President Muhammadu Buhari Monday declared open the presidential retreat for ministers-designate, permanent secretaries and top government functionaries.
Speaking at the retreat held at the State House Conference Centre in Abuja, the president told the participants to constantly communicate among themselves and unite in carrying out their functions.
The president said he would be counting on the ministers and advisers to drive the policies, programmes and projects that would lift the bulk of Nigerians out of poverty and set them on the road to prosperity.
He said the ministers would be responsible for the development and implementation of policies, programmes and projects in various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in line with government priorities.
The president said ministers must ensure agencies under their ministries are effective, efficient and accountable in the discharge of their responsibilities.
He said: “As ministers, I am counting on you together with advisers and Nigerians willing and able to contribute to build upon our road map of policies, programmes and projects that will lift the bulk of our people out of poverty and set them on the road to prosperity.
“Our administration’s eight years will have laid the grounds for lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. This outcome will fundamentally shift Nigeria’s trajectory and place us among the World’s Great Nations.
“You will be responsible for the development and implementation of policies, programmes and projects in your various Ministries, Departments and Agencies in line with Government priorities. You must also ensure that agencies under your ministries are effective, efficient and accountable in the discharge of their responsibilities.
“We must work as a team. Although you have been chosen to represent your states as a constitutional imperative, it is vital for all of you to work as Nigerians.
“Furthermore, working as a team demands that we know what the next person is doing. You must open communications with your colleagues. Lack of communication leads to lack of cooperation and sub-optimal performance.”
The president said his administration identified security, fighting corruption and revamping the economy as focal points.
“In our first term we identified three salient areas for close attention and action, namely to secure the country, to improve the economy and to fight corruption.
“None but the most partisan will dispute that we have made headway in all three areas:
First – we have rolled back the frontiers of terrorism; we are actively addressing other challenges such as kidnappings, farmer-herder violence, improving the safety of our roads, railways, air traffic and fire control capacities.
“Second – we are steadily turning the economy round through investment in agriculture and manufacturing, shoring up our foreign reserves, curbing inflation and improving the country’s infrastructure.
“Third – on corruption, we have recovered hundreds of billions of stolen assets and are actively pursuing control measures to tackle leakages in public resources. We will not let up in fighting corruption,” he said.
Also speaking, Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha said the call to service required that all appointees fully share in the president’s vision and agenda for the country.
“As members of the president’s team, it behoves on us to join him in providing the leadership required to develop Nigeria and lift the bulk of our people out of poverty. The presidential retreat is to further prepare us to be able to share in this vision and sense of purpose,” he said.
The SGF further said the ministers would be required to work with the highest standard of integrity, discipline and dedication set by the president in the service of the country.
“I will like to remind you that of all the functions you will be called upon to perform as ministers, none is more important than to help the president deliver the policies, programmes and projects required to move the nation to the next level.
“As the president said, our legacy will lie on how much we are able to deliver not on how much patronage we are able to extend to associates and supporters,” he said.
Meanwhile, the embattled Head of Cilvil Service of the Federation, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, was absent at the retreat.
Oyo-Ita, who is billed to present paper at the retreat Tuesday, was recently invited by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over allegations bordering on contract scam.
Task for incoming finance minister
Meanwhile, financial experts have said the incoming finance ministerwould need to produce a credible plan for improving Nigeria’s fiscal revenues.
This, they contended, became imperative since the country was yet to fully recover from the 2014 crash of oil prices, thereby still largely depending on borrowing to finance capital and recurrent expenditures.
In the first quarter of 2015, the nation’s total public debt stood at N12.4 trillion or $64.2 billion, while it rose to N24.9 trillion or $81.27 billion in March 2019.
Analysis of data obtained from the Debt Management Office (DMO) also showed Nigeria had spent a total of N7.04 trillion to service both domestic and external debts under President Buhari’s administration alone.
Nigeria currently spends over 50% of its revenues on debt servicing.
Relationship with the country’s apex bank — the Central Bank of Nigeria–especially in policy coordination is another area the new minister must look into.
According to Yomi Fawehinmi, an oil and gas expert and economic commentator, the new minister would have to secure better coordination with the CBN.
“Under the first four years of the Buhari administration, the then minister of finance, Kemi Adeosun, had a cordial relationship with the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele in the eye of the media, but often differed on policy coordination.
“In 2016, the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi accused the CBN of contravening section 38.2 of the CBN Act by borrowing more than the required threshold to the federal government. This has not deterred the CBN, as the apex bank has continued to lend money to the government.
“ As at May 2019, the CBN had lent a whopping N6.8 trillion to the federal government in form of “overdraft for budgetary expenses” as contained in its data,” Fawehinmi said.
Also speaking, an economist, Dr. Nonso Obikili, said the new minister should rein in on the indirect financing of the federal government by the CBN.
He said:“With oil prices falling and the government increasingly failing to achieve its budgetary targets, it is unlikely that the new minister will have the balls to stop this ill-advised policy.”