By Eric Teniola

Continuing from last week, the piece explains why the Cabinet Secretariat is considered the heartbeat  of government and why it is one of the most guarded departments in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation

FROM 1996 to 2007, top officials that have served in that Cabinet Secretariat included Dr. Kaigama, Chief Olusegun Ogunkua (Baba Ijo), Funsho Osobukola, Venerable Peter Olukayode Okuromade, Babangida Aliyu, Akin Arikawe, Ambassador Joe Keshi who was Nigeria’s Consul General in Atlanta and others. In the lame duck era of President Obasanjo, Ambassador Joe Keshi was the Permanent Secretary and it was a busy period for him and his staff. 

In the coming weeks and months, the Cabinet Secretariat will become a centre of activities to entertain memos from various ministers and heads of government agencies. The question now is: what will President Buhari do in the era of his lame duck Presidency? In the third schedule of the Constitution, Section B states that The Council of State shall comprise the following persons: the President, who shall be the chairman; the Vice-President, who shall be the deputy chairman; all former Presidents of the Federation and all former Heads of the Government of the Federation; all former Chief Justices of Nigeria; the President of the Senate; the Speaker of the House of Representatives; all the Governors of the States of the Federation; and the Attorney-General of the Federation. 

The Council shall have power to advise the President in the exercise of his powers with respect to the national population census and compilation, publication and  keeping of records and other information concerning the same, prerogative of mercy, award of national honours, the Independent National Electoral Commission (including the appointment of members of that Commission), the National Judicial Council (including the appointment of the members, other than ex officio members of that Council), and the National Population Commission (including the appointment of members of that Commission); and  advise the President whenever requested to do so on the maintenance of public order within the Federation or any part thereof and on such other matters as the President may direct.

Between January 20, 2019 and April 21 this year, the National Council of State did not hold any meeting. When the Council met on April 21, the Council pardoned 159 persons. Till date, the gazette on the pardon of the affected persons had not been released. Since President Buhari got to power on May 29, 2015, no Nigerian has been given national honours.

The last time such honours were bestowed on distinguished Nigerians was on September 10, 2012 by the then President Goodluck Jonathan. Does that mean no Nigerian deserved to be honoured by President Buhari? If we are to go by the provisions of the Constitution, giving out national honours and the prerogative of pardon is obligatory. 

Even with his lame-duck Presidency, Buhari can, if he wishes, ensure the victory of the presidential flagbearer of his party. Shell has shut down all land facilities in the Eastern Niger Delta (Bayelsa and Rivers) for about 12 weeks now. And there is no plan to restart them. There is no point. You are pumping over 200,000 barrels of crude into the pipelines and receiving only 3,000 barrels at Bonny terminal.

The rest are stolen along the way through illegal bunkering. Shell is just marking time, waiting to dispose all their onshore assets. They are not worth the trouble anymore. The Federal Government’s borrowing from the Central Bank of Nigeria has jumped to N23 trillion.

The amount as it currently stands is a 2,701 per cent increase under the Buhari administration when compared to N648.26 billion which was the amount as of June 2015, a month after coming to power. The Federal Government takes loans from CBN through the Ways and Means Advances facility used to finance the government in periods of temporary budget shortfalls subject to limits imposed by section 38 of the CBN Act, 2007.

Breakdown of CBN data published on its website shows in 2021 alone the government turned to the apex bank for a loan of N4.34 trillion to push its total debt to N17.45 trillion. Another N704 billion was borrowed in January 2022. A breakdown from CBN data shows that as at the end of 2015, CBN loan to the government stood at N856.33 billion, before increasing to N2.23 trillion in December 2016. T

he amount grew by N1.08 trillion in 2017 to N3.31 trillion. It rose further by N2.1 trillion in 2018 to N5.41 trillion. Government borrowing from the CBN surged by 61.18 per cent (N3.31tn) to N8.72 trillion at the end of 2019. Borrowings hit N13.11 trillion in 2020 after the Federal Government collected another N4.9 trillion to plug its fiscal financing gap.

As of now, the economy is getting worse daily. It is clear that the economic strategy of President Buhari is not working. The issue of the failed economy is affecting all Nigerians as of today. Every home in this country is feeling the pinch. History will be unkind to him if he fails to act on the economy. He came to the scene seven years ago, promising that he will do something about the economy. But look at where we are now. In the past, when there is a security lapse, it is customary of President Buhari to summon his service chiefs to the Villa. 

He is yet to do the same on the economy. The poor state of Nigeria’s economy is worse than the security challenges we are now facing. He does not need to hand over a dead economy to his successor. That will not be a befitting legacy.

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