By Alex Agbo in Abuja
The appointment late Thursday of Ahmed Idris, Director of Finance and Accounts in the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, by President Muhammadu Buhari, as the new Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) may have put paid to an otherwise acrimonious succession battle.
Following the recent retirement of Mr. Jonah Otunla on the attainment of the mandatory service disengagement age of 60, Buhari had directed the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HOSF) Mr. Danladi Irmya Kifasi, to deploy the most senior director in the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) to act in that capacity, pending the appointment of a substantive AGF to succeed Otunla. Kifasi’s decision to deploy Mohammed Dikwa, Director of Funds in the OAGF, over and above his seniors, generated palpable disquiet in the ranks of the Federal Civil Service.
Newspaper reports on Monday June 22, 2015 had alluded to Kifasi’s blatant disregard of the presidential directive when he allegedly went against the grain by appointing a Director ranked at No 18 in the seniority ladder of Directors of Finance and Accounts in the service.
More disquieting was the manner the eventual succession process was conducted. While 34 applicants sat for the three-part examination, which was supposed to throw up a new AGF, none of the star performers made the four-man shortlist derived from that examination for the second stage of the screening process, by the HOSF.
Rather, a supposedly predetermined list was shortlisted, comprising Dikwa, who came 29th in the first phase of the examination and Alhaji Idris Mamman, Director of Finance and Accounts in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, who placed ninth.
It was bad enough that this was akin to turning logic on its head. In an increasingly socio-politically-sensitive environment as Nigeria, popular angst was aggravated at what seemed like the HOSF’s smart move to gift his geo-political zone the position. Kifasi from Taraba State is from the same North-East zone as Dikwa and Mamman, who are from Borno.
WESTERN POST sources, however, said Buhari invited Kifasi to the Presidential Villa early last week for briefing on sundry service matters, including the rancorous AGF issue. The President reportedly expressed reservations on the transparency of the screening process, against the backdrop of service intelligence at his disposal.
It was expected that Kifasi would have latched on this subtle presidential query to review the entire process to give it more credibility.
In furtherance of his singular objective of imposing his will on the process, however, he returned to the President 48 hours later with what at best could pass as a cleverly-scrambled list which bore the very same names Buhari had earlier queried.
Having secured multi-level briefs on each of the candidates and not wanting to begin his association with the chief of a critical service arm of his administration with confrontation, however, Buhari upon studying Kifasi’s submission, navigated past the names of Dikwa and Mamman, and settled for Idris. This effectively put paid to quiet schemes by Kifasi to warehouse the AGF position in his preferred North-East zone, even if this meant circumventing due process. A usually dependable source said even if Buhari had maintained his characteristic reticence on this matter, it is unlikely that he would trust the advice and guidance of Kifasi on service issues in future. His words: “Matters bordering on appointments, discipline, service welfare and promotions are routine service issues which the President statutorily depends on the HOSF for advice. Whether the president can honestly rely on Kifasi’s advice, henceforth, is yet to be seen.”
Ahmed Idris, whose appointment as AGF takes effect from June 25, 2015, hails from Kano in the North-West. He will be 55 on his next birthday on November 25, 2015.