Assets, liabilities before Buhari’s ministers…
With the inauguration of the federal cabinet, Nigerians are expecting the new ministers to turn stone into bread. But how prepared are they for the tasks ahead, in view of the perennial issues denying Nigerians of the real gains of civil rule? KUNLE ODEREMI and DAPO FALADE report.
IN its report submitted on June 12, 2015, the transition committee set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to prepare ground for the full takeoff of his administration recommended sweeping changes in the structure of government at the centre.
Headed by one of the famed super-permanent secretaries of the General Yakubu Gowon era, Ahmed Joda, the committee advocated the pruning of the ministries to 19 as opposed to 42 or more that was in vogue before then. It specifically recommended the appointment of 19 senior ministers and 17 ministers of state, with a projection that it would save the country more than N1 billion in the first term in office of Buhari. The committee further premised its recommendation on the ground that there was no correlation between actual performance and the number of ministries/ministers.
The report stated: “There is no direct relationship between the number of ministries and efficacy of service delivery. The U.S. with a population of 316 million and with GDP of $17,328 trillion (30 times Nigeria’s GDP) has 15 ministries. India has 24 ministries, while the UK has 17. The current structure of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), with 28 ministries and 542 agencies (50 of which have no enabling laws), [results in] very high cost of governance.
“The portfolios of ministries are not responsive to all the major critical national challenges such as family and child affairs; religious affairs; vulnerable and elderly group affairs as well as the North-Eastern crisis. There is an apparent conflict between the desire of reducing the cost of governance through cabinet downsize and the constitutional requirement of a cabinet-level ministerial appointment from each of the 36 states of the federation.”
Beyond that recommendation, the elder statesman and his team listed some critical areas and sectors the Buhari administration must make a great difference within two months after hitting the ground running. The scope of the jobs to be done expediently by the administration, the committee said, included holistic reforms in the economy, the real sector, power, transport, revenue generation, diversification of the economy, oil and gas industry, security of lives and properties.
To boost the culture of transparency, the committee recommended increased budgetary and fiscal indiscipline towards improved revenues and that the Ministry of Finance must ensure full implementation of Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) 2007 to mop up any outstanding funds from all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and that the Ministry of Finance, Head of Service of the Federation, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) should ensure the full implementation of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) and the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) across all MDAs to reduce leakages within the system.
On oil and gas, the committee suggested that the Ministry of Petroleum Resources review the refinery licences and pass enabling policies to allow for the building of modular refineries that focus on diesel, dual purpose kerosene (DPK), aviation turbine kerosene (ATK) and Low Pour Fuel Oil (LPFO) to bolster the creation of jobs, while removing the reliance on existing refineries and importation of diesel, DPK, ATK and LPFO.
Buhari eventually reduced the number of ministries to 25 with power, works and housing collapsed into one. A total of eight ministries were collapsed in the restructured architecture of government. But, the new ministers had the complements of ministers of state, while the president held the portfolio for the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. They were sworn in November 2015, about 166 days after the presidential election. In his reply to critics over the prolonged delay in forming his cabinet, Buhari had said: “Impatience is not a virtue. Careful and deliberate decisions after consultations get far better results.” The president believed that his ‘painstaking effort’ that preceded the setting up of his cabinet led into putting “round pegs in round holes.”
The legacies of that exercise have been inherited by the members of his cabinet inaugurated on Wednesday at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, to assist in defining the direction of his administration for the next four years. The ministers have inherited the assets and liabilities of their predecessors, whose performance rating in the last political dispensation remain a subject of controversy. The new ministers have the arduous task of delivering the deliverables that substantially eluded the citizenry in critical sectors like energy, ICT, education security, transport and economy, among others.
He may have returned to a familiar terrain. He has the task of taking off from where he stopped as the minister of Information in the last dispensation. He has to complete the digitalization exercise in the broadcast industry and concretise more pragmatic measures to revitalise the avalanche of media platforms owned by the Federal Government. The issue of welfare is key towards boosting the morale of the workers in all the departments and agencies under the minister. More fundamentally, Lai Mohammed has the burden of charting a new course that can bolster the image of the government, nay the country, in the midst of untoward happenings that tend to generate negative reportage. His style of operation is seen by some of critics of the Buhari government as an issue. Will there be a kind of paradigm shift in his style this time round?
Babatunde Raji Fashola
Described as the super-minister in the last cabinet, the former governor of Lagos State is bound to be under pressure because of the public expectations due to the deplorable of major highways across the country. The effort of the government in fixing most of the roads in the last 20 years of civil rule has become a social stigma for Nigerian leaders despite huge budgetary allocations.
The Lagos-Ibadan highway, regarded as the busiest and major link to other parts of the country, is the metaphor for the lack of political will to do the needful by successive administration.
As the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, the two-term governor of Akwa Ibom State has many rivers to cross. Beyond the agenda of the governing APC thinking of how to make serious incursion into the largely PDP-controlled South-South zone, Akpabio has the challenge of tackling the issue of poor record of the interventionist agencies in the region; the age-long East-West Road project; the issues of oil pipeline vandalisation; oil theft and militancy remain prevalent in the zone. The other battle before Akpabio is the likely antagonism from the main opposing political party and power brokers.
