By Yusuf Alli, Abuja
Ex-President seeks sack of PTDF chief, four others…
There is anxiety among some key strategists of President Goodluck Jonathan over a “curious secret” letter written to their boss by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The chairman of the Board of Trustees (BOT), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), recommended candidates for the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) and four other key agencies.
He advised the President to remove the heads of the agencies to avoid what he called unnecessary lobbying and distractions.
But some of the President’s strategists are querying the motive of Obasanjo’s letter because, in their view, he is seeking to replace some Northerners who are heading the agencies with his candidates.
Some Emirs, who worked for Jonathan’s victory in the April election, are said to be unhappy with Obasanjo’s plans to remove Northerners in the agencies.
The Emirs’ suspicion of Obasanjo’s agenda followed a call at a meeting of the National Caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by the former President that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, should step down for a Southwest candidate in 2013.
Obasanjo made his five demands in a September 16 letter to the President.
In the letter, which The Nation stumbled on at the weekend, Obasanjo said he had observed with deep concern what he called the continued public outcry over the grossly poor performance of some Federal Government interventionist agencies, which he named.
“Some of the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of these agencies are currently being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on allegations of corruption and their integrity in office has been tremendously eroded,” he said, adding:
“These mentioned agencies are critical to the realisation of the transformation agenda of your administration and their poor performances and low public ratings has (sic) the capacity to undermine the transformation agenda, hence the need to effect leadership changes in these agencies in order to achieve their target goals.
“In this connection, I am to strongly advise Mr. President to consider and approve the names of individuals earlier nominated for appointment as CEOs of these parastatals to take over from the existing CEOs.
“These new CEOs will be tasked to reform and reposition these agencies to fall in line with the transformation programme of the government.”
Obasanjo listed those who should replace the CEOs. He said they were chosen according to their experiences and “carefully selected by the PDP leadership and given to me as Chairman of PDP Board of Trustees (BOT)”.
Apparently to appease the President, a candidate has been recommended from Bayelsa State.
Obasanjo’s move has caused some disquiet in the North. Four of the agencies are headed by Northerners. Some Emirs are not happy with the “curious” proposals of the ex-President, sources told The Nation.
One said: “Why will Obasanjo try to cause disaffection between the President and the North at this critical period that Jonathan is trying to reconcile all groups? He is trying to shortchange the North by making it to lose four slots and gaining only two offices back.
“Nobody is happy with the plans of the ex-President that have leaked to Northern leaders. The President should ignore Obasanjo’s recommendations. These CEOs are midway into their tenure. The President should not be used to cause any conflict.
“We want Obasanjo to be more open by telling the nation who among the PDP leadership he consulted on the recommended candidates.”
Obasanjo’s plan for the PTDF has caused anxiety among some presidential strategists.
A source said: “Officially, it is strange for a former President to make observations and at the same time recommend candidates to replace officials heading some agencies.
“Besides, Obasanjo got his ‘facts’ wrong because only one among the heads of the five agencies, was recently quizzed by the EFCC. The letter is misleading because of its blanket conclusion on the heads of parastatals.
“More importantly, all heads of agencies are always subjected to quarterly assessments by security agencies, especially the State Security Services (SSS). So far, the records with the government have shown that they are performing well.
“We are also worried that Obasanjo has taken more than a passing interest in PTDF, which caused a crisis of confidence between him and ex-Vice-President Atiku Abubakar. What is his business with PTDF again?”
The Fifth Senate’s probe of the PTDF led to the mudslinging between Obasanjo and his ex-deputy Atiku.
The Senate Review Committee on the PTDF later submitted a report, which was dated March 20, 2007, referring Obasanjo to the Code of Conduct Bureau for what it called “further action”.
The committee said: “In respect of some projects commenced by the PTDF in 2006—Incorporation of Galaxy Backbone, purchase of computers and Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria’s rehabilitation – for which Mr. President gave approval and later got them ratified retroactively, the committee views the action of the President as illegal and therefore refers Mr. President to the Code of Conduct Bureau for further action.”
The presidential approvals were in respect of payment of N250m to a law firm for the incorporation of Galaxy Backbone; $10m for the purchase of computers for civil servants outside the scope of PTDF and N1billion for DICON.
Based on the committee’s report, two Abuja lawyers- Mr. Ugochukwu Osuagwu and Opara Ifeanyi – in 2008, asked a Federal High Court in Abuja to order the Code of Conduct Bureau to prosecute Obasanjo for alleged mismanagement.
But Obasanjo made a counter-claim, in a 38-page written address submitted to the court through his counsel, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN).
Citing a list of 48 authorities, including past judgments, Obasanjo explained why he could not be prosecuted.
He said: “That after the Review Committee finished its work, it was taken back to the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for ratification.
“That the Senate in plenary on the 10th of May 2007 overruled the decision of the Review Committee as far as the 1st Defendant (Obasanjo) was concerned, holding that the 1st Defendant acted in good faith to the benefit of the country.
“That a copy of the proceedings of the Senate in plenary on the 10th of May 2007 is hereby attached. That the Senate in plenary has the final say on issues referred to Committees.
“That the Plaintiffs are mischievously suppressing the fact that the Report of Senate Review Committee dated the 20th of March, 2007, which they relied on and the recommendation of the Committee that the 1st Defendant should be referred to the 2nd Defendant(Code of Conduct Bureau) for prosecution, was rejected and/ or refused by the Senate in plenary.”
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