A Must Read: Joe Abah Reveals It All On Twitter

“When the SGF announced, correctly, that Boards if agencies have no powers to suspend a DG or Executive Secretary, a few people, like @afalli and @DoubleEphasked what was the point of having Boards if they can’t discipline the CEO. I promised to answer, so here goes.”

First, some caveats. Boards in the public sector are the same as Boards in the private sector. In the private sector, the Board appoints the CEO & even sets his remuneration. Naturally, the CEO reports to the Board and they have the powers to discipline him. They approve actions. In the private sector, Board members are people with sufficient knowledge and experience to guide the CEO. They also use their contacts and influence to make life easier for the CEO. In the public sector, Board membership is part of an elaborate and entrenched patronage system. Let me tell you how it happens. When you have “worked for the party”, you have often expended your money, time and intellect, and sometimes even put yourself at great personal risk to get your party into office. When your party gets into power, you are expectant of some reward. Now, there is a hierarchy of expectations. If you have “worked for the party”, say as a Governor or top financier, it is normal that your reward is high up the hierarchy. Top on the list is a Ministerial position. You get to nominate the Minister that will represent your state. It is unlikely that you can make yourself Minister, unless you are a governor or top financier. Except maybe you were a leader of a party that merged into the ruling party. Usually, they will nominate a trusted ally that will make sure that sufficient “rewards” flow to them. If you miss out on the Ministerial position, the next best thing is the headship of a “Grade A Agency.” Examples of such agencies include NIMASA, NPA, NCC and TETFUND. It is virtually impossible for apolitical, technical people, like Joe Abah, to be appointed into these agencies. Oh, I mustn’t forget NDDC. Have you ever seen an NDDC MD that didn’t run for political office? I haven’t. Were you really expecting these people to deliver development? Let me borrow the favourite phrase of people on this platform when they don’t believe something and say “Lol!” If you miss out on a “Grade A Agency” like NDDC, the next in the hierarchy is an agency with a large budget and huge contract awarding powers, like say UBEC. Let’s call those “Grade B Agencies.” If you miss out these, there are “Grade C Agencies” that can offer employment. The lowest grade is technical agencies like BPSR and NBS. These ones have no money and need a lot of brain power and integrity. Nobody really wants them but they are better than nothing. If you miss out on these, then you are looking at Ambassadorial positions. The real politicians don’t want these because an ambassadorial position takes you out of the local politics equation and destroys your support base. However, ambassadorial positions also have grades. Ambassador to the USA and UK are top of the hierarchy. These are manageable. Next are the ambassadorial positions that can facilitate business and trade, like being ambassador to China, Malaysia, etc. You can use your connections as ambassador to actually become quite relevant. If you are ambassador to Togo, e get as e be, but it’s better than nothing. This is not to say that good technical people are never appointed to any of the above positions purely on merit. They can and it happens. Now, if you have “worked for the party” and have missed out on all these, the only thing left is Board appointments. Therefore, when the President doesn’t compose Boards, you get agitated and complain that people that “worked for the party” are not being taken care of. You are more bitter when people that didn’t “work for the party” are offered these appointments. You kick. Board appointments also have hierarchy, according to the “grades” I outlined. Even beyond the “Grade A Agencies” are the “supra-state” organisations, like NNPC. Story for another day. At the bottom is the Board of agencies that have little or no money, like Film Certification. Then, there is the hierarchy of whether you’re appointed Board Chairman or simply a Board Member. Some politicians can decline appointment into the Boards of certain agencies or appointment as a mere Board member. You might feel it’s not commensurate to your efforts for the party As our people say: “At all at all na hin bad pass.” You accept. Then you are confronted with new rules that the government put in place since late 2014/ early 2015 to reduce the cost of governance. From early 2015, Boards can only sit a MAXIMUM of 4 times a year. Before then, the Circular said between 4 and 8 times a year. From 2015, it is now a MAXIMUM of 4 times a year for which they will be paid sitting allowance. They can get flights and hotel accommodation plus a sitting allowance of, I think, only N35,000 per sitting. Therefore, after all you did “working for the party”, you expect at least to be able to influence the award of contracts or to get family members and friends employed in the agency. If you get a difficult DG or Executive Secretary@who wants to sanitize the agency, wahala dey. You wonder why it is during your own time that this is happening. Your anger is really not aimed at the DG or ES. Well, maybe partly because you would have expected him to be more “accommodating.” Your main anger is really at the President that sent you to this “Siberia.” When this “nonsense”goes on for too long, is it not better to suspend him and “scatter everything”, even though you know you don’t have the powers? By doing so, you will at least bring the matter to a head and make the President aware of your “plight.” Am I communicating? Depending on the Establishment Act of the Agency, Boards are often empowered to appoint and discipline DIRECTORS, not the DG or ES. DGs and ESs are appointees of the President. Their salaries are set by the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission. Renewal of their tenure is the sole prerogative of the President. He, alone, can discipline them. This is a CONSTITUTIONAL power. Even the Minister cannot, unless acting ON BEHALF of the President. The Board and the Minister can RECOMMEND to the President through the SGF. Boards are empowered to approve contracts that are above the DG/ES’s approval threshold of N2.5 million. This is a source of control for the Board. Contracts above N50 million must go to the Ministerial Tenders Board chaired by the Perm Sec of the Ministry, NOT THE MINISTER. Contracts beyond N100 million must go to FEC approval. I won’t digress into issues of procurement here. Story for another day. The reason why it was done this way is to avoid collusion by the CEO and the Board just to chop big money. It’s public money, so need checks & balances. If the CEO could be fired or suspended by the Board, the politicians that have “worked for the party” will simply get the CEO to award all contracts to them and appoint their family members into all positions. There is no pretense that Board members exist to add any value. So, you see? Public sector Boards are not constituted for the same reasons as private sector Boards. It is purely for patronage. Do we need public sector Boards? Not really. A DG/ES can constitute a Technical Advisory Panel of experienced people to advice him. If as a President, you don’t appoint into Boards, you risk the anger of your party. How you go do am na? Especially as, if things are done properly, they shouldn’t really cost that much but will enable politicians to print cards to say they are Board members and keep them happy. I don tire. I will find time one day to write a book about all these. For now, suffice it to say that we need a Public Service Act that clarifies who has the power to do what, to avoid confusion and a mismatch of expectations. We pushed for this when I was DG BPSR. End! Opinion contained in this article is strictly the writer’s and not Aledeh’s. 

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