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Thursday 12 November 2015

Now That the Party is Over

Now That the Party is Over

SPECIAL REPORT: inauguration of ministers

Olawale Olaleye reviews the campaign promises made by President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress, and their ability to deliver on those promises with the constitution of the federal cabinet

Six months have gone by and the nation is finally at the starting block. President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday swore in his 36 ministers and assigned them their respective portfolios. To the best of his understanding of the different individuals, the president in his own words said he had placed round pegs in round holes to achieve service delivery.

But this has been long in coming. For almost six months, it was one excuse or the other on the proper take-off of the administration, which promised change in every stratum of the system. Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), said that they understood the problems of the country and promised to look at those critical areas that seem to have stunted the growth of Africa’s giant.

The APC and its president, amongst other biting issues, identified a troubled economy especially at a time crude oil was no longer a major earner and the naira had depreciated  in value, promised to diversify the economy as part of the initiatives that would help cushion the effects of rising unemployment, widespread poverty, the infrastructure deficit and rising insecurity.

Their goal is to create more jobs, which would in effect help contain the menace of insecurity, as a majority of the teeming jobless youths are being recruited into criminal activities threatening the peace, law and order of the country. In addition, they promised to further look into other areas of security, especially terrorism in order to engender a secure and peaceful environment for investment in all parts of the country and particularly the devastated North-east.

A zero tolerance for corruption, the APC and Buhari said, would also be its guiding mode of operation in all aspects of national life. Taken together, it promised social infrastructural development and renewal and above all, an entirely new culture that typifies change and a new beginning.

Unfortunately, nothing close to this has manifested. Except for the element of believability, which the administration had alluded to over time and even made its key achievement in its 100 days in office, Nigerians had begun to worry about the possibility of genuine change, let alone one that would clearly distinguish itself from the ugly past.

But yesterday, the government started anew the journey to the Eldorado, with a cabinet now in place. However, to realise the much-anticipated change and its promises, a few ministries stand out as well as those that have been assigned to drive the change mantra.
Ministries such as Budget and National Planning (Udoma Udo Udoma), Petroleum Resources (Ibe Kachikwu), Trade, Industry and Investment (Okechukwu Enelamah), Agriculture and Rural Development (Audu Ogbeh), Solid Minerals (Kayode Fayemi), Power, Works and Housing (Babatunde Fashola), Transportation (Rotimi Amaechi), Justice (Abubakar Malami), Education (Adamu Adamu), Health (Issac Adewole Folorunsho), Foreign Affairs (Geoffrey Onyeama), Defence (Monsur Dan-Ali) and Interior (Abdulrahman Dambazzau) will be the institutions to watch. With the excision of the Budget Office of the Federation from the Ministry of Finance, its role and importance has more or less been diminished to that of a treasurer and book keeper of the federal government.

It is these 13 ministries listed above that shall drive the federal government’s diversification programme that will reverse the economic slowdown, create jobs, improve security and drive the charge against corruption and improved transparency in public institutions. It goes without saying that all the ministers will be confronted with challenges that are as old as the ministries themselves – those of impunity, corruption, mismanagement, absence of human capacity and general lack of commitment – all of which are often blamed on the “Nigerian factor”.

Fortunately, a cursory glance at the ministers and their portfolios shows that the Buhari administration has hit the nail decisively on the head. With Udoma, Enelamah, Adeosun, Ogbe and Fayemi in charge of the economy; Fashola and Amaechi overseeing infrastructural development; Malami, Dambazzau, Dan-Ali responsible for law, security and enforcement; and Folorunsho and Adamu driving social and human capital development, Nigeria has got a pretty good team.

Yet, the task ahead will not be easy. In a country where expectations are sky high and a people that can be extremely vociferous in their criticism of the slightest missteps of government officials, the cabinet would have to charge a course that is short on rhetoric and big on delivery. Nigerians have grown tired of esoteric data on growth and would rather see and feel tangible achievements that improve the quality of life and catapult the country to greater heights.

Buhari’s Key Change Agents

Bolaji Adebiyi, THISDAY Deputy Editor, Nation’s Capital, writes on the crucial ministers who shall be responsible for delivering on the promises made by President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress

Udoma Udo Udoma
Budget and National Planning

One of the ministries restructured by President Muhammadu Buhari is the Ministry of National Planning, which has now taken up the additional portfolio of budgeting, catapulting it in terms of importance and influence ahead of the Finance Ministry. Obviously responding to the clamour for the nation’s budgeting to be needs based and related to planning, the Buhari administration hived off the Budgeting Office from the Ministry of Finance and domiciled it in the Ministry of National Planning, essentially reverting to what obtained in the 1970s and 1980s when the then Ministry of Economic Planning was responsible for budget and planning.

