13 June 2001

Nigeria: Ministers and Chief Economic Adviser to Obasanjo 'Resign'

Lagos — President Olusegun Obasanjo seems to have heeded the calls from many quarters in Nigeria, for a change in his economic management team, with the 'resignation' Tuesday of his Chief Economic Adviser, Philip Asiodu, and seven other ministers and top aides.

A terse report on state-run Nigerian Television Authority network news late at night said that Obasanjo had accepted Asiodu's resignation, as well as that of two ministers,two ministers of state, and three aides.

Uffot Ekaette, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, confirmed the resignation of the officials who included Mohammed Arzika, Minister of Communications, Col Bello Kaliel (rtd), Minister of Water Resources, Alhaji Danjuma Goje, Minister of State for Power and Steel, and Solomon Ewuga, Minister of State for the Federal Capial Territory, Abuja.

The aides were Patrick Dele Cole, Special Adviser on Foreign Relations, Ibrahim Lame, Special Assistant on Drugs and Financial Crimes, and Bukola Saraki, Special Assistant on Budget Matters.

President Obasanjo at the beginning of his administration in 1999 introduced an unusual element of team management when he asked all his key officials - ministers, special advisers and assistants - to sign an undated letter of resignation; now all that's needed to remove someone from office is a date.

No reasons for the resignations have been given. But during the government's celebrations, two weeks ago, to mark the passing of two years since the return to democracy, many Nigerians called for changes in the president's cabinet. Those who made such calls argued that after two years and with a less than an impressive performance to show, the government needed an introduction of fresh blood.

In the area of economic policy formulation, many Nigerians have blamed the worsening economic conditions in the country on the quality of advice being given to the president by his aides. Obasanjo has said, however, that he takes personal responsibilty for all the actions of his government, whatever the advice given by his assistants.

The resignation (or removal) of Mohammed Arzika has been widely anticipated. His tenure as Communications Minister did not significantly advance Nigeria's march towards the information revolution. Basic telecommunication services remain a luxury in Nigeria.

At the beginning of this month, the government approved tariff increases for the state-run Nitel (Nigerian Telecommunications Limited), the national carrier that is up for privatisation. They included an increase of 126.32 percent for intra-city phone calls to 4.30 naira per minute, up from 1.9 naira (US$1 = 113 naira) while trunk calls from a radial distance of 700km rose to 42 naira per minute, up from 19 naira.


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