Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, sacked 26 Director Generals (DGs) of different Nigerian government parastatals, about a quarter of them information-related. Among the sacked heads of agencies were the DG’s of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Bank of Industry (BOI) and the National Agency of Food and Drug Administration of Nigeria (NAFDAC). However, the most notable of the sacked DG’s was the Head of Nigeria’s Budget Office, Yahaya Gusau, who was appointed by President Buhari just six months ago. Mr. Gusau has, since yesterday, been replaced by Tijjani Abdullahi, who is a Director at the Integrated Trust and Investments Limited, a brokerage firm based in Nigeria.
The 2016 budget has become a source of embarrassment to the country after it was reported that figures were inflated and allocations made to some ministries could not be justified. Civil societies have requested that President Buhari recall the budget from the National Assembly. Perhaps this has always been the norm with Nigeria’s budget figures every year and the latest has come into light because Nigerians, en masse, are now more interested in budget appropriation. It seems the sacking of these DGs, including the Budget Office DG is Buhari’s first step in righting the shortcomings of the office concerning the 2016 budget. President Buhari also chose the immediate former Commissioner for Planning and Budget for Lagos State, Ben Akabueze, as his Special Adviser to the Ministry of Budget and National Planning.
However, the sacking of the Budget Office DG by President Buhari is an indictment on him as well, since he appointed the man into office six months ago. After promising Nigerians that he was going to elect credible and accountable people into office to work for him, it appears President Buhari is a bad judge of character. Along with Mr. Gusau, the whole padding of the budget is also an indictment on the Ministry of Budget and National Planning and its head, Mr. Udoma Udoma, another one of Buhari’s appointments. The submission of the budget to the Nigerian Senate meant that both the Budget Office and the Ministry of Budget and National Planning had deliberated and sat on it and made changes for the president to present to the National Assembly. All of this implies that the government parastatal might have been sleeping on the job when the budget was being “padded” or both organisations are implicit in the act.
The Budget Office and the Ministry of Budget and National Planning are not the only bodies to blame in this whole fiasco. The fact that Aso Rock’s Chief of Staff, or whoever designed Aso Rock’s budget, allocated questionable figures for Aso Rock under President Buhari’s nose, perhaps, also suggesting that Buhari has not been observant enough. Choosing people that are credible and accountable is one thing, ensuring that they remain credible and accountable after is another.
Nigerians look on to see if President Buhari’s new appointments will be better than the last and whether he would put to practice his “change” mantra. In the meantime, however, he should apologise to Nigerians for maybe two reasons; for not electing competent people into office and for the cosmic embarrassment caused by the whole budget issue. After all, majority of Nigerians voted for him to serve them and this budget appropriation delay will set Nigeria back at least a month.