• Ministers change phone lines
From ODIMMEGWA JOHNPETER, Abuja
LOBBYISTS, essentially business executives and political jobbers have invaded the federal capital territory, Abuja, seeking one favour or another from the newly sworn in ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The business moguls, according to our investigation, are seeking plum contracts from the ministries while the political hangers-on are seeking to be aides to the new ministers or secure appointment as Special Advisers to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Their claim to such jobs and positions is that at one level or another, they have campaigned for the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
Human traffic of these lobbyists to the federal secretariat, Maitama, Abuja, is said to have increased tremendously in recent weeks especially in the run up to the inauguration of the new Federal Executive Council, FEC, by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Apart from government offices taken over by these lobbyists, most high profile hotels in Abuja have become a bee hive of activities resulting in owners of these hotels smiling to the banks.
The situation is such that many of them are fully booked forcing the political hangers on to have taken over the party secretariat in the FCT as alternative accommodation.
Ministries said to have attracted the heaviest traffic, according to National Daily investigation, include those of Power, Works and Housing, Petroleum Resources, Transportation, Health, Information, Environment and Education, to mention just a few, because of plum jobs always awarded by them. However, conspicuously absent from this rush to Abuja are bank chief executives who usually, in the past, lobbied for ministries’ accounts to swell their vaults.
Their absence, according to our investigation, is not unconnected with the introduction of the Treasury Single Account, TSA, introduced by the present administration to minimise fraud and corruption in public accounting procedures. Since its introduction, financial institutions across the country are said to have lost deposits to the tune of about N2.0 trillion.
The political jobbers, we also found out, include Nigerians in the diaspora who are seeking to put their expertise into building a new Nigeria in accordance to the APC’s change mantra. This category of lobbyists claim to have one link or another with top APC leaders and have at one time or another campaigned for the ruling party in their respective countries of sojourn. These links, we found out, had promised them positions as either advisers or heads of agencies and parastatals where they can bring into practice the experience they had gained in foreign lands to develop to develop their fatherland
We learnt on authority that a good number of them had arrived the country immediately APC was pronounced winner of the 2015 general elections while others had arrived in the past few weeks in the run up to the appointment of new ministers.
Meanwhile, it is expected that President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to announce the names of his remaining 14 Special Advisers any moment from now having secured approval from the 7th National Assembly to appoint no fewer than 15 Special Advisers. Since getting the approval, only his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina has been named.
There is evidence that the matching order given by President Muhammed Buhari to the new ministers during their inauguration in Abuja may have been breached.
The newly inaugurated ministers were explicitly told to hit the ground running and to avoid engaging a large retinue of personnel aides and staff which as was the case with the previous ministers before them and which constituted a drain on government resources.
Investigation by National Daily revealed that shortly after inauguration the ministers were almost swarmed by job seekers who want to be made Special Assistants, Special Advisers or Personal Assistants.
We found out that in some cases, it got to a head that some of the newly inaugurated ministers were forced by this development to change their phone numbers and even hotels to avoid unnecessary distraction by people known and unknown to them pestering them for appointment as personal aides.
In one of the ministries in the federal secretariat complex, a staff disclosed to National Daily that no fewer than six people had come to introduce themselves as newly appointed personal aides to the new minister, for the same post.
We discovered that the very desperate ones among these hangers-on had employed the assistance of their church pastors, Imams and even traditional rulers in order to have their way.
One of the newly inaugurated ministers was so inundated by such job seekers in the hotel he lodged that he gave orders to the hotel management that nobody should be allowed into his hotel suite without his explicit permission.
There is also evidence that some of the newly inaugurated ministers were being stalked in churches and the vicinity of mosques where the new ministers had gone for worship.
Some of the ministers to avoid being stampeded by job seekers were fast in appointing their aides immediately after being inaugurated. This deft move went a long way to put a stop to the antics of these job seekers who were immediately told there is no vacancy. But some of the new ministers actually confessed that their hands were tied an account of the presidential directive to have very limited aides thereby making it difficult for them to accommodate their numerous political associates and family members. A source in one of the ministries said that some of these job seekers confessed that that they were actually promised these appointments by some of these ministers who unmindful of the consequence made multiple promises to numerous individuals before the president came with his embargo.
A staff in one of the ministries disclosed that one of these job seekers actually came to the ministry to announce his appointment as Chief Press Secretary to the new minister. It happened that Chief Press Secretary is a civil service cadre post and not an appointive post and the person he was introducing himself to happens to be the substantive chief press secretary to the new minister.
There is a widespread view that the newly inaugurated ministers are yet to come to terms with the fact that they are in a government which wants to cut the cost of governance to the barest minimum.
This has a lot to do with their background, being former governors and chief executives in their immediate former post they are used to large retinue of aides and staff and are therefore finding it difficult to adjust to the presidential directive. There is ample evidence that some of these ministers may not have been adhering to the presidential directive with regards to the appointment of aides. There were cases of multiple appointments of aides associated with the new ministers and some have also delayed these appointments on this account. Social commentators were of the opinion that the only option left to the new ministers if they are hell bent in having these extra aides is if they will agree to pay them from their pocket and not from the coffers of government.