Can the new ministers take Nigeria to the Next Level?




It took President Muhammadu Buhari about four months to appoint and assign portfolios to some Nigerians who will join in the federal executive council (FEC) to take the nation to the next level. ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU and PAUL OKAH take a look at the new ministers and their capacities to deliver at their new ministries.

According to the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Act 147, sub-section 1 stated that “there shall be such offices of ministers of the government of the Federation as may be established by the president” and sub-section 2 stated that “any appointment to the office of minister of the government of the federation shall, if the nomination of any person to such office is confirmed by the Senate, be made by the president.” It was in line with this constitutional directive that the President Buhari appointed ministers.

 Also, sub-section 3 of the constitution explained that “any appointment under sub-section (2) of this section by the president shall be in conformity with the provisions of Section 14(3) of this constitution: – provided that in giving effect to the provisions aforesaid the president shall appoint at least one minister from each state, who shall be an indigene of such state.”

 Therefore, President Buhari as acted well by appointing at least one minister from each state. However, as the constitution did not identify the ministries as well as who should be appointed to what ministry, it remains the singular right of the president to assign the ministers to ministries where he thinks they can perform.

 Notably, there are many functions of ministers, but art 148 sub-section 1 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which in brief explained the functions of ministers stated that, “The president may, in his discretion, assign to the vice-president or any minister of the government of the federation responsibility for any business of the government of the federation, including the administration of any department of government.” While sub-section 2 of the same Act 148 stated “the president shall hold regular meetings with the vice-president and all the ministers of the government of the Federation for the purposes of – (a) determining the general direction of domestic and foreign policies of the government of the federation; (b) coordinating the activities of the president, the vice-president and the ministers of the government of the federation in the discharge of their executive responsibilities; and (c) advising the president generally in discharge of his executive functions other than those functions with respect to which he is required by this constitution to seek the advice or act on the recommendation of any other person or body.” Therefore, since the assigning of portfolios to the ministers designated many questions have been running through the minds of Nigerians. One of those questions is that can these ministers help President Buhari to achieve his Next Level campaign promises in this last level?

 Buhari holds onto petroleum ministry

Interestingly, as he did in 2015, President Buhari appointed himself as the minister of petroleum.  The president, a former federal commissioner (position now called minister) for petroleum and natural resources is of the opinion that the ministry is important and can best be managed by the president. 

Notably, the president did not breach any part of the constitution by appointing himself, but analysts are of the view that considering the importance of the ministry to Nigeria’s economy, it is better for an expert or technocrat and a different person from the president to oversee the affairs of that ministry.

A political analyst and public affairs commentator, Jide Ojo, said the president cannot perform well as minister of petroleum because of the demands of his office.

He said, “I expected the president to relinquish himself of some of the burdens he has put on himself. Retaining the position of minister of petroleum resources when he doesn’t have the attention to manage the ministry is not good enough. How can you be a minister of petroleum and your minister of state will not see you for six months and there are urgent issues to be dealt with? 

“He already has too many issues on his plate even as the president because the buck stops at his table. So, for me, at his age 76, he should let go of some of the portfolios.”

Can Mamman generate power?

Experts are of the opinion that one of the major factors for industrial revolution in every nation is stable and affordable power supply. This has remained a difficult task for Nigeria. To tackle this problem, President Buhari removed the ministry of power from what used to be the ministry of power, works and housing and made Engineer Sale Mamman the minister of power.

The 61-year-old Taraba state-born Mamma who holds a Higher National Diploma in Electrical/Electronic Engineering from Kaduna State Polytechnic in 1988, and a master’s in business administration from Bayero University, Kano, in 2015, served as a former assistant director, electricity, in the ministry of works before he retired in 2002.

On Engr. Sale Mamman as minister of power, an energy expert and legal practitioner, Barrister David Adetunji Adeyeye, said he expects the minister to hit the ground running.

He said the new minister possesses the prerequisite skills to deliver in his new portfolio, having worked in the civil service and with the understanding of the problems inherent in the power sector.

He said, “Engineer Saleh Mamman, as an electrical electronics graduate and retired assistant director from the ministry of work, I would expect him to hit the ground running. Having understood the requisite workings of public civil service, he should be able to project the policies of government efficiently.

“I would also advise that he should immediately address the misalignments in power sector value-chain which should, in turn, address regulatory inconsistencies, the re-alignment of the market risks, policy inconsistencies, right pricing of electricity as commodity, adjustment with aspiration of the National Electric Power Policy (NEPP) 2002, the Electricity Power Sector Reform Act EPSRA 2005.”

More work, housing projects by Fashola

The minister of works and housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, was born in Lagos on June 28, 1963. He obtained a degree in Law in 1987 from the University of Benin and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1988. After NYSC, Fashola went into private legal practice, which flourished for over fifteen years until his appointment in 2002, as the chief of staff to former governor of Lagos state, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. A two-time governor of Lagos state, Fashola is the immediate past minister of power, works and housing.

Considering his performance as the immediate past minister of power, works and housing, experts are of the view that with the removal of the power ministry, Fashola will continue the good work he has started. According to them, with enough resources Nigerians should expect more work and housing projects to address some of the nation’s infrastructure problems.

Can Nanono bring agric’s glory days back?

Notably, President Buhari’s administration has been working hard to diversify the nation’s economy through agriculture. This now depends on the capacity of the minister of agriculture, Mohammed Sabo Nanono.

Nanono, who hails from Kano state, was born on April 11, 1946. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s in public policy and administration from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and University of Wisconsin, USA. He formerly lectured at ABU; he was the managing director of Kano State Investment and Properties Limited. He retired into full-scale farming after being general manager at African International Bank between 1991 and 2000.