He is the godfather of the Benue State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The former governor, who was a senator, bears the burden of deploying his strategic position as the Minister of Special Duties to open the frontiers of new opportunities.
If history is anything to go bye, the occupants of the position usually form the bulwark of the governing party. While absorbing the pains of verbal arrows from adversaries aimed at his principal unscathed, he is expected in turn to deliver hard punch at the perceived forces of the establishment in the political space.
In the health sector, the issues and challenges have always included a constellation of social, economic and environmental problems that have become a daily experience in most public hospitals across the country. These include (but are not limited to) problems of brain drain, poor remuneration, obsolete infrastructure, inadequate medical facilities and underfunding of the hospitals. Also occupying the front burner are the issues of hospital management, health policy and health care delivery.
Much as successive administrations over the years tried to find a solution, the problems of life expectancy, water supply and sanitation, HIV/AIDS, malaria, endemic diseases, maternal and child healthcare, food, treatment of gunshot victims and road traffic accidents are endemic in the health sector.
Nigerians are indeed seeking for a bailout from the humongous problems bedeviling public health delivery. Without any iota of doubt, all eyes would be on the new minister in charge of the Ministry of Health, Dr Enahire, as President Buhari seeks to serve out his second term of office.
Over the years, the country’s public education sector has been bedeviled by the shortage of classroom (and the size of student’s population where it is available), poverty, family factors, technology, bullying, student attitudes and behaviours, girl-child education and parent involvement.
Many of the available classrooms in the public schools today are stretched to the extreme and this has negatively impacted on effective teaching as teachers cannot function well in a classroom with a large number of students, often exceeding the standard 30 students per classroom.
Related to this factor are the problems of poverty, single-parenting, divorce and violence, all of which often accounted for the large number of dropouts from public schools in the country. The problem impacts negatively on the propensity of students to learn. How far can the new Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, go in confronting, headlong, the problems in the sector?
It is gratifying to know that Senator Chris Ngige is as well going back to the trenches as the president retained him as the Minister of Labour and Productivity.
Having been at the helm of affairs in the ministry in the last four years, the minister is definitely familiar with the pervading problems militating against the labour sector.
The Nigerian Labour market, as it were with other developing countries in this part of the world, has been characterised by high unemployment rates and high informal sector employment.
Conterminous with these issues are the associated problems of low productivity, high level of employment in the government sector (including public enterprise) and low female participation rate in the labour sector.
Similarly, former Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State must be well acquainted with the perennial problems bedeviling the transport sector, especially public transportation.
Among the problems bedeviling the sector are poor road infrastructure, poorly maintained roads, congestion due to rapid urbanisation and overpopulation, accidents, poor state or inadequacy of other means of transport, especially railway transport and environmental pollution.
While much efforts were said to have been made by the present administration, during its first term, to bring about positive changes in the national transportation system, especially in the area of railway transport, Nigerians are truly yet to feel the impact of the government intervention.
The second time outing of Amaechi as the minister in charge of the ministry will indeed be an ample opportunity for him and, by extension, the Buhari administration to complete most of the ongoing projects, spread across the country, to the benefit of the people.
Mohammed Sabo Nanono, Agriculture
The agriculture sector used to be one of the most important (if not the most important) in the country. This was because, years back, it employed around 70 per cent of the country’s labour force. However, the sector is now confronted by the problem of low output, thus making it very hard to feed the increasing population. Some of the problems besetting food production include poverty (as over 75 per cent of the farmers are rural dwellers and peasant farmers); laziness; ignorance and lack of seriousness on the part of the government; illiteracy; usage of outdated manual farm tools/methods; lack of good roads, water electricity, food storage or processing facilities, modern farm machines/techniques and scientific/ technical know-how, among others.
While the present administration is not unaware of the problems, how far can it go, through the new Minister of Agriculture, Mohammed Sabo Nanono Shehuri, to rekindle the hope of Nigerians in taking to modern agricultural practices as a means to ensuring sustainable food production and thus enhancing national growth and development?
The appointment of the former governor of Osun State, Raufu Aregbesola, as the Minister of Interior came as a surprise to many Nigerians. This was because of the huge problems facing the country in its recent history. It is a known fact that, the most challenging problem facing the country is internal insecurity, engendered by terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and communal clashes.
The country also has porous borders, culminating in the infiltration of illegal aliens, bandits and insurgents, most of whom even President Buhari said were not Nigerians.
There is the issue of illegal oil bunkering, increased rate of smuggling and corruption in the rank and file of the country’s paramilitary agencies.
The former Osun State helmsman is reputed to be a performer as the Commissioner for Works in the Senator Bola Tinubu administration in Lagos. He was later said have been a success in Osun State.
Nigerians are looking up to him to be up to the task as the Minister of Interior and in tandem with the reform programmes of the government at the centre, especially as the president recently changed the name of the Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS) to the Nigerian Correctional Centres.