Senior members of the Buhari administration, who are from the Niger Delta region, on Wednesday, defended the president’s choices of political appointees, rejecting claims that the appointments were lopsided in favour of the north where Mr. Buhari comes from.
The officials are the Head of Federal Civil Service, Winifred Oyo-Ita; Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Uguru; and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Ita Enang.
They spoke at a reception organised by the Akwa-Cross Association in the Public Service in Abuja on Wednesday.
Mr. Buhari has been accused of being insensitive to Nigeria’s diversity, and handing majority of his government’s key positions to northerners.
However, the three officials said the president followed the principles of the federal character as entrenched in the constitution.
Mr. Enang said Mr. Buhari had been very kind to the South South, particularly Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers States. He said the region had been given sensitive positions.
“The president is following, strictly, the standard federal character processes,” Mr. Enang said. “He has given us the Chief of Naval Staff, a very high ranking officer in the federal security Council. He has given us the minister of Budget and then, my humble self, as the Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Legislative matters. He has also given us the minister of Niger Delta Affairs.”
“In the entire South South region, he gave us minister of Transportation in charge of about three ministries merged together. He also gave us the minister of petroleum.
“When I see people trying to incite others against the president over matters of appointment, I conclude that they are being unfair, and that is why we gather here today to appraise the appointments and to appreciate the president,” he said.
Mr. Enang, a former senator, said that Mr. Buhari, despite his tight schedule, went to Cross River State to inaugurate the construction of a super highway from Cross River to Benue State.
He said Buhari had also provided N6 billion to dualise the road from Calabar to Itu, en route Ikot Ekpene, to Aba in Abia State adding that, the contracts for the Calabar – Lagos rail project which will take off from Calabar enroute Aba, had been signed.
On the issue of alleged lopsidedness of the ambassadorial nominees just submitted to the senate, Mr. Enang said the issue was being addressed.
“It was already raised on the floor of the senate and it has been communicated to the appropriate authorities and appropriate actions are being taken to make sure all sections of the country are being carried along,” he said.
In her own submissions, Ms. Oyo-Ita also dismissed allegations that Mr. Buhari was “unduly favouring a section of the country while carrying out his appointments”.
He said merit and competence formed Mr. Buhari’s criteria for appointments.
“President Buhari allows competence and merit to be brought to the fore in his appointments and we are very happy about that,” she said. “A doorway has been opened for appointment based on merit. If it could happen to me, it could equally happen to anyone else.”
“As civil servants, go ahead, do the best you can. When you continue to put in your best, you excel on your jobs and duties, you may not know who is taking note of you.
“At a point in time in the future, somebody would single you out and you would wonder who recommended you. So, let us continue to excel, and practice the fear of God,” she added.
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Uguru said that appointments were not being made on the basis of North and South in Nigeria but on the number of states in the country.
“The North has 19 states and federal character has provisions for states and not regions. Therefore, until we carry out that analysis, there would be no authentication to claims that the North are being favoured in terms of appointments than the south.
“Nigeria is not configured on the basis of North and South, it is configured on the basis of states as entrenched in the constitution.”
On the escalating insurgency in the region in the Niger Delta, the minister said that the Niger Delta Avengers were not carrying arms against the country because of the alleged lopsidedness in the appointments into key federal positions by the current administration.
“We are continually engaging the youths in various ways and participating in other activities to assuage the situation. We are persistent in persuasion, advising government and following up on the programmes that should be of productive engagement to the youths,” he said.
Former Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma – Egba, advised the federal government to continue to engage members of the Niger Delta Avengers on the need to ensure peace in the oil rich region.
“There is the need for engagement and dialogue. There will be grievances but we need to talk it over in the atmosphere of peace. There is the need to review the amnesty programme to see what we were not doing properly.
“Whatever that is due to them in the Niger Delta should be given to them, whatever had been started should be seen to completion.
“President has given assurance that every part of the country would be taken into consideration in making the appointment. So we hold him to his words.”
The Chairman of, Akwa-Cross Association in the Public Service in Nigeria, Edem Bassey, said the essence of the gathering was to honour people from Cross River and Akwa Ibom recently appointed by Mr. Buhari.