Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has failed to confer national honours on any individual since his inception of office in 2015 contrary to the usual practice of holding the investiture every year.
The President, who assumed office on May 29, 2015, failed to host the investiture in 2015 and 2016.
With only three working days left this year, there are no indications that it can hold in 2017.
The national award, which is instituted annually, has as its objective to recognise and honour citizens and friends of Nigeria who have distinguished themselves in their various endeavours and contributed immensely to the development of the nation.
It is also intended to serve as motivation for all Nigerians to emulate the exemplary conduct and services of those being honoured and inspire them for such national recognition.
The last time the conferment of the awards took place was on September 29, 2014 when former President Goodluck Jonathan conferred different categories of national honours on 313 persons.
The investiture brought to 4,737 the total of the national honours so far conferred on individuals since its inception in 1963.
Jonathan also decorated Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo with the national honour of Grand Commander of the Niger on May 28, 2015, a day before he handed over to Buhari.
Osinbajo, as Acting President, also conferred the GCON on the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, shortly after his (Onnoghen’s) inauguration on March 7, 2017.
When contacted on the development, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, directed our correspondent to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation saddled with the responsibility of organising the investiture.
As of the time of filing this report on Monday, the SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, did not answer the calls made to his mobile neither did he respond to the text message sent to him.
The Office of the SGF had, however, in a 360-page book, ‘Making Steady, Sustainable Progress for Nigeria’s Peace and Prosperity’, which was presented to the public on November 16, attributed its failure to hold the event in 2016 to circumstances beyond its control.
The book is a mid-term scorecard of the present administration authored by the Presidential Media Team.
While the Office of the SGF did not explain why the investiture did not hold in 2015, it claimed in the book that preparation for the 2017 edition was underway.
The event has however not taken place.
“The Office has forwarded to the Presidency a proposal for the commencement of the nomination, screening, selection and investiture for the 2017 National Honours Award.
“The 2016 edition did not take place because of circumstances beyond the office’s control,” the office of the SGF had explained.
The PUNCH reports that the 2016 national honours’ investiture was stalled by the ill-health of the Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Abba Kyari, while Buhari refrained from conferring the awards in 2015 because he inherited a list of nominees considered not credible.
“You will recall that President Buhari was inaugurated on May 29, 2015. As of that time, a list of awardees had already been prepared for the last administration.
“That list was not credible; it was full of apologists of the last administration. That was why the event did not hold that year,” a government source had told our correspondent.
In the case of 2016, the government official said a list had already been prepared by the Office of the SGF.
He said the list had been submitted to the Chief of Staff to the President for the President’s approval.
He however said Kyari’s illness stalled the process.
“This (2016) year’s list of those to be conferred with the awards has been submitted to the Chief of Staff. His illness is however stalling the process. We hope that when he is back with good health, action will be taken on the list,” the source had said.
The former SGF, Mr. Babachir Lawal, had, in April 2016, reconstituted the Committee on National Honours Award.
He had reiterated that for the national award to retain the prestige that it was accorded, recipients, who conducted themselves in any dishonourable manner, would be stripped of the national honour.
This, he said, would be consistent with the stand of the present administration against all forms of corruption.
The former SGF had stressed that the combined investiture ceremony for the 2015 and 2016 National Honours Award would be held in 2016. It did not hold.
At the last national honours award, held on September 29, 2014, Jonathan had honoured 313 persons for distinguishing themselves in their various fields of endeavours.
Among those honoured at the ceremony, which was held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, were a taxi driver, Mr. Imeh Usuah; a traffic warden, Cpl. Solomon Dauda; and a steward, Mr. Onuh Isaac, for displaying exemplary performances.
The three of them got house gifts in the Federal Capital Territory from the President in addition to their national awards, Member of the Order of the Niger.
Jonathan also directed that the designer of the national flag, Pa Michael Akinkunmi, be placed on the salary of a Special Assistant to the President for life in addition to his national honour of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic.
The President charged the honourees to ensure that the awards were not seen as mere pieces of paper and garlands tied around their necks.
Twenty-five individuals were conferred with the national honour of the Commander of the Order of Federal Republic; 60 persons were honoured with Commander of the Order of Niger, 54 got the Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic; 63 received the Officer of the Order of the Niger; 53 were presented with Member of the Order of the Niger; and 56 got Member of the Order of the Niger.
One recipient each got the Federal Republic Medal (First Class) and Federal Republic Medal (Second Class) respectively. (Punch)