President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday, February 4, 2021 extended the tenure of Mohammed Adamu as the Inspector General of Police (IGP) by three months. Adamu was due to retire from the Nigeria Police Force on Tuesday, February 2, 2021, having spent the maximum 35 years in service. The extension has become a subject of debate in Nigeria.
And on Tuesday, February 2, the Federal Government convened a meeting with executives of the Senior Staff Association Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Educational Institutions (NASU) over their planned strike action scheduled to start February 6. The labour unions had on January 22 issued a two-week ultimatum to the government. The two incidents depict some of the recent belated actions by President Buhari.
It baffles the imagination why President Buhari takes delight in responding late to critical national issues. Matters such as appointment of a new police chief or negotiating with university staff whose activities would further cripple academic programmes of public universities after a nine-month strike by lecturers were not seen by government as deserving urgent attention.
Incidentally, the planned strike by SSANU and NASU was over the non-implementation of the agreement they entered with the Federal Government some years ago. On the other hand, the new Police Act signed by President Buhari in September last year provides for tenure of four years for the Inspector-General of Police. The appointment and ratification of a new IGP is the responsibility of the Police Council chaired by the president. From the day IGP Adamu was appointed, it was common knowledge that he would retire on February 2, 2021. Unfortunately, the president decided to do nothing until his tenure expired. And rather than do the needful, Adamu was given a three-month extension, an act that is both illegal and unconstitutional.
The habit of delay in taking decisions on critical national issues by President Buhari did not start today. It took him 54 days after his second term began on May 29, 2019 to send a list of ministerial nominees to the Senate for screening. In 2015 when he was sworn in for the first time, Nigerians waited for six months before the list of ministerial portfolios and offices was announced.
Buhari forgets that problems in the country rather than wait, keep getting bigger
When he took office six years ago, he made sweeping promises – which he has almost entirely failed to keep. The euphoria at his inauguration rally was palpable. Speaking to the cheering crowd, Buhari promised to clean up the country, which in 2015 ranked 136 out of 167 countries on the Corruption Perceptions Index. Today his promise of a clean break from the dirty politics of the past, corruption and his vows to revive the flagging economy and defeat the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency have become a mirage. From 136th position in 2015, Nigeria is now 149 in the corruption perception index, according to the Amnesty International.
When elected in 2015, very few people doubted Buhari’s ability to clamp down on the Boko Haram attacks in northeastern Nigeria – after all, he was a former military general. And he initially made significant gains. But recently, Boko Haram has ramped up its attacks against both the military and civilians and the situation has dramatically worsened, no thanks to the same delay in taking decisions when it matters. For instance, it took Buhari more than two years to remove his first set of service chiefs, even after he openly accused them of performing below the average.
In central Nigeria, farmers and herders are clashing over land while several parts of the country are being hit by a wave of kidnappings and violence by armed bandits.
Why can’t Nigeria’s military, despite a budget of around $1.5 billion, get a handle on such clashes and attacks? President Buhari is the commander-in-chief, why is it difficult for him to bring these acts under control?
In October 2018, the Nigerian Army fired on dozens of unarmed Shia Muslim protesters in Abuja. The army admitted to killing 45. According to a New York Times video, some of the dead protesters had bullet wounds on their back, an indication that they were shot while fleeing.
The consequences? None. The military made its own investigation into the shooting, with no real results. A near similar incident happened last year during the youth protest against police brutality under the hashtag ENDSARS. Soldiers were accused of killing many of the youths. What was President Buhari’s reaction? Nothing. He failed to condemn the killings, choosing instead to stay silent.
All in all, silence or belated action is a normal scenario for Buhari’s administration. He only reacts when many lives are already unnecessarily lost. Buhari has also failed to deliver on his promise to tackle the country’s economic woes.
For cynical observers of this administration, the adverse effect the drawn-out wait for the ministerial list had on Nigeria’s economy was not worth it. If anything, it was a reminder of the snail-speed approach that the current administration has adopted in managing the nation’s affairs.
Furthermore, the nation’s security sector is in poor shape; abductions and terror attacks are becoming commonplace. There seems to be no end in sight to the Fulani herdsmen crisis either. The economy is still being supported by foreign loans, and there have been grim prognostications from the likes of the International Monetary Fund. For us to move forward and fast, President Buhari and his cabinet have to change their attitude to national issues. That is the way to go.