Nigeria: Buhari's New Cabinet - Time for More Technocrats

Buhari's ministerial appointments.
opinion

This time of preparation for a second term for Nigeria's leader is another right time to preach and pray for him so that he can perform better for the country. It is also a time to tell him some inconvenient truths - to set him free from some weapons of mass distortion (of facts) unleashed on him by some dishonest and sycophantic aides. For instance, this is a time to tell him again that his cabinet (2015-2019) that he is about to dissolve is a 'cabinet of mediocrities' as noted here the other day.

It is also a time to tell Nigeria's president that the figures some of his ministers tell him about our performance in agriculture have been misleading and haven't portrayed his government well in the eyes of people who know the facts and the objective reality. The facts they publish on local rice production vis-à-vis smuggled and imported ones have been more lies and the lying liars don't deserve another chance in the cabinet.

Last week, I concluded a series on "Buhari, governors and cabinets of significance". It is a time again to advise the president to consider significant technocrats while re-makingnot only his cabinet but also heads of agencies this time.

Besides, this is a time for President Buhari to listen to what others outside his kitchen cabinet and party are suggesting. So, as he bids his first cabinet members farewell this week, he should remember a suggestion I quoted from Dr. Adegoroye's book last week in respect of number of ministries needed at this time. There was a devil in the detail printed last week. In the original draft, 18 ministries were recommended not 28 as wrongly printed. Federal government does not need more than 18 ministries. The states do not need more than half of that if we want to cut our coats according to our clothes at this time.

Below is Dr. Adegoroye's take on the issue as recommended in his book (2015, P.227)

'... What I would like to see for Nigeria is an executive comprising no more than an 18-man cabinet, withportfolios crafted out as follows:

- Agriculture & Water Resources

- Defence

- Education

- Employment, Labour, Productivity and Pension Affairs

- Energy (comprising Petroleum Resources, Power and Mines)

- Environment, Housing and Urban Development

- Finance and Economic Planning (current Finance and National Planning)

- Foreign Affairs

- Health and Human Services (including the elderly and

vulnerable groups)

- Information, Culture, Tourism and National Orientation

- Interior (Police, Immigration, Prisons, Security Defence)

- Investment, Trade, Industry and Steel Development

- Justice

- Science, Technology and Communications

- Transportation (Highways, Aviation, Rail and Water

Transport)

- Gender, Family Affairs, Youth and Sports (current Women

Affairs, Youth and Sports)

- Special National Considerations (to take care of Niger Delta

and North-East Affairs)

- Federal Capital Territory Administration... '

The United States of America has only 15 cabinet positions, namely: Agriculture; Commerce; Defence; Education; Energy; Health & Human Services; Housing and Urban Development; Interior; Justice; Labour; State (Foreign Affairs); Transportation; Treasury; Veteran Affairs; and Homeland Security. The population of the United States is put 328 million, almost twice the population of Nigeria. Its land area

of 9,826,675 sq km is at least ten times the size of Nigeria at 923,800sq km, while its GDP of US$17,320 trillion is nearly thirty times the size of Nigeria's celebrated newly-rebased GDP of $510 billion in 2013. In other words, we cannot hide under land area, population or even size of our economy to justify the number of ministries that we currently operate. Dr. Adegoroye's argument reinforces this construct in the classic I have been referring to. We need to consider the way we are before over-bloating the bureaucracy again.

Why Buhari needs more technocrats like Enelamah and Fashola.

There is a sense in which one can continue to claim that the outgoing cabinet has been a lacklustre one. That was why the administration struggled to find concrete evidence of performance in the just concluded campaigns for re-election of the president. InObasanjo's second term, the appearance of technocrats such Dr.Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Malam Nasirel-Rufai, Mrs Obiageli Ezekwesili, etc, made some remarkable difference.Similarly, the return of Okonjo-Iweala to Dr. Jonathan's cabinet in 2011 makes perhaps the only difference. That speaks to the power of knowledge, character and strategic planning at such a time like this.

If you do a clinical appraisal of the outgoing cabinet, you will see strategic thinking and planning in only two ministers, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah and Mr. Babatunde Fashola. It may be very difficult to see the signature of Fashola because of the parlous state of works and electricity supply in the country today, but he appears to have done some diagnostic studies of the trouble with the three sectors in his care. And anyone taking over from the former governor of Lagos state will not struggle anymore as he did.

There are available details of what to do with two critical sectors - works and power, for instance. Housing has never been one critical factor. The fact that Fashola didn't do much as expected is located in the systemic failure syndrome that has characterised Abuja since the beginning of this democracy. Specifically, President Buhari should cast out the spirit of procrastination and take governance reform issues more seriously this time. If he can assemble more technocrats and engage them, there will be some difference this time.

