2 January 2016

Nigeria: Ministers Who Will Define Buhari's Presidency

opinion

This year, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration will be quite busy fulfilling the change mantra of the All Progressives Party. With the economy down, and every other vital sector virtually in sixes and sevens, the ministers the president had appointed have a job on their hand to either make or mar the Buhari presidency. Daily Trust on Sunday presents ministers that will shape the policies and programmes of the administration this year

Babatunde Fashola (Power, Works & Housing)

The Muhammed Buhari administration has never strayed from the fact that there is need for speedy infrastructural development in the country. And it is upon Fashola that the burden rests. If he fails, the administration fails. The president has utmost confidence in the former governor of Lagos State that a "three-in-one" ministry was placed upon him. And invariably he has no choice but to deliver in all aspects.

Power is one sector that has been problematic in the country, and despite the resources invested in it and the unbundling of the former Power Holding Company of Nigeria, the problem of inadequate electricity supply has persisted.

There will be no excuses as the Power minister must forge ahead to provide Nigerians with adequate electricity. Besides, Fashola should check the activities of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), which, over the years, has been bedevilled by controversies and seemed to have compromised its mandate.

Fashola has also been made to be conscious that many roads are in a bad state across the country, just as provision of houses is in deficit. According to data, Nigeria will require about N56 trillion to close up the country's 17 million housing units deficit. These are issues that are to be addressed, and promptly too. In the interim, the federal government has slated, in the 2016 budget, N433.4 billion to the Works, Power and Housing sectors as capital estimates.

Audu Ogbeh (Agriculture & Rural Development)

On assumption of office as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh said attention would be shifted to research and marketing to boost production.

Ogbeh believed the measure, when fully on stream, would help reduce food imports. With emphasis on non-oil sector, the federal government had said it would focus on agriculture.

In fact, President Buhari had, during his election campaigns, dwell on alternative to oil, a position he still emphasized while presenting the 2016 budget. In this regard, he has the onerous task of nurturing this sector for the needed impact in the country. This could be an uphill task. As Ogbeh tackles his assignment, Nigerians are waiting for a defined policy on agriculture from the Buhari administration that would be cardinal in achieving the agricultural turnaround.

Kayode Fayemi (Solid Minerals)

Together with agriculture, the solid mineral sector is another area where the federal government is focusing on to make an impact on the country's economy. In fact, the sector is one that is expected to form the pivot of revenue generation and job creation. Fayemi, a former governor of Ekiti State, has to really push for the realisation of the administration's policies and programmes in this sector.

Nigeria is blessed with numerous mineral resources, with claims that every one of the 36 states has varieties of precious stones and industrial minerals. Accordingly, opportunities exist for the exploitation of natural gas, bitumen, limestone, coal, tin, columbite, gold, silver, lead-zinc, gypsum, glass sands, clays, asbestos, graphite and iron ore, among others.

The minister has promised to ensure that the full potentials of Nigeria's solid minerals sector are truly realized, stressing that the president passionately yearns for the development of the sector.

Fashola maintained that the administration would ensure that the country's enormous wealth of solid minerals would be harnessed and deployed in the interest of national development.

One area of the sector is key: the revitalization of the moribund mining and geo-sciences institutions in the country. These are cardinal in the sustainability of what would be achieved in the sector. The minister, indeed, has an onerous task to bring the sector from its comatose state to a functional level.

Chris Ngige (Labour and Employment)

During his campaign tour, President Buhari hammered the issue of unemployment in the country. This is because over the years, the country's unemployment had increased considerably. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the unemployment rate in 2015 rose from 7.5 per cent in the 1st quarter to a disturbing 9.90 per cent in the 3rd quarter.

During the 2016 budget presentation, the president gave a ray of hope at reducing joblessness. According to him, this would be done with the recruitment of 500,000 teachers for public schools. He said it would be a partnership with the state and local governments where graduates and NCE holders would be engaged.

Buhari also said the federal government would partner with state and local governments to provide financial training and loans to market women, traders and artisans through their cooperative societies, which is an important platform to create jobs and provide opportunities for entrepreneurs. Also, the federal government has said it would provide N5000 for unemployed youth in the country.

Remarkably reducing unemployment will be a tough turf for Dr Ngige; it has been a monster to contain.

Kemi Adeosun (Finance)

The introduction of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) by the Buhari administration is a bold step to check inflow and outflow of funds from government coffers. Also the government has further extended the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) to all government establishments.

Besides, the government had ordered the constant Continuous Audit Process (CAP) by which it hopes to check personnel costs.

According to President Buhari in his speech to the National Assembly while presenting the 2016 budget, the government's "commitment to a lean and cost-effective government remains a priority, and the initiatives we are introducing will signal a fundamental change in how government spends public revenue."

Also, he noted that government was enhancing the utilization of the Integrated Financial Management Information Systems (GIFMIS) to improve financial management. On wastages, he explained that the "recently established Efficiency Unit is working across MDAs to identify and eliminate wasteful spending, duplication and other inefficiencies."

The proper implementation and checks of these financial policies rest on the ability of the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, to harness them. The financial sector in Nigeria is believed to have been bastardised and fiscal procedures neglected. So many loopholes have been identified in the sector during the various investigations into the spending activities of the past regime.

