Journalism of Courage

SERAP to Buhari: Withdraw board appointments that include at least 8 dead persons

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “withdraw without further delay the list of appointments to the boards of agencies and parastatals in order to remove a clear and recognizable danger to the integrity of these bodies, and allow the civil service systems to carry out the appointments, in strict conformity with established rules and Nigeria’s international anticorruption obligations and commitments.”

Buhari had on Friday approved the constitution of the governing boards of agencies and parastatals, appointing 209 chairmen and 1258 members to fill the board positions. However, it has been discovered that at least 8 members on the list have since passed away. Among others, Buhari appointed Rev. Christopher Utov as a Member of Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research. Rev Utov, the proprietor of Fidei Polytechnic, Gboko passed away on March 17, 2017.

In a statement today by SERAP deputy director Timothy Adewale the organization said, “Appointing at least 8 dead people as board members would seem to suggest that the 1,467 appointments approved by Buhari were unscreened for competence, merit, equity, aptitude and conflicts of interest. Going ahead with these appointments would neither advance due process nor Buhari’s oft-expressed commitment to prevent and combat corruption. It would create a lack of trust and confidence among the general public.”

According to the organization, “Taking partisan politics out of the appointments to boards of agencies and parastatals is one surest way for Buhari to show that his government is truly one of change, that would do things differently from successive governments that apparently handed out board appointments to reward party members, supporters and cronies.”

The statement read in part: “Withdrawing the appointments and directing and allowing the civil service systems to follow due process to reappoint chairpersons and members to the boards of these agencies and parastatals would bring the government’s practices and operations into conformity with Nigeria’s international anticorruption obligations, particularly the UN Convention against Corruption. Nigeria has ratified the convention.”

“It’s absolutely important for Buhari to ensure that the process through which board appointments are made is transparent and merit-based. A merit-appointment system would produce a better qualified board, and ultimately improve the governance architecture and access of Nigerians to essential public services. It should be the practice of this government to make board appointments on the basis of ability, and not because of political influence or connection.”

“Taking these appointments out of the hands of a small elite group and strengthening the civil service systems and allowing them to deal with board appointments and other similar appointments in a professional, efficient and effective way would greatly decrease political influence or bias in the appointment process, and make the operations of these agencies and parastatals less dependent on partisan politics, which would in turn help improve the ability of the government to deliver effective policies and the much-needed good governance, growth and development to Nigerians.”

“Letting the civil service systems get on with board appointments would also assure basic bureaucratic ‘hygiene,’ and help to facilitate the establishment of strong boards that would be better placed to ‘deliver the goods’ to Nigerians in the democratic context. It would ultimately bring about higher effectiveness and improved government legitimacy.”

“Specifically, Article 8 of the convention makes it mandatory for the government to promote integrity in public administration and to synchronize systems, measures and mechanisms for handing out public jobs. Similarly, Article 7, paragraph 1, requires the government to establish and strengthen systems for board appointments based on the principles of transparency, efficiency, and objective criteria such as merit, equity, and aptitude. The government is equally obligated to establish systems to prevent conflicts of interest and influence peddling in board appointments.”

“The president also appointed Chief Donald Ugbaja as a Member of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC). Chief Ugbaja, a former DIG of the Nigerian Police, died on November 29, 2017. Another person, Senator Francis Okpozo, was appointed as Chairman of the Nigerian Press Council. But Okpozo, a Senator in the Second Republic, died on December 16, 2016.”

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