In the last few weeks, especially following the leaked partial audit report of the Audit Bench of the Supreme Court on the management of the FCFA 180 billion that the State last year borrowed from the International Monetary Fund, IMF, and which was allocated to several ministries for the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increasing call for Prime Minister Chief Dr Joseph Dion Ngute to resign over the alleged scandalous embezzlement of the COVID-19 funds. A scandal which is now commonly known in the country as the Covidgate.
Many Cameroonians, predominantly Francophones that have turned themselves into State Prosecutors and auditors in the Covidgate on the social media, have been indicting Prime Minister Dion Ngute in connection to the Covidgate, and calling for his resignation, failure of which he should be fired. Things took a serious turn when a political party, ‘Front des Democrates Camerounais’ led by Denis Emilien Atangana, wanted to organise a protest march in Yaounde on Tuesday, June 1, 2021, to demand for the immediate resignation of Prime Minister and Head of Government, Chief Dr Joseph Dion Ngute, overbtge Covidgate. But the DO of Yaounde 1, Harouna Nyandji Mgbatou, banned the protest march, justifying his decision on what he said was the necessity to preserve social order.
But again on Thursday, June 3, Charles Njikam of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, CRM, of Prof Maurice Kanto, who was guest on a flagship programme over Radio Equinoxe in Douala known as, ‘On Refer Le Cameroun’, said President Biya is supposed to force Prime Minister Dion Ngute to resign over the Covidgate, and hand him over to the Special Criminal Court.
No Evidence Incriminating The PM
But it should be made clear here that the call on Prime Minister Dion Ngute to resign over the Covidgate is not based on any evidence that indicts him
in the partial audit report of the Audit Bench of the Supreme Court, in the management of the the FCFA 180 billion COViD – 19 funds. In fact the Prime Minister is not incriminated anywhere in the audit report in connection to the mismanagement or alleged embezzlement of the COVID-19 funds in some ministries.
As for the funds that was allocated to the Prime Minister’s Office from the FCFA 180 package for Government’s fight against COVID-19, it is not yet clear whether Prime Minister Dion Ngute was directly involved in the management of the money. The fact that it is rather the Secretary General at the Prime Minister’s Office, Seraphin Magloire Fouda, that has reportedly been summoned to the Special Criminal Court for the ongoing judicial Investigation on the management of the COVID-19 funds, suggest that it was him that managed the COVID-19 funds that was allocated to the Prime Minister’s Office.
It should be noted that there have however been some allegations on the social media trying tie Prime Minister Dion Ngute to the Covidgate. One of the allegations raised a few days ago by Francophone journalist who is also a newspaper publisher, was really alarming. The journalist who is seemingly out to defend the Minister of Public Health, Dr Manaouda Malachie, who as head of his ministry is at the centre of the allegations of embezzlement or mismanagement of COVID-19 funds in his ministry, recently alleged in a report that it was Prime Minister Dion Ngute that demanded that the Ministry of Public Health should give many contracts to one particular enterprise, MEDILINE MEDICAL Cameroun SA. However there has been no evidence whatsoever, to back that rather malicious allegation against the Prime Minister.
Why PM Dion Ngute Is Being Blamed
Meanwhile, the argument of those calling for Prime Minister Dion Ngute’s resignation, is mainly based on the fact that the Prime Minister is said to be the Head of Government, and thus ought to be held responsible for the mismanagement of the COVID – 19 funds, especially as he is not known to had raised a red flag that the funds were being mismanaged. It is being pointed out that the Cameroon Government on behalf of the State even went to borrow more money from the IMF, still for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and that if not of IMF’s insistence that there should be an audit of the management of the loans that were obtained earlier for the same purpose, the Government would have borrowed more money and handover to embezzlers.
It is as well been recalled that President Biya designated Prime Minister Dion Ngute as National Coordinator of the Government’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and that he is Coordinator of the inter – ministerial committee for the fight against COVID-19. But that President Biya’s decision a couple of weeks ago to create a Task Force at the Presidency to take over the coordination of the Government’s fight against COVID-19, was clear evidence that the President had recognised the failure of Prime Minister Dion Ngute, and that he (Dion Ngute) should thus leave office by resigning on his own, or he should be forced to resign or sacked.