So, if you study this cabinet organically, the ministry that has made real difference in terms of tangible reform agenda that have been talking points even by strategic foreign partners is the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment. Doubtless, there have been tangible achievements that may not have been prominent, after all. That is where Dr.Okechukwu Enelamah's quiet operation has been quiteremarkable. When Nigeria played host to the 2018 International Press Institute (IPI) Conference in Abuja, some ministers made presentations but I noticed thatDr.Enelamah's strategic plans in his presentation appeared to be the most significant to the IPI executive at the banquet hall of the State House, Abuja during the opening ceremony by the president. He seemed to have measurable plans he had been pursuing systematically under the guidance of the Vice President, Professor YemiOsinbajo.

Under Enelamah, the concerted efforts at improving the ease of doing business appear to have paid off. There have been reported improvements in Nigeria's business regulatory environment. The country rose 24 places from 169 to 145 in the World Bank's 2018 Ease of Doing Business Index, its highest jump in the history of the rankings.And although Nigeria ranks 146 in the latest Doing Business rankings, the country's Distance-to-Frontier (DTF) score, which is the absolute metric, improved from 51.52 in Doing Business 2018 to 52.89 in 2019. This is a measurable feat we need to grow. In the Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment's mandate, there are on-going reforms, whichEnelamah has been watchful about without engaging in political noise.

The specific mandate of the Ministry is creating an enabling business environment for businesses to thrive; implementing the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP); attracting long-term local and foreign investment; encouraging expansion of MSMEs; and promotion of global and regional value chains that enhance trade.

As a policy analyst, I noted one of the silent reforms the Ministry has been serious about is Intellectual Property, such as trademarks and patents, an area key to ensuring an enabling environment for business.It entails the development of a National Intellectual Property Policy for Nigeria; modernisation of the legal framework to capture existing treaty obligations of Nigeria; extend the coverage of the law to more recent developments; and the modernisation of the administrative regime for IP in Nigeria.

Stakeholders have been encountering problems such as delays and lack of clarity about processes, poor state of records, which were not digitised, making for ease of destruction and loss; as well as difficulties with access and retrieval of records.

This has been taken care of but it is not a big story in our society that celebrates touts and political thugs who can disrupt elections. This expediency has necessitated urgent transformation of the administrative processes within the Commercial Law Department of the Ministry and, indeed, the structure and operations of the Department. Among the early achievements are streamlining of the Registries as separate Registries (Patents & Designs, and Trademarks) with different registrars in accordance with the Acts establishing them. This has made for better accountability; and the backlog of applications for registration and issuance of certificates for accepted and unopposed applications dating back to 2014 has been cleared by the registries. It has also relieved stakeholders of frustrations and restored their confidence in the registries.For the first time since the Trademarks Act came into force some 51 years ago, an Annual Report on Trademarks has been issued.

The importance of industrialisation in Nigeria's economic growth has never been in doubt, yet its contribution to Gross Domestic Product has been low. With a commitment to making Nigeria competitive for local production and thereby increasing the contribution of manufacturing to GDP, the Ministry has been leveraging the country's comparative advantage and factor endowments.

To accelerate industrial development, the ministry, which has embarked on an aggressive implementation of the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan,initiated the establishment of the Nigeria Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council aimed at increasing the contribution of the manufacturing sector to GDP by 250 per cent over a five-year period, and establish Nigeria as the manufacturing hub for West Africa, by implementing initiatives aimed at accelerating industrialization, leveraging private sector expertise and capital.

The Council has made many high-level interventions to address industrial sector issues such as electricity supply, broadband penetration and access roads. A recent example is the Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme, under whichthe private sector has committed to sponsoring the construction or rehabilitation of road projects across the country.

The Council is also engaged in the implementation of sectoral policies for areas in which the country has comparative advantage such as in agriculture and petrochemicals.Acknowledging the major role ofSmall and Medium-Scale Enterprises in industrial and economic development, the Ministry made noticeable improvement in access to finance for this category of investors.

Numbering over 77 million, MSMEs contribute almost half of Nigeria's GDP and employ over 60 million people.Remarkably, in the last few years, there have been sustained efforts to build capacity, increase access to finance and eliminate bottlenecks to conducting business in Nigeria. Some of the achievements in support of MSMES include the inauguration of the National Council on Micro Small & Medium Enterprises (NCMES) for more focus on MSMES. The Ministry has increased access to finance for MSMES by providing capital for both start-ups and expansion through the interventions of the Bank of Industry and the World Bank-funded Growth and Employment (GEM) Project.

The Bank of Industry, which is an agency of the Ministry, provides relatively low-interest rate and innovative financing solutions as incentives towards stimulating interest and growth of entrepreneurship.The bank's disbursements are to 11 sectors, including food processing, agro- processing, healthcare and petrochemicals, solid minerals, N-Power, the creative industry and gender business amongst others.

There are more issues that government and development partners can relate with in this Ministry under Dr.Enelamah, a physician turned technocrat. That is why the president should head hunt for more of such quiet but significant technocrats who can make more difference in the next four years.

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