It is expected that the new minister, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, will align the country’s budget with the goals of its national developmental plans such that the two would be in sync with the national objective of inclusive economic growth that would provide jobs for the army of unemployed youths in the country.

The main task of the new minister would be to ensure that the nation’s budget reflects the needs of the people. Instructively, the Buhari administration has enunciated the principle of zero budgeting, which means each ministry, department and agency of government would have to justify its request for funds. Obviously, this would eliminate waste in the budget process and engender more judicious use of national resources.

For Udoma, the first litmus test of his ability to harmonise the nation’s national development goals and its budget would be the administration’s supplementary budget for 2015 and the Appropriation Bill for next fiscal year, 2016, which will be supported by medium-term fiscal strategy paper to cover the next three to five years.

Buhari’s choice of Udoma is a perfect one having regards to the former senator’s pedigree. He was at various times the chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriation and the Committee on National Planning. After leaving the Senate he went into the private sector where he sat on the boards of several companies. A calm and reserved person, Senator Udoma comes to the job, with varied experience on both private and public sector administration, his last job being the chair of the Board of Nigeria’s Security and Exchange Commission.

Okechukwu Enelamah
Trade, Industry and Investment

Obviously the appointment of Mr. Okechukwu Enelamah as the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment takes cognisance of his wealth of experience as the founder and CEO of one of the largest private equity firms in Africa, African Capital Alliance. Largely tipped to head the Finance Ministry, Enelamah, who arguably will superintend over one of the most important portfolios, would be saddled with the task of attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) to all sectors of the economy.

His immediate challenge would be revamping Nigeria’s reputation as an attractive destination for FDI, against the backdrop of the recent $5.2 billion fine imposed on MTN Nigeria and the delisting of Nigerian bonds by JP Morgan and Barclays Bank from their respective indexes.

This surge in hostility towards Nigeria as an attractive investment haven, threatens to obliterate the impressive record of the former minister, Olusegun Aganga, who improved Nigeria’s FDI inflow from $15 billion in 2011 to $59.6 billion in 2014.

Kemi Adeosun

The significance of the Ministry of Finance has in this dispensation been partially diminished by hiving off its budget portfolio to the Ministry of National Planning. With this development, the ministry would now face fully the task of managing the government’s finances and ensuring that the nation’s economy, though the largest in Africa, reverses slowing growth, dwindling foreign exchange reserves and a weakening naira arising from dwindling oil revenue.

As minister, Kemi Adeosun would also be tasked with aligning fiscal and monetary policies, and advising the president on tough decisions about the propriety of retaining fuel subsidies, which eat deeply into the country’s finances, circumscribing government’s ability to rebuild dilapidated infrastructure and build new ones that are required for inclusive economic growth.

The new minister would also concern herself with how to improve government revenue. Clearly the diversification of the economy, plugging of revenue leakages and ebbing corruption have become imperative if the administration is to successfully implement its budget to deliver on the dividends of democracy that Buhari promised the electorate during the 2015 electioneering. In this area, the minister will have to evolve policies on improved taxation, review of the value added tax regime and reforming the Nigerian Customs Services to improve on revenue generation.

Adeosun, a former banker and immediate past Commissioner for Finance, Ogun State, comes with the right experience and qualifications for the job. Educated in England and Wales with Bachelor’s degree in Applied Economics and membership of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, the new minister’s experience as an investment banker would come in handy in her efforts to grow the revenue of the government, manage its treasury and ensure effective budget implementation.

Obviously, she would have to collaborate with her counterpart in the Ministry of Budget and Planning. But it would be interesting to see how the issue of Nigeria’s representation at multilateral negotiations would be handled. Which of the two ministers has the mandate to represent Nigeria at such talks?

Babatunde Fashola
Power, Works and Housing

Merging the power portfolio with works and housing is certainly one of the surprises that President Buhari sprang on Nigerians. While works and housing was a single ministry before it was split by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, analysts are at a loss on the relationship the two have with power. But the president might be looking for a situation where a tested person would handle the three portfolios that have far reaching implications for the success of his administration with regards to clear deliverables in infrastructure development. Power has been a challenge in the country, while the state of Nigerian roads are appalling, even as the nation’s housing deficit has remained unacceptable.

Herein lies the choice of former Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, as the minister of this new ministry. With his acclaimed success in Lagos particularly in the area of infrastructure development, including the establishment of small independent power plants to power government services, and regulatory enforcement, the former governor looks primed for the job. He has to carry on with the reforms in the power sector and consolidate on its privatisation.

