21 MONTHS, NO EXECUTIVE SECRETARIES, NO BOARD MEMBERS: HOW BUHARI, MUHAMMED BELLO RAN FCT AGROUND

Nearly two years after, Buhari yet to appoint FCT EXCOs

The FCT Minister, Mohammed Bello, has been running the territory with ad-hoc secretaries in the last 17 months.

It has been over 16 months since the minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Bello, was appointed and sworn in. The inauguration was his second – having concluded his first tenure in the same position in 2019.

However, since Mr Bello’s inauguration, the FCT Executive Council is yet to be formed. The mandate secretaries for the secretariats under the FCT have not been appointed.

These secretariats serve as ministries in the states, the mandate secretaries are equivalent to state commissioners while the FCT, the 37th state.

The mandate secretariats, seven in total, were created under the Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA) following an Executive Order by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on the dissolution of the ministry of FCT in 2004.

They are; Area Council Service, Agriculture and Rural Development, Education and Health and Human Services.

Others are Legal Services, Social Development and Transport.

This was, in a way, to ensure smooth operation of the administration of the nation’s capital.

Acting secretaries

Upon his inauguration, the minister is expected to send a list of nominations for the post of mandate secretaries to the president for approval.

Rather than appoint mandate secretaries, Mr Bello appointed most senior officers in the secretariats as acting secretaries.

 

It is not clear whether President Muhammadu Buhari has received and/or approved such nominations but the seven secretariats have been without secretaries for almost two years, multiple sources at the FCTA across different secretariats, who did not want their names mentioned for fear of victimisation, confirmed this to PREMIUM TIMES.

Neither the president nor the minister seems bothered about the absence of a constituted exco at the FCT.

While they expressed dissatisfaction at the minister’s mode of sole operation, they blamed the situation for the slow ‘progress’ of work across the federal capital.

“It’s not just here,” one of the staff said, referring to their secretariat. “It is all the secretariats.”

“Since his second term started, almost two years now, nothing. First time, we heard he was waiting for approval from the president. Later, we heard the president had already approved some names. We don’t know which one is true. People are not really happy.”

Another staffer of the FCTA had similar comments.

“There are no secretaries in all the departments,” he said. “The minister just appointed the most senior officer to act in that capacity. All we have now are acting secretaries. That’s where we are. We don’t know what the delay is about.”

Not the first time

Apparently, this is not the first time the president and the minister are “taking time” to appoint mandate secretaries.

 

When he was first appointed in 2015, Mr Bello did not appoint secretaries until almost a year later. No reason was given for the delay. He only said the appointments were in accordance with sections of the Federal Capital Territory (Establishment of Functionaries and Departments) and Ministry of Federal Capital Territory (Dissolution) Order No. 1, 2004 as modified.

Many have blamed the current deteriorating state of the FCT on the government’s failure to appoint secretaries who they believe would better administer the major departments.

The minister scored below average in a PREMIUM TIMES’ analysis on his performance in the last one year. This was majorly because he recorded more failures than achievements compared to the promises he made upon assumption of duties.

Some of the failures of the Bello-led administration are poor state of the roads in the territory, crime rates which escalated as a result of lack of utilities like street lights and the absence of CCTVs has made it worse to detect these crimes.

There are also rising cases of armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, ‘one-chance’, killings, among other attendant security lapses (most of which happen at night) thereby rendering the FCT increasingly unsafe.

Also worthy of mention is the poor waste management system and the trend of open defecation, especially in satellite towns and villages of the federal capital.

Appointments of secretaries not a priority

An official, who has authority to speak but sought anonymity, said the minister’s failure to appoint mandate secretaries is neither an issue nor a priority at the moment.

He said no project was stalled and departments of the FCTA have been carrying out their duties diligently.

The entire country, including the FCTA, is battling COVID-19 and that is everybody’s focus.

“We have been battling COVID-19 since early 2020 till date. The FCT has been commended for its response to the pandemic. And in reality, they did a fantastic job in handling the matter.

“The absence of a secretary for health and human services did not have any negative effect on our handling of COVID-19. No effect on the education sector either. Throughout last year, the entire country was only focused on COVID-19 and saving lives and keeping people safe. People shouldn’t even be talking about appointments and so on not when we have a major crisis.

“When people come to complain of this, I ask them “what changed? Did the work stop? Did we respond well? So what exactly is missing? For a government that knows its priorities, we are in the middle of a fight. If we don’t focus on COVID-19, what should we focus on?” he told this reporter.

While he informed that the FCTA will not dignify the grievances of the people with a response, he said the current acting secretaries are working with the full powers of secretaries and with decades of experience – most of whom he said have handled the positions better than anyone else.

Presidency, National Assembly keep mum

While an authoritative source at the FCTA, who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES, craved anonymity, the presidency has refused to comment on the issue.

Both presidential aides to the president, Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina did not take calls made to them. They also did not respond to text messages requesting their comments, about 24 hours later.

Same was the case when this paper contacted some lawmakers for questions.

The FCT senator, Philip Aduda and Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on FCT, Tolu Odebiyi, did not respond to calls and text messages. The chairperson of the said committee, Abubakar Kyari, could not be reached via phone.

The lawmakers, many say, should also raise questions regarding the gap in the FCT administration majorly because they are meant to check the excesses of the executive and because they approve the annual budget of the federal capital – hence the need for oversight for the implementation of the appropriation.

They recently approved N199 billion for the FCT’s 2020 revised budget.

Who is to blame?

The minister who has the power to appoint is to blame and his failure to do so says a lot about our attitude towards institutions, Samson Itodo, activist and executive director of Yiaga Africa, said.

He said Nigeria has a political class that doesn’t uphold the rule of law because if it does, the minister would have been compelled by just the culture and constitution to make those appointments.

There is also the fragility of the state. The fact that the minister has not appointed boards and he’s still going about his daily duties, it tells you that the state itself is weak, he said.

“Because there’s lack of accountability, impunity prevails and becomes the order of the day. When you have institutions that cannot hold government officials to account or keep them in check. Also, the underbelly of this attitude is just politics. One of the core pillars of political order is the mobilisation of citizens into political institutions to meet the demands of the people.

“The fact that these appointments are not made not only weakens the institution it also precludes the state from mobilising people into these institutions. Because you are losing the opportunity to harness the potentials of those people in managing state affairs. Again, it’s just politics.

“It’s either the people who are most qualified didn’t get appointed at the end of the day. Because it is quite difficult for merit to be the guiding philosophy when we make appointments into public office. These institutions have been bastardized and they can’t function because the people who man them are not competent. Or simply because appointments are a reward for loyalty and sycophancy, not necessarily merits.”