If Dion Ngute Were Head Of Gov’t
Political observers and analysts will definitely agree that it would have been normal to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Dion Ngute over the Covidgate, in his capacity as Head of Government, if actually he is Head of Government.
In a democratic society, the Head of Government would in the face of a scandal like Covidgate not even wait to be asked to resign. He would have resigned immediately he learnt about the findings of the Audit Bench of the Supreme Court, on how the funds that the Government borrowed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, were scandalously mismanaged or embezzled.
But the fact is that the current Prime Minister, Chief Dr Joseph Dion Ngute, like all his Anglophone predecessors, is in really not the Head of the Cameroon Government. The real Head of Government in Cameroon remains the President of the Republic, Paul Biya, with the all powerful Minister of State, Secretary General at the Presidency, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, being more of a Vice President.
The appellation, Prime Minister and Head of Government is just a fake thing especially when an Anglophone is in that office. The appellation was seemingly designed to deceive the marginalised Anglophone Cameroonians.
Cameroon is in reality not a semi presidential system, but rather a full presidential system.
Moreso, the 1996 Constitution as was clearly designed by the regime, gives the President of the Republic wide ranging powers not only over the Executive arm of Government, but over the Judiciary and Legislative arms of Government, making the President of the Republic looks like the only cook to crow in the country. The President of the Republic is everything, while the Prime Minister and Head of Government is just s figure Head.
Powerful Secretary Generals
It is also a fact that when President Biya appoints an Anglophone as Prime Minister and ‘Head of Government’, he deliberately appoints a Beti as Secretary General at the Prime Minister’s Office police him. In practical terms the Secretary General even has more power than the Prime Minister and ‘Head of Government’. It is the Secretary General that is in fact the real boss of the Star Building, and is known to often treat directly with the Presidency.
Also, both the Prime Minister and ‘Head of Government’ and the Secretary General at the Prime Minister’s Office, are appointed by Presidential Decrees, and at times on the same day and time. So how can the Secretary General respects the Prime Minister!
For example on December 8, 2004 when Chief Ephraim Inoni was appointed Prime Minister and ‘Head of Government’ by Presidential Decree No. No. 2004/ 322 of 08 December 2004, Jules Doret Ndongo from Ocean Division in the South Region was appointed Secretary General at the Prime Minister’s Office by Presidential Decree No. 2004/325 of 08 December 2004.
When Jules Doret Ndongo was appointed into Government as Minister Delegate at the then Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation in the cabinet reshuffle of December 9, 2015, President Biya’s nephew, Louis Paul Motaze, was appointed Secretary General at the Prime Minister’s Office by Presidential Decree No. 2011/411 of 09 December 2011. Then when Louis Paul Motaze entered the Government in the next cabinet reshuffle that took place on October 2, 2015, Seraphin Magloire Fouda was appointed to take over the post of Secretary General at the Prime Minister’s Office. He is still in that post, and continues to wield a lot of power.
Ministers Despise The Prime Minister
So when people say Prime Minister Dion Ngute is Head of Government and should be held responsible for the Covidgate, what power does he in reality has over members of Government?. Can Prime Minister Dion Ngute call to order ministers like Jacques Fame Ndongo, Laurent Esso, Louis Paul Motaze, Paul Atanga Nji, Bello Bouba Maigari, Joseph Beti Assomo, Rene Emmanuel Sadi or Frank Biya’s friend, Alanine Ousmane Mey, among many others.
It is no secret that there are many members of Government that despise the Prime Minister who is also said to the Head of Government, and treat directly with the President of the Republic. And President Biya’s allows that to happen. It was the same thing that other Anglophones like Philemon Yang and Inoni faced, when they were so-called Prime Minister and Head of Government.