Fashola has the task of enforcing a regulatory regime that assures efficient generation and distribution of power to Nigerians at a price that is acceptable to operators and consumers. With total installed capacity of over 8,000MW, the new minister has the task of not just ensuring full capacity utilisation beyond the current 4,600MW but design policies that would fast-track the attainment of 20,000MW planned for 2020. To achieve this, he needs to tackle a couple of issues, including appropriate pricing, gas supply to power stations, and the inadequacy of the transmission grid. In addition, he would need to strengthen the regulatory agencies, including the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and Nigeria Electricity Management Services Agency (NEMSA).

Fashola’s task on works is no less daunting. With most of the 35,000km of federal roads yelling for attention in the face of an economic downturn, the new minister would have to design a road management policy framework that would assist the federal government tackle this challenge and attract more private sector involvement in roads development.

Fashola would also have to worry about reducing the housing deficit in the country. The financial outlay for bridging the 17 million housing deficit is put by the World Bank at N59.6 trillion. How does the country handle that? The Goodluck Jonathan administration’s response was to restructure the Federal Mortgage Bank and also establish the Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company, with a charge to encourage and promote home ownership in Nigeria by providing financing to the mortgage lenders, thereby increasing the availability and affordability of mortgage loans to Nigerians. Fashola would have to adopt this with some tinkering that would help Nigerians access cheaper finance to overcome their housing challenges.

Ibe Kachikwu
Petroleum Resources

With dwindling oil revenues occasioned by falling oil prices, the new Minister of State, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, would have to device new and creative means to manage and raise funds for the joint venture cash calls and continue to attract investments in the deep water oil concessions. In addition, Kachikwu would have to find a way to develop and monetise Nigeria’s abundant gas resources to meet domestic gas supply obligations for industries and the power sector, and generate income for the government from gas exports.

Getting off the ground key liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects such as taking a final investment decisions (FIDs) on Train-7 for the Nigeria LNG (NLNG) and BrassLNG projects would also dominate the tasks before the new minister. He might need to rejig the Gas Master Plan and deal with the issues of gas supply infrastructure and remodelling of gas pricing to get major oil companies to commit to improved gas development and production.

Getting the country’s three refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna to optimal functionality will be critical to the minister, just as advising the president on elimination of fuel subsidies would prove to be an onerous task that must be tackled head on. Kachikwu would also strive to get the Petroleum Industry Bill on track by reviewing and unbundling it to facilitate its passage in order to attract investment.

Audu OgbeH
Agriculture and Rural Development

Chief Audu Ogbeh’s appointment as the Minister of Agriculture has been widely acclaimed as appropriate for the moment and the great task ahead. However, he will be stepping into the large shoes left behind by Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina.

Agriculture is expected to play a huge role in the nation’s quest to diversify its economy and improve its non-oil revenue. Ogbeh would therefore need to formulate policies that would enhance agricultural production for both domestic consumption and export. This would help the administration achieve its desire for inclusive economic growth through the generation of jobs for the army of unemployed youths in the country.

Ogbeh had served notice of his clear understanding of the sector and the expectations of the country at his Senate confirmation hearing when he told the upper chamber that the sector needed to be revived, saying the problem of seedlings, equipment and cost and access to capital must be tackled. He said he would improve production by creating extension service stations in all the 774 local government areas of the country to guide farmers on how best to carry out their businesses.

For him, Nigeria’s $6 billion annual food import is no longer tenable, adding that the country possesses all that is required to achieve food sufficiency.

Usani Usani Uguru
Niger Delta

The President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua administration had laid down the template for the development of the Niger Delta. He had seen the region as strategic to the national economy because of oil. He argued that the way to secure this strategic national resource was to concretely respond to the demands of the people of the region for inclusiveness and development of the area. So rather than apply force, he opted for dialogue using the Amnesty Programme and a range policy instruments, including the creation of the Ministry of Niger Delta to enhance development in the region.

But the last few years witnessed a deviation from the Yar’Adua administration’s policy of development despite the billions of naira allocated to the ministry. The major task of the new minister, Mr. Usani Uguru, and his deputy, Prof. Omoyele Daramola, would be to review the vision of the Yar’Aua administration and compel the ministry to return to its policy implementation task while enforcing the delivery of clear tangibles by its intervention agencies.

Specifically, they would have to speedily complete the East-West Road as well as the nine skills acquisition centres that were started about seven years ago but were abandoned.

Adamu Adamu

Easily the largest ministry in the country, the education sector, however, has been plagued by several challenges, ranging from falling standards; inadequate infrastructure; poor teacher quality arising from poor remuneration, inadequate training and supervision; poor funding; lack of access and corruption. These challenges pervade the three levels of the sectors – primary, secondary and tertiary. On the issue of access for instance, more that 10 million Nigerian children are out of school and less than 50 per cent of applicants for tertiary education secure admissions.

