Buhari’s chief of staff illness stalls national honours awards

Moves by President Muhammadu Buhari to confer national honours on some individuals this year is currently being threatened by the ill-health of his Chief of Staff, Mr. Abba Kyari, THE PUNCH’s investigation has revealed.

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 Nigerians to emulate the exemplary conduct and services of those being honoured and inspire them for such national recognition.

The last time a major investiture 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.

Buhari did not confer anybody with the award in 2015.

A top government official, who pleaded anonymity, told our correspondent on Wednesday that the President refrained from conferring the awards in 2015 because he inherited a list of nominees that “is 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 by 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,” the source explained.

In the case of 2016, the government official said a list had already been prepared by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

He said the list had been submitted to the Chief of Staff to Buhari for approval.

He however said Kyari’s illness was stalling the process.

“This 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 said.

Kyari, who has been ill, was last week flown abroad for medical attention.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, had in April 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.

The SGF had also said the combined investiture ceremony for the 2015 and 2016 National Honours Award would be held this year.

Members of the reconstituted committee include  Justice Mohammed Alfa Belgore (retd.) (Chairman); Justice Umaru Kalgo (retd.); Justice Isaac Aluyi (retd.); Mrs.Bola Ogunriade; Nnema Josephine Ndukwu; Ambassador Usman Galtimari; and Chief Bassey Edem.

Others are Mr. Gabriel Afu; Ambassador Nonye Udo; Mr. M. F. Abikoye; Mr. Y. M. Bichi; Mrs. Rasheedat Okoduwa; Mr. James Ibidapo and Mr. Gabriel Loto (Secretary).

Presidential spokesmen, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, could not be reached on the telephone for comments as of the time of filing this report on Wednesday.

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