Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said appointments made by President Muhammadu Buhari favour Christians as well as the southern part of the country.
Speaking in an interview with a group of journalists and social media practitioners in Lagos weekend, the vice president dispelled allegations of nepotism against the President.
The transcript of the interview was yesterday released to State House correspondents by the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande.
The vice president noted that the membership of Buhari’s cabinet comprised 18 Christians and 18 Muslims.
However, he pointed out that the two biggest appointments in government – the post of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation are held by Christians.
Osinbajo said four of the five south eastern states had substantive ministers while seven northern states had ministers of state.
He said the number of Chief Executive Officers of federal agencies from Anambra State was more than the number of those from Buhari’s home state of Katsina or anywhere else except Ogun.
The vice president said apart from assigning three huge portfolios to a single minister from the Southwest (Power, Works and Housing), Buhari also assigned two other sensitive portfolios (Communications and Finance) to ministers from the zone.
He said although the constitution requires that each state must have a minister in the federal cabinet, the president has a choice in assigning portfolios.
He said: “Look at the cabinet, for example, from the point of view of the religion, it has an equal number: 18 Christians, 18 Muslims; but, we have the Secretary to the Government of the Federation as well as the Head of Service who are Christians.
So, we have 20 Christians to 18 Muslims; that’s the structure of the cabinet. So, if you take that narrative you may argue that perhaps the Christian have the upper hand; that’s a possible narrative.
“Let us look a little deeper into that … The South East, for example, has five states. Four of the South Eastern states have senior ministers; all of them, except one, who is Minister of State for Education.
“In assigning particular portfolios he does (have a choice). In the north, seven northern states have no senior minister, including the President’s home state, Katsina.
“Now, there are those who will say, if you are nepotistic; surely seven northern states have no senior minister. It’s a narrative depending on how you want to run it.
“I give you another example; I’m from the South West. There are people who will say “I am from the South West, the North has everything.” The South West, for the first time in the history of this country, has one Minister who is in charge of three ministries: Power, Works and Housing. The Ministers of Finance & Communications are also from the South West. These are critical ministries. You can run the narrative in whichever way that you choose.
“There are those who will say, for instance, look at the number of CEOs of agencies of government; the highest number of CEOs in our nation today comes from Ogun State, the state has the largest number. There are those who will say that’s his state (i.e VP’S State). So you can run the narrative depending on how you want to run it.
“The president has admitted that, yes there are situations where you can find certain things as true and he intends to have a look at that. For example, you’ve given the example of security positions and he said he is going to take a look at look at it.
“I believe that is the way to go because you can run any narrative that will suit the figures you are showing. There are people who don’t know that the number of CEOs from Anambra State is more than the number of CEOs from Katsina State or anywhere else, except Ogun.”
Osinbajo also faulted the recent Nigeria’s rating by Trasparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, saying the Buhari Administration focused on fighting grand corruption.
“I think that by even Transparency International’s own assessment, Transparency International uses nine different indexes to come to a conclusion.
“In four out of those indexes, Nigeria moved up, in another four Nigeria stabilized & dropped in only one index. So in aggregation, it (T.I) then decides that it has fallen in certain number of points below where we were.
“I think the important thing to bear in mind about Nigeria’s anti-corruption fight is that the government has done what it ought to do by focusing on grand corruption.
“Grand corruption is the type we experienced years before when, for example, $15 billion was lost in defence contract. Two, three weeks to election, N100 billion in cash was taken out, and again $293 million in cash, two weeks, three weeks to election.
“That’s the kind of impunity; and of course you are also familiar with the scam that went on in the NNPC at the time; the so called statutory contracts, that’s grand corruption. That is the corruption that crippled the economy of the country.
“Let me tell you very quickly how you can recognize that we have scaled a good deal on grand corruption today: despite the fact that we are earning 60 percent less in revenue, we are actually able to spend more than ever before in the history of this country on infrastructure.
“In 2017, we spent about N1.3 trillion on capital. That’s the highest in the history of the country. So, we are able to do far more with far less because we have controlled the impunity that went on, the grand corruption, and all of that.
“But then, you cannot address the corruption as you go through our airports, our ports or as you go through government offices, in many cases. That’s where the whole perception emerges.
“We must have a deeper and much wider way of dealing with corruption. How are you going to do that? You must have an efficient way of doing that; like automation, removing discretion from individuals,” the vice president said.
Asked what the institutionalized process of fighting corruption was, Osinbajo responded: “Institutionalization is not a one-off thing, it’s a process, and we are dealing with that, that’s exactly what we are doing.
“For example, the TSA and being able to look at government accounts and all of that is one way of institutionalizing a process by which you can be sure of what people are doing, how this things are happening.
“The process of allowing the EFCC to do its work without dictation, saying that ‘look, this is what the EFCC is doing’, and giving them every support that you can. These are ways of institutionalizing. And it is that same process that we are taking in the public service – automation.
“For example, look at all that we have done in the ease of doing business. The whole point of doing that is institutionalizing processes, so that when you come into Nigeria you can get your visa after applying online; so that Customs don’t have to sit around the airport, that is why we are putting in the I-check and we are putting all sorts of other processes. That is to institutionalize; it’s not a one-off process.”
On the national strategy for anti-corruption war, he said: “The national strategy is to ensure that public officers in particular are not able to privatize public finances.
And how do we intend to achieve that? We intend to achieve that by ensuring that there is consequence for corruption and also by automating processes, removing discretion from individuals because if you don’t remove discretion from individuals the individuals can have discretion as whether or not they will grant certain approvals through certain processes; then you continue to encourage corruption at one level or the other.”