Nigerians were shocked by a gale of last-minute decisions taken by outgoing administrations that pervaded the nation in the run-up to the last general elections and transition to the new government.
From the awards of ridiculous – and suspicious – contracts to the appointments of members of boards of government agencies and others to the disposal of public assets, the federal and state governments embarked on a race against time as their helmsmen prepared to leave office.
Many of them behaved in ways that gave the impression that theirs would be the very last administration in their respective domains. It was curious that outgoing administrations took critical decisions, including requests for loans, in the twilight of their tenures.
Governors whose terms had ended reeled out names of members of boards and commissions, and caretaker committees of local government areas. They announced strings of approvals of capital projects and arranged the sale of public assets. Surprisingly, some of these decisions were taken with the active support of the legislatures, which gave them legal backing.
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While some of these decisions may be legally okay, their timing was questionable and in some other societies, the rationale for such measures would need to be ascertained.
For instance, former President Buhari, on Sunday, May 28, 2023, announced fresh appointments. This was just a day to the end of his presidency.
Much earlier, on May 3, he had through a letter to Ahmed Lawan, the Senate President, asked the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly to confirm the appointments of 12 nominees of the governing board of the North East Development Commission.
Two days later, on May 5, the former president announced the re-appointment of members of the Board of Trustees of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund. This is just to mention a few of such appointments.
It would be recalled that in Osun State, where the gubernatorial election was held earlier, former governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, appointed 30 permanent secretaries, after the opposition party had won the election. He also approved the recruitment of personnel into the teaching service and medical sector with just a few days left to the end of his tenure.
It was the same scenario in Kaduna State, where former governor, Nasir El-Rufai, on April 25, barely a month to the end of his tenure, appointed 15 new judges, including seven state high court judges, five Sharia Court of Appeal judges, and three Customary Court of Appeal judges.
His counterpart in Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, on May 2 appointed 23 permanent secretaries and 15 directors-general for the state government’s agencies. This was in addition to the appointment on April 14, of 23 caretaker chairmen for the local government councils in the state.
The same scenario played out in Cross River State, where former governor, Ben Ayade, on May 4, announced the appointment of five new permanent secretaries.
These actions are at variance with the essence of leadership. Leaders at all levels should be concerned about the legacies they should leave behind after occupying such exalted positions for so long – some for four years, others eight. While they occupied these offices, they had all the opportunity to etch their names indelibly on the minds of the people they were governing by offering quality service to them.
Therefore, as their tenures drew to an inevitable close, they should have been concerned more about how they affected the lives of their people over the period they held sway in their respective states. This should have been their major preoccupation, instead of bothering themselves with the sale of the states’ lands and buildings, and other assets.
There should also not have been any need for these last-minute appointments, which obviously have the colouration of attempts to place some persons in certain areas. The actions of the former chief executives are akin to a tenant who is packing out of a house and rather than leaving peacefully, begins to destroy the apartment.
What they did in the last hours of their tenures was clearly an abuse of the concept of continuity in government. There are hardly any of the above-mentioned cases and others that could not wait for the new administrations to take over.
Therefore, Daily Trust calls on the president and new governors to take steps to review some of these last-minute decisions by their immediate predecessors, including appointments, expenditures, and loan agreements. We encourage the new administrations to set up committees to examine the genuineness or otherwise of such decisions with a view to recovering any funds that might have been wrongly spent. Any of these appointments found to have fallen short of extant rules and regulations should also be reversed.
On a broader level, we also call for legal provisions to establish the permissible actions and decisions that an outgoing administration can take within two or three months to the end of its life. Such a provision would be quite necessary to checkmate the last-minute rascality of public officials and restore sanity to governance in the country.