A group, the Beginners Alliance for Democratic Governance and Emancipation (BADGE), says the appointment of Mohammed Sabo Nanono as minister of agriculture was a confirmation of President Buhari’s resolve to revamp the agriculture.

The chairman and the secretary of the group, Ibrahim Yusuf Ibrahim and Salisu Saminu Madachi, respectively, said the new minister of agriculture is blessed with professional background and track records which will enable him to perform beyond expectations in his new assignment.

According to the group, Nanono, as a seasoned banker, farmer and former president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), possess all the qualities to bring back the glory days of Nigeria as a farming destination of Africa.

They also said, “He has knowledge, local and international network to address the issues and challenges of farming and farmers in the country. As a former banker, we are optimistic that the issues of poor funding of agriculture in Nigeria will soon be addressed.”

The finance ministry’s new boss

The new minister of finance, Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, hails from Kaduna state and was born on June 16, 1960. She obtained a Bachelor’s degree in accounting from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1981, and an MBA from the Ogun State University, Ago Iwoye. She is a former deputy general manager (DGM) at the Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd (NITEL). In 2010, she was appointed executive secretary of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) until her appointment as minister in 2015. She is the immediate past minister of finance. 

In a country with many economic challenges, the question running through the minds of many economic experts is on her ability to deliver. Most of them are of the view that ministry of finance is not in safe hands and this will arguably affect the performance of the president’s administration and even the development of the country.

Reacting to whether the ministry is in safe hands or not, a statesman, Development Economist and Former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, is of the view that that the ministry of finance is in wrong hands.

He said, “Well, first of all, I don’t think an account should run ministry of finance, is wrong, but people do that because they really don’t understand the role of minister of finance. The minister of finance is supposed to be the principal catalyst for economic management. Managing and accounting for the money is just a part of the function. The real bigger function is to drive the process of economic development. So, the ministry is not meant for an account to occupy. 

“Though she is a good person, a good accountant, and when she was in budget she did her best. But I don’t think that ministry is for an accountant. To be very honest with you, no country in the world will appoint an account to be minister of finance, except our kind of country. The person should be an economist.”

Ehanire and health care services

Like every other ministry, the ministry of health is also important and part of President Buhari’s Next Level agenda. The minister, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who hails from Edo state, was born November 4, 1946. He is a graduate of medicine from the University of Munich, Germany. In 1976, he attended the prestigious Royal College of Surgeon in Dublin, Ireland, where he obtained certification in anaesthetics, general surgery, and orthopaedic trauma surgery. He is a fellow of the famous West African College of Surgeons (FWACS). Dr. Ehanire worked extensively abroad before returning to Nigeria in 1982 to work at the Department of Surgery (Orthopaedic Surgery) University of Benin Teaching Hospital and others. He was the immediate past minister of state for health.

From this brief biography, many of the view that all things being equal, Ehanire as the minister of health will not only help the President Buhari’s administration take health care delivery to next level, but to a better level. In fact, some pundits have described his appointment as “a square peg in a square hole.” 

Experts in this field are of the view that the minister will bring his experience to bear and make effective use of his network for development of the health sector.

What can Magashi bring?

The new minister of defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (retd.), is an indigene of Kano state, born January 15, 1945. He obtained a Law degree from ABU in 1980. He started his military career as a second lieutenant in 1968. He was commander, Guards Brigade and former military administrator, Sokoto state. After his retirement as a Maj. Gen. in 1999, he became a politician and contested for the governorship of Kano state in 2007.

Speaking on the man’s ability to deliver on his mandate, a security expert, Golden member, International security Association (IWA) Switzerland, who is also a politician, Jackson Lekan Ojo, described the appointment of the 74-year-old retired Maj. Gen. as “mere political patronage.”

He said, “I am not comfortable with the appointment of Magashi as minister of defence. Yes, he got to the peak of his career as a military, but then his old man and I see his appointment as a mere political compensation. 

“He is old, the minister of defence most not necessarily comes from the retired military officers, the minister can come from anywhere. However, the President may have his reasons, but the last we argue this line it was at the detriment of Nigeria’s ministry of defence.

“Anyone who will oversee defence is supposed to be young, intelligent; Nigeria needs a defence minister who understands the application of technology in defence and minister that could traverse the length and breadth of the country. His appointment is to me political patronage which will certainly affect his performance.”

Rule of law, the return of Malami

President Buhari’s administration has received a series of flaks in the last four years over alleged disregard for the rule of law. Surprisingly, the president re-appointed Abubakar Malami as the attorney-general of the federation (AGF) and minister of justice.

Malami hails from Kebbi state. He was born April 17, 1967. Malami studied law at the Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto, and attended Nigerian Law School in 1992. He holds a Master’s degree in public administration from the University of Maiduguri. A member of the distinguished Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), he has co-authored several publications. 

Reacting to his appointment and the next level rule of law, a constitutional lawyer, Barrister Ralph Agama, said Malami is qualified to be appointed, but urged him listen to wise counsel.

Agama said, “It is the prerogative of the president to appoint anyone who is qualified to serve in the federal executive council. By qualifications, Malami is qualified. But one of those things I think he should do more, that is the cardinal for this administration is rule of law. So, the minister should ensure that all the apparatus of government comply with the rule of law. For justice, because where there is no justice many things will be wrong with the system. He should ensure the independence of the judiciary also ensures that the three arms of government observe the principle of checks and balances. 

On whether he can perform well or not, he said, “Well if we are to compare it with his performance in the last four years, yes as human being he may not perform optimally. But this time around we expects that he should learn from the past mistakes and he should listen to wise counsel, so that his second coming would be better than the last.”

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