Recession: Experts warn states as governors justify bloated appointments

  • Despite recession, Federal Government keeps 145 aides, 43 ministers
  • Ayade won’t sack 6,000 appointees, govt must spend more – Commissioner
  • States have too many SAs, some govs charter aircraft, says economist

The high cost of governance is not about to take a plunge soon despite the nation’s economy falling into recession due to the high number of political appointees at the federal and state levels with their humongous remuneration.

Rather than heeding the call of experts and citizens to reduce the cost of governance by pruning down the number of political appointees, many state governors are making fresh appointments for different reasons.

C’River has over 6,000 appointees, says Ayade’s aide

For instance, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, Christian Ita, said the governor had over 6,000 political appointees and would not sack any of them even in the face of recession.

Among the appointees are 39 commissioners, over 100 special advisers and over 300 special assistants. There are also senior special advisers.

Ita told one of our correspondents, “When the economy is in recession, it is the duty of the government to spend more so as to reflate it.

“There are various ways of doing this. One of the ways is that we keep workers on their jobs. If you sack them, where will they get absorbed? Is it the private sector, which is almost dead?

“The total number of political appointees in Cross River is roughly about 6,000.”

Abiodun appoints over 100 aides

Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, is keeping over 100 aides, including commissioners, special consultants, special advisers, senior special assistants and special assistants, despite the clamour for a cut-down on expenses.

The governor has 20 commissioners and about 60 senior special consultants, special advisers, special consultants, senior special assistants and special assistants, in addition to 28 chairmen and members of boards and commissions.

It was gathered that 11 aides were appointed in the Ministry of Information and Strategy alone.

It was further learnt that almost all the 20 ministries had at least two special advisers or special assistants each.

When contacted, the Special Adviser to the governor on Public Communications, Remmy Hassan said the state had the smallest cabinet in the country.

Hazzan described counting of the statutory commissions and boards as part of the cabinet as unfair.

He said, “The summary of Ogun State appointments as of today based on statutory necessity and other things is that we still have the smallest cabinet any state can boast of.”

The Akwa Ibom State Government said the number of political appointees in the state was manageable and therefore it was not considering pruning it for now.

The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Ini Ememobong, said the government was not operating in the blind.

‘Ganduje has no plan to reduce aides’

Kano State Governor, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, has no fewer than 50 political appointees, including commissioners, special advisers and senior special assistants.

The Deputy Governor, Dr Nasiru Gawuna, also has an unspecified number of aides.

Commenting on the number of appointees, an official of the government, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the governor had no plan to reduce the number of his aides in view of the fact that the number of political appointees in the state was negligible when compared to other states.

The Commissioner for Information, Muhammad Garba, and the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Abba Anwar, did not take their calls.

Tambuwal has 435 political appointees

As of the last count, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State had over 435 political appointees.

The latest additions to his cabinet are three commissioners, two special advisers and two directors-general, whom he inaugurated on October 8, 2020.

The appointees include 29 commissioners and 46 special advisers. The rest are over 60 senior special assistants and more than 300 special assistants.

A source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, asked our correspondent, “How do you expect the governor to sack his allies just like that because of the fear of recession?

“We are not new to recession. Is recession as threatening as coronavirus? If you are suggesting that the governor should sack his appointees, what fraction of the state’s resources do you think will be saved?”

When contacted, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Tambuwal, Muhammed Bello, refused to confirm the exact number of the governor’s appointees.

Bello’s response via an electronic mail was, “What for?” and he refused to respond to follow-up questions.

Ugwuanyi’ll continue to appoint aides – Commissioner

In Enugu State, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has numerous political appointees. It was gathered that the governor was still making fresh appointments.

Apart from commissioners, the governor has special advisers, senior special advisers, technical advisers, technical assistants, executive assistants and special personal assistants, among other appointees.

As of April 16, 2020, Ugwuanyi had 22 commissioners and 20 special advisers.

The number of his special personal assistants is not known as government sources said the governor was making fresh appointments almost on a weekly basis.

Also, there is no comprehensive list of Ugwuanyi’s special assistants, executive assistants, technical assistants and technical advisers.

It is believed that the governor has over 600 executive assistants and technical assistants as he has one or two persons in each community. Enugu has 460 communities and 260 political wards. He has one SPA in each ward, making a total of 260 SPAs.

The Commissioner for Information, Mr Chidi Aroh, said, “The governor has as many special assistants and technical assistants as he requires to run the government. There is no specific number for that; these are aides he requires to work. So, as necessity allows, he will continue to appoint aides, who he needs for any work.”