It is now upon Mrs Adeosun to put things right and restore the confidence of Nigerians to the sector.

Adamu Adamu (Education)

The decay in the education sector over the years leaves more to be desired and the responsibility to clean it up is on Adamu Adamu, an accountant who is better known as a columnist, critic and public commentator. For years, Adamu took various administrations to the cleaners. Now, many Nigerians are keenly observing how Adamu will match what had been criticisms by him even on education with action.

Infrastructural development in the educational sector is abysmal in all ramifications, while discipline and quality have been on the lowest for many years.

Adamu is expected to make the education sector, especially the public institutions, functional. The performances of secondary school students in the Senior Secondary School examinations have been consistently poor. For example, for the May/June 2015 results, out of 1,593,442 candidates only 616,370 candidates passed with credits in five subjects and above, including English Language and mathematics.

In 2014, 529,425 candidates obtained five credits in English and Mathematics, while in 2013,639,760 candidates achieved that feat.

At the tertiary level, Nigerian universities have been left far behind in research, academic quality and infrastructure, even in Africa. For instance, the best ranked tertiary institution in Nigeria is not within the first 20.

Ibe Kachikwu (Minister of State for Petroleum)

With his appointment first as Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and later as Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu enjoys President Buhari's trust to turn around the decayed oil sector.

Kachikwu, it seems, has since been recording some degrees in the sector. First, all the refineries are back on stream, with the Kaduna refinery already in production in December 2015. The Warri refinery is expected to start production hopefully in the next few days, while the Port Harcourt refinery will start operating in the next two weeks. The refineries are expected to generate, at least, 10 million litres of petrol daily when in operation. Apart from this, the minister noted that resumption of oil prospects in the Chad basin would soon resume in earnest.

Furthermore, from Friday January 1, 2016, petrol had started selling for N86 per litre at the stations belonging to the NNPC, and N86.50 per litre at filling stations of major and independent oil marketers. These are positive steps even as the price of oil in the international market continues to fall.

Muhammadu Bello (Federal Capital Territory)

Over time, the policies and programmes of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) seem to have been neglected or distorted to suit the administration in power. As such, the development of relevant infrastructure and programmes has been stalled substantially. Areas where projects are meant for the lower cadre of society are diverted to other personal means.

On a recent visit by the FCT minister, Mallam Muhammadu Bello to indigenes of the Garki village, they appealed to him to revisit the resettlement and compensation exercise. It was carried out by the FCDA officials and considered the option of integration of the original inhabitants. The Magajin Garki, Joel Yazegbe, who spoke on their behalf, noted that the 2005 exercise was not conclusive and urged him to consider reintegration other than relocation.

Recently, the Abuja Geographic Information Systems (AGIS) has been perforated with miscreants in its system. This needed to be nipped in the bud before it gets out of proportion. The minister should be quick to address the situation.

Besides, infrastructures in the FCT are getting obsolete, which the federal government must swiftly fix. For instance, many drainages in the city have broken down and either needed to be repaired or totally replaced with effective and modern ones. Besides, the management of solid wastes has been worrisome and they are never promptly evacuated, making them an eyesore in the ever growing city.

Also, the minister must ensure that the Satellite Towns Development Agency must be committed to providing infrastructure to the satellite towns to reduce tension in the city. For instance, if the satellite towns are provided adequate roads, electricity and potable water, residents are not likely to throng the city for residence, and the high cost of rents would drastically fall.

Abubakar Malami (Justice)

The judicial system in the country has it fair share of knocks as many people think it has been compromised. Worried about accusations of the system, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed at a recent swearing in of 30 judges appointed for the Federal High Court judges in Abuja, demanded the public to submit names of any corrupt judge for disciplinary action.

"Anybody who has evidence of corruption against any judge should submit same to the National Judicial Commission (NJC) so as to remove such judge from the bench," he said. According to him, some judges and judicial staff might be complicit in corrupt practices. "I wish to address the vexed issue of judicial corruption. This is because allegations about corrupt judicial officers and staff now make headline news on a more frequent basis," he said

The Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami needs to worry about the situation in view of the anti-corruption war waged by the Buhari administration. With a corrupt judiciary, such war would be fruitless. This is also to mean that the anti-graft agencies, especially the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), must be strengthened. Both institutions have been accused of not prosecuting or jailing looters of the economy.

Though, the present administration has begun to prosecute high-flyer corrupt personalities, many Nigerians believe that it must cut across all sectors regardless of those involved.

When the BringBackOurGirls campaign movement visited the minister, he mentioned that the federal government would discard the plea bargain idea on looted funds. "I cannot imagine someone who had been responsible for monumental deaths of our citizens going scot-free arising from plea bargain as a policy," Malami pointed out.

According to him, it has never been the policy of the government to make compromises on terrorism and financial crimes and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation will never tolerate such.

But the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) called on the Buhari government to also probe some of its ministers for corruption rather than concentrate only on officials of past administrations.

In a communiqué at the end of its meeting in Abuja last Tuesday, the secretary, Body of PDP National Vice Chairmen, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, the party supported the anti-corruption drive of President Buhari, but demanded that serving ministers who were alleged to have engaged in corrupt practices before their appointment be investigated by the administration. That is the challenge before the administration and the minister of justice.

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