Buhari’s 100 Days in Office: Change Sans the Speed of Light -By Obo Effanga

Filed under: National Issues |
Obo Effanga

Obo Effanga

 

I equally bemoaned the inadequacy of vital data on citizens, a necessity for development planning. I called on government to immediately strengthen and expand the national citizens’ registration system to ensure that every citizen from birth is captured in the database. I equally called for the harmonisation of every other citizens’ data capture such as from voters registration, international passports, telephone SIM registrations and the bank customers’ registration. Happily, the president gave the directive to the appropriate agencies to harmonise their data in that regard.

So now it is 100 days of the President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) presidency, and there is so much ado about it, almost like it is the time to carry out the first in a series of continuous assessment tests. The man has all of 1461 days in his four-year term. So what is the fetish about the first 100 days or is he expected to resolve all our problems within this period? But then, I recall that Buhari arrived the presidency on the wings of ‘Change’, the agenda of the All Progressives Congress (APC), while waving the party’s broom, which many may have mistaken for a magic wand.

But guess what, there is a difference between campaign promises and citizens’ wishes on the one hand and the reality of governance on the other hand. That seems to be dawning on everyone already. And the earlier we come to terms with it, the better for everyone, so we know that real change cannot happen at the speed of light.

On Buhari’s emergence, I ran a series called “My Change Wish List”. So far, I am glad to say the president has answered some of the points raised there, and if I may add, within the celebrated 100 days. Not that I cared if it happened so early or later, provided it was real. Here are some of my wishes which have so far been realised.

I had called on the president to limit the number of his political appointees to its barest minimum. I was specific that we do not need more than 20 ministers but that having regards to the provisions of the Constitution, he should not exceed 37 ministers. I am yet to know if this would be answered until the president appoints ministers. But on the number of his aides, the president requested Senate approval to appoint just 15, much fewer than we have ever had in recent times. If he sticks with that, he would have met my wish. But I also asked him to design clear job descriptions for every appointee to avoid overlaps and thus cut inefficiency. I still look forward to seeing that happen.

Another wish I made was for the president to ensure that proper audits are carried out when due and the reports of such audits are implemented. The president recently directed the auditor general of the federation to ensure that all outstanding audit queries are responded to within one month and every new one must henceforth be responded to within a day.

But it seems the citizens are in a hurry to feel much more changes than have been seen, especially in PMB constituting the full complements of his cabinet. September is here already, the month he promised to appoint ministers… I equally wonder the legal effect of criminal prosecutions at the federal level where there is no Attorney-General, the only official constitutionally empowered to commence, maintain or discontinue every criminal proceeding on behalf of the federal authorities.

On the issue of the costs of governance, I called on the president to show leadership by ensuring a drastic reduction in the budget of the presidency and by extension the Executive arm so as to be on the right moral platform to request similar reduction from the other arms. Until I see his budget proposal for 2016, I may not be able to say conclusively that we are there. But I was thrilled to hear that the president and his vice are taking pay cuts, added to the reduction in the number of personal aides.

My other change wish was for the president to ensure that government no longer gets unduly involved with the private affairs of citizens through the sponsorship of people to attend religious pilgrimages. The president has since withdrawn government sponsorship for these. But I am still at a loss about why the government pegged the exchange rate of the dollars at N160 for pilgrimage, as reported by John Kennedy Opara, the head of the Christian Pilgrims Commission, after he met with Buhari. The point remains that Nigeria is a multi-religious state and the participation of some privileged citizens in religious tourism adds little or no value to our development. So there is no justification for wasting public funds to subsidise their purchase of dollars for the trips.

I equally bemoaned the inadequacy of vital data on citizens, a necessity for development planning. I called on government to immediately strengthen and expand the national citizens’ registration system to ensure that every citizen from birth is captured in the database. I equally called for the harmonisation of every other citizens’ data capture such as from voters registration, international passports, telephone SIM registrations and the bank customers’ registration. Happily, the president gave the directive to the appropriate agencies to harmonise their data in that regard.

On corruption, I called for the immediate audit of certain government agencies which currently operate in opaque manners, detrimental to the wellbeing of Nigeria and its citizens. These include the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Happily, the makeover of the NNPC has started and I hope that of the CBN will soon happen.

No doubt the president has carried out a lot more changes, especially in the area of anti-corruption, an area that has become synonymous with his person. On Thursday, he and the vice president finally issued a statement detailing the information they filed in their assets declaration with the Code of Conduct Bureau.

But it seems the citizens are in a hurry to feel much more changes than have been seen, especially in PMB constituting the full complements of his cabinet. September is here already, the month he promised to appoint ministers. While at it, he must expeditiously reconstitute the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), lest the gubernatorial elections in Kogi and Bayelsa run into a fiasco. I equally wonder the legal effect of criminal prosecutions at the federal level where there is no Attorney-General, the only official constitutionally empowered to commence, maintain or discontinue every criminal proceeding on behalf of the federal authorities.

Mr. President may have done well in the changes so far, but he needs to add some speed and urgency to the task.

Obo Effanga is Governance Manager at Actionaid Nigeria and can be reached on [email protected]

 

Comments

comments