On whether the governor is not mindful of the current recession and cut down the number of his appointees to free up funds for projects, Aroh stated, “Recession does not mean that the government should shut down.”

In Ondo State, investigation revealed that Governor Rotimi Akeredolu had over 100 aides made up of commissioners, special advisers and special assistants, among others.

Eighteen of the political appointees are commissioners in charge of various ministries.

When contacted, the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Donald Ojogo, declined comments on the matter.

However, a source in the governor’s office stated that Akeredolu might not reduce the number of his aides in his first term, which ends in February 2021.

Presidency keeps 145 aides, 43 ministers

At the federal level, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo have 145 aides, according to an updated list of political appointees obtained by The PUNCH.

Those listed include the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Folashade Yemi-Esan; 27 ministers; 16 ministers of state; and 145 presidential aides.

The presidential aides, according to the document, include the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari; Deputy Chief of Staff to the President (Office of Vice-President), Adeola Ipaye; State Chief of Protocol to the President, Ambassador Lawal Kazaure; eight special advisers; 55 senior special assistants; 64 special assistants; 13 personal assistants; and two technical assistants.

Of the eight special advisers, only the Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business, Office of the Vice-President, is donor-funded.

This means that the occupant of the office draws salary from donor agencies and not from the government’s coffer.

Eighteen SSAs, 19 SAs and one technical assistant are also donor-funded.

Some of the presidential aides are also attached to ministries such as the Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Information and Culture; Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning; as well as the Office of the First Lady, Office of the Chief of Staff to the President and Office of the SGF.

Efforts to get the reaction of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, did not yield results.

The presidential aide did not take his calls and had yet to respond to a text message sent to him as of the time of filing this report on Sunday.

The message sent to him seeking his reaction read, “One of the solutions being suggested for the nation’s quick exit from recession is cutting the cost of governance. Will the Presidency consider reducing the number of ministers and presidential aides sir?”

According to the remuneration package for political, public and judicial officers posted on the website of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, the annual basic salary of ministers, the SGF, the HoS and chairmen of constitutional bodies is N2,026,400.

This is apart from regular allowances that include those for motor vehicles’ fuelling and maintenance, special assistant, personal assistant, domestic staff, entertainment, utilities, security, monitoring, newspapers/periodicals, accommodation, furniture, medical leave, duty tour, estacode, motor vehicle loan and severance gratuity, among others.

States have too many SAs, some govs charter aircraft – Economists

Economic experts, who commented on the high number of political appointees, said the size of government in the country was bloated.

The Chairman, Foundation for Economic Research and Training, Prof. Akpan Ekpo, said the cost of governance in some states in the country was “heavily bloated.”

The former Director-General, West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management, said in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, “Some of the states have too many special assistants and personal assistants, and some of these SAs and PAs don’t do anything. Some governors have aircraft; some charter aircraft whenever they are going to Abuja. It’s a lot of money they spend on chartered planes.”

A professor of Economics at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, Sheriffdeen Tella, asked the government to cut down on appointments and focus revenue on areas that could impact the economy.

A former President, Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, Dr Sam Nzekwe, advised the government to cut recurrent expenditure, adding that making political appointments to settle special interests was not acceptable as it was expensive.

Appointments that will better the lot of the masses and the downtrodden should be encouraged, he said.

Nzekwe stated, “What they are doing is that they are giving political patronage to thugs, who helped them to win elections; that is very dangerous.”

A professor of Political Economy, Pat Utomi, said there was no justification for the size of government that Nigeria had been running for the past 20 years.

“The biggest danger in Nigeria’s governance is security and protocol. In a serious democracy, politicians should be closer to the people and be unsafe with too many aides. We waste public resources on these things,” he said.

The economist suggested a citizen legislature.

He stated, “Until we change the mindset of the politician as the servant and stop glorifying power, our country will be in a development crisis. Let us change the nature of the National Assembly and opt for a citizen legislature – a part-time National Assembly. People should take up other jobs wherever they are. They get together for a certain number of days in a year, make laws and go back to their businesses.”

Utomi asked for the implementation of the Stephen Oronsanye report and stimulation of production to grow the nation’s economy from recession.

Rise up against governors, CSJ, NES tell Nigerians

The Centre for Social Justice and the Nigerian Economic Society also condemned the bloated governments currently being run by many state governors.

Both organisations wondered why some governors were expanding the government through appointments despite Nigeria’s current economic recession.

Similarly, the Business Manager, NES, Prof. Adeolu Adewuyi, said most governors would end up borrowing to pay the appointees and further plunge their states into debt.

He stated, “The finances of the government during recession or now that we are just recovering from COVID-19 will shrink. Therefore, there is a need to manage.”


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