were appointed into Boards to preside over the affairs of very sensitive organisations as compensation for their political support or pay-off in anticipation of future support.”

“The implications of this ugly development resulted in a situation where Board meetings were turned into forum to plot and appropriate allowances, plot useless duty tours, fight over contract awards and other unwholesome practices that undermined the work of the agencies.”

“We are aware that in many of the Federal Agencies, the Board members simply met only for the purpose of allocating to themselves hefty sitting or monthly allowances that were neither approved by relevant statutory government authorities nor provided for in the national budget.”

“In most of these Board meetings, the main reasons for their convening, which ought to be assisting the government in developing policies and strategies for efficient performance of the duties of the organizations were usually abandoned. This is because Board appointments have become an avenue to settle the ‘boys’, and pacify supporters.”

“We are also aware that the Boards of many Parastatals have become drainpipes to loot the resources of the organisations through the procurement of goods, works and services in flagrant breach of appropriate laws and regulations. Many of those who bought their way to secure Board appointments did so for reasons of being in a position to dispense contracts in the organisations to themselves and cronies.

“We are also aware that the managements of many Federal Parastatals, Departments and Agencies have been hijacked by part time Board members who impose themselves to operate full time in flagrant abuse of the law of the land. The Management and Staff of the Agencies are usually intimidated with threats of sack or dismissal and blackmailed to keep quiet. We are aware that overbearing influence of so-called Board members has affected the zeal, enthusiasm, and commitment of most management and staff to carry out their functions without fear or favor. This is particularly evident in the academia where people who have no understanding of the education sector are appointed as Governing Board members, taking over policy-making which has partly accounted for the systematic desecration and decay in our institutions of higher learning.”

We are very much aware that the anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria are also seriously affected by these “locusts” and “parasites” called Board members. We have cases where political jobbers, praise singers, lacking in character, integrity and competence are appointed to serve either as Chairmen and members of reputable anti-corruption organisations in Nigeria. This has brought severe consequences that are too difficult to measure in the eyes of the Nigerian public and the international community. Our institutions of higher learning are not spared where semi- illiterates and drop – outs are offered the position of members and Chairmen of Governing Councils etc.

We are aware that some of these Boards were reconstituted in the last days of the Jonathan presidency as a parting gift for party loyalists whose agenda is at variance with the change mandate that the new government has received.

This is why the decision by Mr. President to dissolve these Boards is not only laudable but deserving of the support of all well-meaning Nigerians.

In constituting the new Federal Boards, we join all concerned Nigerians, especially the management and staff of Federal Government Agencies, to appeal and suggest to Mr. President as follows:

“Mr. President should resist any attempt by the so-called Board members affected by this dissolution to lobby their way back into reckoning. Many of them have already embarked on self-serving, selfish, questionable and subjective interpretation of laws they claim to have set up. There should be no such thing as exemption. Mr. President’s position that only Boards listed in the 1999 constitution is clear enough and should be binding and sacrosanct. What we expect is a new beginning.”

“Mr. President should please carefully review the policies, methods and criteria for appointment and constitution of Federal Boards through clear definition of standards, guidelines and benchmarks. This will help to eliminate the influx of touts, quacks, rent seekers, hanger-on and people without experience, competence or integrity.”

“In line with Mr. President’s vision to block leakages and cut cost, the number of Board Members to various organisations needs to be drastically reduced.”

“Appointment to the Boards of anti-corruption organizations whose core mandate are built on integrity, transparency and accountability should be based on careful selection and wide consultation. Besides, the selected nominees should be published in national dailies for Nigerians to comment on their suitability, character, competence and integrity. Such reputable agencies include Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), etc.”

“All allowances and entitlements of Board members must be restricted to those defined by law and extant government regulations and no more. The tendency for Board members to sit down in meetings to appropriate spurious allowances and fathom benefits for themselves must be faced with severe sanctions. The accounting officers of all agencies must be put on the alert.”

In the constitution of the Boards, this new government must show clear change and departure from the previous regimes' culture of “job for the boys' or “go and chop appointments”. Only men and women with track-record of excellence, results, professionalism, industry, competence and integrity should be invited to serve in Boards as an opportunity to give back to their country.

“The Civil Society Groups working on Transparency, Accountability and Good Governance in Nigeria will resist any attempt to drag the country back to the dark era that has just ended.”

The statement was jointly signed by Ezenwa Nwagwu, Partners for Electoral Reform; Eze Onyekpere, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ); Edetaen Ojo, Media Rights Agenda (MRA); Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC); Y Z. Ya'u, Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD); Idayat Hassan, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD); and Jaye Gaskia, Protest to Power.

Others are Zikirullahi Ibrahim, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG); M. B. Attah, Procurement Observation and Advocacy Initiative; Okeke Anya, State of the Union (SOTU); Lukman Adefolahan, Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC); Olanrewaju Suraju, Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC); AkpoBari Celestine, Social Action; Samson Itodo, Say No Campaign; Chioma Kanu, Women in Nigeria; Bilkisu Yusuf, Advocacy Nigeria; and Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED).