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Conferment of national honours on Education, FCT Ministers scandalous, injurious to Nigeria’s image – Rights activists 

The conferment of national honours on Adamu Adamu and Mohammed Bello — the respective ministers of education and the Federal Capital Territory — has been described as ‘scandalous’ and injurious to Nigeria’s image.


Inibehe Effiong, a Lagos-based human rights lawyer, condemned the awards in an interview with THE WHISTLER on Tuesday.


President Muhammadu Buhari conferred the awards on the ministers and 447 others during a ceremony held on Tuesday at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.


The national honours were instituted by the National Honors Act No. 5 of 1964 and are given to Nigerian citizens and foreigners for outstanding service to the country.


While categories such as the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) and Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) are statutorily invested, others are given on consideration with the approval of the president.


However, Adamu Adamu and Mohammed Bello were deemed undeserving of the awards conferred on them on the grounds that they have failed in their responsibilities as ministers.


Nigerian university students have been out of school for eight months over the failure of Adamu’s ministry to resolve the lingering strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).


Effiong said while the president reserves the right to give such awards to anyone, decorating ‘questionable’ characters or underperforming public officers with national honours makes a mockery of the awards.


FCT Minister, Muhammad Musa Bello

“The ones I’m particularly worried about are the ones whose names are quite questionable. Like the Minister of Education, it doesn’t speak well for the country to be giving national honour to the minister of education, when the country’s universities have been closed for over seven months.


“So, the inclusion of the ministers (Education and FCT) is quite objectionable given the failure of the government that has not delivered on any key sector. One wonders what the President found in them or in their offices to merit the conferment of national awards on them. So, for me those ones are quite condemnable and quite scandalous,” he said.


Effiong said if he were in the shoes of the Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, he would turn down the GCON award conferred on her because “it does not send the right message.”


He added, “I think I also saw names of the relatives of the President or some persons that have personal relationships with the president. Like Tunde Sabiu, I don’t know whether that is confirmed, but I think I read that his name is also on the list. So, such persons make nonsense of the honour and that is just evidence of the very sickening level with which this president has promoted nepotism to a national policy.


“It is supposed to be national honours award but people that should be given ‘national dishonour’ are the ones being honoured by the president.


Also speaking to THE WHISTLER, Olanrewaju Osho, a 2023 aspirant for the FCT senatorial seat, said the way the country’s national honour awards are given has always been “questionable”.


“We have not actually established the criteria, in an honest and transparent form, that we are using as yardstick or benchmark to select those we want to give honours…when these criteria are not well transparently defined and anchored on service, integrity, character, ethics and accountability, so you will have all manner of shady people becoming awardees.


“So, as a result of that, the politicians are the ones in control. Can you, for example, think of a national honour system that is not under the administration of politicians, or public servants that are backing them or working closely with them?


“If you look at these awards very well you find out that almost 60 or 70 percent of the people that will get it are in APC or within the APC government, they might give 10 percent to their greatest rival, PDP and then 5 percent to any other person there and the rest to the whole of Nigeria.”


Osho further said that for the process to be transparent, “we need to start from who is qualified to be in the board of such an award. You search for people of integrity, people that have no bad record ever in public or private service, they must be the arbiter or umpire of such an award or reward system.


“So, when we set up such a board of clean people, and hand it over to them hundred percent, take it out of government, take it out of the administration of public servants, then we can say people that deserve the award will get it, as long as it is under the purview of control of politicians we cannot have better than what we have now.”


A breakdown of the awards showed that six Nigerians bagged the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON), 55 others received Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR), Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) went to 65 Nigerians, Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) 70; six foreigners bagged OFR; Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) 110; Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) 74; Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) 55; Federal Republic Medal I (4); and Federal Republic Medal II (4).


Among the awardees are President Buhari’s late Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari; the immediate past and current Chief Justices of Nigeria, the Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Ishaq Oloyede; the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State.



(The Whistler)


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