Sunday, July 25, 2021

EXCLUSIVE: Aisha Buhari’s brother Musa Halilu appointed as PTDF chief liaison officer

It was unclear if the position was influenced by the Nigerian first lady, who has long departed for Dubai after becoming disillusioned with her husband’s lacklustre regime.

and • February 19, 2021
Musa Halilu
Musa Halilu

Musa Halilu, a younger brother to Aisha Buhari, has been gifted his own share of managerial positions in the highly-courted petroleum ministry, Peoples Gazette has found, as part of our ongoing exposure of controversial appointments being doled out to cronies of President Muhammadu Buhari’s in the lucrative oil and gas sector.

Presidency, intelligence and agency officials with sufficient knowledge of his appointment told the Gazette that the president’s brother-in-law has recently become a top official at the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), where he was recently hustled in to assume the role of assistant manager and liaison officer of the Nigerian Content and Industry Collaboration Department — a critical unit within the agency.

Mr. Halilu supervises the PTDF’s industry collaboration in the upstream division, the Gazette learnt, where he also serves as a liaison between the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) and other relevant stakeholders crucial to the activities of the PTDF, sources said.

“He was in a board meeting at the PTDF last week,” a source at the federal agency told the Gazette. “He’s calling the shots now.”

How eligible?

The PTDF was established to oversee the training of Nigerian nationals to become experts in the petroleum industry. It is self-styled as “a special purpose fund” that facilitates skilled local manpower for the country’s thriving oil and gas sector.

The officials who spoke with the Gazette for this story wished to remain anonymous, citing their unauthorised capacity to speak with journalists on the discreet appointments. The Gazette agreed not to identify them in accordance with its policy on anonymous sources.

Mr. Halilu, 44, a businessman, politician and traditional chief in his home state Adamawa, is not known to be academically or vocationally trained in the workings of hydrocarbon operations.

Mr. Halilu is an alumnus of Kaduna Polytechnic where he acquired an Ordinary National Diploma (OND) in management studies between 1999 and 2001. He, however, completed his Higher National Diploma (HND) programme from the same institution in 2005.

His public records showed that he also studied for a diploma in information communication technology at the National Institute of Technology, during his mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme for all Nigerian graduates in 2006.

PTDF Headquarters, Abuja
PTDF Headquarters, Abuja

Mr. Halilu’s insertion into the managerial ranks of the PTDF raises concern about his qualification and the depth of his repository of knowledge to deliver on his crucial responsibilities at the federal agency.

A spokeswoman for PTDF declined to confirm or deny whether or not Mr. Halilu recently took a position as assistant manager and liaison officer there. Instead, she invited our reporter to come to their headquarters in Abuja for explanations.

Business and politics

Mr. Halilu’s trajectory has been largely interfaced between business and politics over the last decade.

A former chieftain of the defunct All Nigerians Peoples Party (ANPP) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Mr. Halilu claimed he was actively involved in the triumph of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 presidential election which saw the historic emergence of his in-law, President Buhari.

Muhammadu Buhari
Muhammadu Buhari

The same year, Mr. Halilu took over the saddle as the head of TILT Group of Companies Limited — a multinational corporation with huge stakes in oil and gas, construction, energy, agriculture, media and technology sectors, his public records show, in a suspected move to influence lucrative government contracts.

Aisha and Halilu
Aisha and Halilu

It was unclear whether or not Mrs. Buhari has hands in the appointment of Mr. Halilu, who is her half-brother. The Nigerian first lady has not been seen publicly in the country for five months, amidst claims that she had abandoned her husband and fled to Dubai after becoming disillusioned with his lacklustre administration. 

Sectional regime

President Buhari has long shot into national infamy for reserving key federal positions for people of his tribe or inner circle. Although he has fervently denied the chorus of sectionalism being directed at him from voices in southern parts of Nigeria, the publicly available facts show that a substantial majority of key appointments announced by the administration went to Mr. Buhari’s region. 

Nigeria is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious entity that has long been kept together on the basis of equity and fairness across the regions and religions. But Mr. Buhari has disregarded the longstanding convention of ensuring a national spread in key appointments. 

For one, all key positions of national security architecture have been entrusted almost exclusively to people of Mr. Buhari’s region. The president has continued to reject calls for him to balance his appointments as one of the best ways to portray himself as a leader of all Nigerians and reduce ethnic or religious strife. 

Recruitment into national security agencies, especially the domestic intelligence unit of the State Security Service, has tilted significantly to Mr. Buhari’s region. Last September, the Gazette exposed how the SSS packed its latest set of cadets with applicants from the northern region, an alarming development that the president failed to correct.

SSS Headquarters, Abuja
SSS Headquarters, Abuja

Recently, our reporters uncovered a slew of questionable appointments approved by the president for his loyalists and political aides.

Our reports showed how Gambo Manzo, Abubakar Barde and Abba Dansarari, all current officials at the Presidency, were, without requisite qualifications, admitted into well-paying positions at the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR). Jamil Sadauki, a youth leader in the APC, also got a position at the DPR at the same time as other aides of the president.

The Gazette had earlier exposed how Mr. Buhari appointed his junior media aide Bashir Ahmad to supervise the newly-established National Production Monitoring System (NPMS) — a powerful and lucrative division at the DPR — despite not being qualified for the job.

The Gazette also exclusively reported how the president’s unqualified nephew Sabiu “Tunde” Yusuf was appointed an assistant director at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

Those appointments were beside the sectional appointments Mr. Buhari has made in favour of his region since assuming office in 2015. Messrs. Ahmad, Manzo and Barde denied getting the lucrative positions following the Gazette’s revelations, indicating that they knew beforehand that it was morally and legally problematic for them to occupy two different positions and earn two sets of salaries and allowances from lean public coffers.

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