We have over the years seen some ministers publicly despise and humiliate the Prime Minister because they know he is not real Head of Government or their boss. When Chief Ephraim Inoni was Prime Minister and ‘Head of Government’, we saw for example how the then Minister of Public Service and Administrative Reforms, Benjamin Amama Amama, openly challenged the Prime Minister over matters relating to admission into ENAM. During the period of Philemon Yang as Prime Minister and ‘Head of Government’, we for example saw how he was repeatedly humiliated publicly, and with impunity by a female member of Government, the then Minister of Arts and Culture, Ama Tutu Muna, over issues related to author’s rights.
Dion Ngute Welcome With Humiliation
Meanwhile shortly after coming to office as Prime Minister and ‘Head of Government’ in January 2019, the all powerful Minister of State, Secretary General at the Presidency, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, welcomed him with a public humiliation which was seen by observers as meant to let the Prime Minister realizes where power really belongs.
It happened that upon coming to office, Prime Minister Dion Ngute received several reports and even complaints that some General Managers of State Corporations or State owned companies have been in office for over a decade, some even for over 15 or 20 years. Worthnoting that the Law states that somebody can only occupy the post of General Manager of a State Corporation for a maximum of nine years, which is a three year mandate renewable twice.
Prime Minister Dion Ngute who apparently thought that he was really the Head of Government, demanded that Heads of the different ministries that have State Corporations or State owned companies under them, should send him reports on the cases of General Managers that had been in office for over nine years. Apparently the Prime Minister’s intention was to compile a list, make a report of the situation and present to President Biya.
But then the all powerful Secretary General at the Presidency, Ngoh Ngoh, quickly addressed a correspondence to Prime Minister Dion Ngute through the Secretary General at the Prime Minister’s Office, cautioning him that it is the prerogative of the President of the Republic to decide on when the General Manager of a State Corporation should leave office. This meant that the President of the Republic is above the Law.
Following Ngoh Ngoh’s correspondence, Prime Minister Dion Ngute immediately dropped the operation.
Form Of State
Meanwhile the biggest humiliation or embarrassment that Prime Minister Dion Ngute suffered in that 2019, was definitely the contradiction that surfaced in the message he carried to the Northwest and Southwest Regions during his official maiden visit to the crisis – ridden Anglophone Regions, and what the Minister of Territorial Administration, Paul Atanga Nji declared.
The message Prime Minister Dion Ngute took to the two Anglophone Regions, was that President Biya was ready for a dialogue to resolve the Anglophone Crisis, and that as regard the form of State, the President was available to discuss anything except secession. The message was highly welcomed by many, especially by the SDF which stands for a return to federalism.
But then in the evening of the very day that Prime Minister Dion Ngute rounded up his maiden official visit to the Anglophone Regions in Buea, the Minister of Territorial Administration, Paul Atanga Nji, publicly contradicted the Prime Minister’s message when he declared in an interview over France 24 TV in Paris, France that the form of State would not be on the table of the national dialogue that President Biya would call on the Anglophone Crisis.
Many people blasted Minister Atanga Nji for contradicting or challenging what the Prime Minister and ‘Head of Government’, Dion Ngute, told the population of the two Anglophone Regions. But suffice to say what Minister Atanga Nji said came to pass when President announced the holding of the National Dialogue from September 30 to October 4, 2019, as it was clear that the form of State was off the table. Worst still, President Biya designated the same Prime Minister Dion Ngute to chair the so called National Dialogue.
In a normal country, Prime Minister Dion Ngute would have resigned, following the humiliation he was subjected to by President Biya. How could he have been sent by President Biya to the two war – turned Anglophone Regions with a fake message. How could it have happened that it was a member of Government, Paul Atanga Nji, and not the Prime Minister and ‘Head of Government’, that instead knew the truth as regard the National Dialogue that the President of the Republic was to convene!
So as can be seen from the above analysis, Prime Minister Dion Ngute, happened with his Anglophone predecessors, is in reality not the Head of Government. He can thus not be held responsible for the failure of the Government in the management of the FCFA 180 billion COVID-19 funds.
But there are fears that with the signal that President Biya sent with the creation of the Task Force at the Presidency to take over the leadership of the Government’s fight against COVID-19, Prime Minister Dion Ngute can become President Biya’s sacrificial lamp in the Covidgate
By Joe Dinga Pefok