President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent comment on nepotism and corruption has put a spotlight on a spate of appointments he made that were widely criticised.
Speaking at the maiden edition of the Nigeria Excellence Awards in Public Service in Abuja, last month, Buhari described public service as a public trust where officers and even employees must be accountable to the people whom they should serve at all times with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency.
“They are expected to act with patriotism and think out of the box in order to solve the many problems facing the people they lead,” he said. “At present, issues of corruption continue to affect the civil services in many countries around the world. Several reasons for these issues still exist because of deeply rooted problems like nepotism, cronyism, political patronage, and lack of transparency and accountability. These vices distract them from delivering on their mandate and aspirations.”
In the past seven years, Buhar has appointed several members of his family and close relatives into key political positions.
When Buhari took office in May 2015, his first selections for his personal staff included relatives. He responded to the criticism that greeted these appointments by posing the rhetorical question: “If I don’t grant them appointments, what would then be their reward for supporting me all these years?”
In September 2022, Ahmed Halilu, elder brother to Aisha Buhari, the wife of the President, was appointed as managing director of Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company, the state-owned firm responsible for printing the nation’s banknotes and minting coins.
Others include Abdulkarim Dauda, Buhari’s personal chief security officer; Sabiu Tunde Yusuf, his personal assistant and private secretary; Nuhu Dauda, assistant to the Minister of State for Petroleum; Fatima Mamman Daura; minister of humanitarian affairs, disaster management, and social development; Junaid Abdullahi, executive secretary of Border Communities Development Agency; Hadi Sirika, minister of state for aviation; Suleiman Adamu, minister of water resources; Bashir Jamoh, director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency; and Muhammad Musa Bello, minister of Federal Capital Territory.
Read also: Buhari summons emergency security meeting
All of these appointments were met with criticism from Nigerians, yet all of them have kept their offices. Critics believe this stands in contrast to the President’s statement before he was inaugurated in 2015. He had at the time promised to fight corruption. He had publicly announced to his immediate and extended family members to stay away. He had also threatened that any of them who used his name to garner influence would face the consequences.
“Buhari’s administration has been based on nepotism and favouritism; we all see cases where key positions in the military were held by northerners and many people have complained repeatedly over this,” Salaam Rasak, a political analyst, told BusinessDay.
He said although Buhari has the constitutional right to appoint whosoever he believes is competent, there is a need for objectivity and inclusiveness. “There is no zone in Nigeria that does not have capable hands,” he added.
“Nepotism has always been a serious challenge facing the Nigerian state, even after the 1960 Independence because it is an issue that has really affected the development of Nigeria,” Kunle Okunade, a political analyst, said. “Most leaders, most often, consider pleasing their own people in government by appointing them or awarding them contracts.”
He said nepotism has destroyed the unity of the country, adding: “We want a Nigerian state that will not be driven by nepotism but by meritocracy. We want a Nigeria that will embrace competence and sincerity on the part of the public office holder.”
Okunade stressed the need for equity and fairness in the country.
PwC, in a 2017 report, titled ‘Impact of corruption on Nigeria’s economy’, said corruption encourages hiring based on nepotism, cronyism and patronage, not merit. “Therefore, reducing the quality of public institutions.”
“Corruption in Nigeria could cost up to 37 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2030 if it’s not dealt with immediately. This cost is equated to around $1,000 per person in 2014 and nearly $2,000 per person by 2030,” Uyi Akpata, country and regional senior partner, West Market Area of PwC, said in the report.