The new ministers, Malam Adamu Adamu, an accomplished journalist and accountant; and his deputy, Prof. Anthony Anwuka, would have to come up with clear policies that would address these challenges. Most critical is the issue of funding and whole scale reforms that can transform Nigeria’s education system and produce a competitive workforce.

Monsur Dan-Ali

The posting of a retired military officer, Brigadier-General Dan Ali, would seem to underscore the resolve of Buhari to reinvigorate the country’s defence policy and reposition it for the task of securing the territorial integrity of the country against both external and internal aggressors. The immediate task of the new defence chief would be to review the National Defence Policy which had been the subject of several discussions for years. He would also have to coordinate the efforts of the federal government to quickly bring to an end the insurgency in the North-east for which Buhari has given a deadline of December 2015.

Although this deadline would appear impracticable, the new defence chief would have to engage the military services with a view designing the appropriate strategies for containing the insurgency at the quickest possible time.

Geoffrey OnyeAma
Foreign Affairs

A Cambridge University-trained lawyer, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama has largely remained under the radar. But his several years of work with the World Intellectual Property Organisation, with specialisation in development cooperation and external relations in Africa, may indicate Buhari’s intention to consolidate the nation’s emerging foreign policy focus on Economic Diplomacy.

Since the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigerian foreign relations have shifted attention to the need for the country to earn economic benefits from its interaction with its foreign partners. The concept of Economic Diplomacy has therefore gained ground as a major focus of Nigeria’s foreign policy plank. Given the precarious state of the economy, it has become more imperative for the nation’s foreign policy to be aligned with the economic objective of attracting more foreign direct investment. This will be Onyeama’s main assignment in the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Adulrahman Dambazzau

The ministry saddled with prisons administration, immigration and border control has now been enlarged to include the Nigeria Police Force and internal security. Accordingly, the choice of Lt-Gen Abdulrahman Dambazzau, a retired Chief of Army Staff with a strong academic background in criminology, points to Buhari’s intention to rejig the nation’s internal security architecture and reposition it for the task of securing the lives and property of Nigerians in a season of increasing insecurity and rising violent crimes.

With the insurgency raging in the North-east of the country, kidnapping and armed robberies becoming more rampant in the southern parts of the country, there is a need for more robust security strategies to curb crime.

General Dambazzau’s immediate task would be to reengineer all the internal security agencies to meet the security needs of the people. Major reforms of the police to increase their capacity to detect, prevent and arrest crimes; overhaul of the prisons system to make it more habitable and reform-driven; restructuring of the immigration services for effective policing of the nation’s porous borders; and the reform of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps to equip it with better skills to protect public buildings and other infrastructure are major briefs that the former army chief would have deal with immediately.
As head of one of the largest ministries, Dambazzau has his work cut out.

Chibuike Amaechi

The Ministry of Transportation, which will now oversee aviation, railways and the ports, have been placed under the care of former Rivers State Governor Chibuike Amaechi, with a Minister of State, Hadi Siriki.

Amaechi’s works in Rivers State, particularly in the area of infrastructure development give hope that the transportation sector would be revamped to meet the needs of the economy whose growth and development would be hampered if the nation’s transportation system is inefficient.

Amaechi and his colleague would have to continue and improve on the reforms in the aviation, railways and ports sectors started by the Jonathan administration. Specifically, they would have to pay more attention to safety issues at the airports and complete the airport expansion and rehabilitation programmes; conclude the railways rehabilitation and expansion projects; and clear the bottlenecks at the seaports that make import and export of goods a pain in the neck for businesses.

Expectedly, reforms in these key infrastructure sectors would require the involvement of the private sector, so Amaechi must come up with models and schemes that would attract investors.

Isaac Adewole

Prof Isaac Adewole, a professor of medicine and immediate past Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, is on a familiar turf, having been a major player in the health sector. At his Senate confirmation hearing, he dissected the health sector so professionally, contending that for the nation to achieve its healthcare objectives, all stakeholders in the sector must collaborate. He advocated cooperation among all the professionals in the sector as a solution to the incessant labour crises in the sector, promising to get everyone to see the patient as the focus of all stakeholders.

He would however have to deal with the issue of enhancing the primary health care delivery which is in an appalling state. Decaying and obsolete infrastructure in the nation’s health institutions and the challenge with funding will also demand his professional acumen for sustainable solutions.

Kayode Fayemi
Solid Minerals

The former Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi as Minister of Solid Minerals, would have a lot of work to do to align the sector with Buhari’s overall economic objective of diversifying the nation’s economy through enhanced foreign investments and revenue generation. Largely untapped, Fayemi would have to produce out-of-the-box policy options on how to incentivise investors to develop the solid minerals sector.

Also to engage his cerebral brain will be how to revive and proffer a lasting solution for the Ajaokuta Steel project, a project that was aimed at aiding the technological take-off of the country.

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