Nigeria: Analysts Seek Urgent Action in Buhari's New Beginning

22 August 2019

As President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated his new cabinet of 43 ministers yesterday, economists and analysts immediately stressed the need for urgent measures to address the challenges of the prevailing slow economic growth.

Nigeria, whose Gross Domestic Product (GDP) used to grow at an average of seven per cent, has continued to totter with growth hovering around two per cent.

The latest data released by the National Bureau of Statistics showed that Nigeria's GDP slowed to 2.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2019, compared to the 2.38 per cent recorded in the fourth quarter of 2018.

But there is no doubt that the president is acutely aware of the urgency of the moment as he has consistently told his new ministers that they could not afford to disappoint Nigerians, asking them to rise up to the challenge of lifting the mass of the people out of poverty through their dedication to duty and high performance.

To demonstrate his resolve in this direction, he unveiled a new mechanism, known as the Minister's Mandate, to track and monitor the performances of the 43 newly sworn-in ministers.

The ministers, who were sworn in yesterday were immediately allocated portfolios with those returning, including Mr. Babatunde Fashola, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, Dr. Chris Ngige, Mr. Abubakar Malami, Senator Hadi Sirika, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, retaining their old positions as exclusively reported by THISDAY in the July 26, 2019 edition of the newspaper.

Another highlight of the ceremony was the announcement of the return of the Ministries of Power, Police and Water Resources while a new portfolio, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, was created.

Also following yesterday's inauguration and allocation of portfolios to the ministers, some economists and analysts have stressed the need for urgent measures to address the challenges facing the economy.

The president, in his speech after swearing in the ministers in Abuja, said he had instructed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, to track the activities of the ministers with a view to guaranteeing effective service delivery and to report his findings to the cabinet.

"Dear honourable ministers, as you are aware, the Federal Executive Council meeting is held on a weekly basis. As part of efforts towards ensuring effective delivery on our priorities, I have directed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to track the progress against what we have committed to do to achieve these objectives. He is therefore expected to report the process of implementation and outcome to the Federal Executive Council," Buhari said.

Earlier, the SGF had announced the process of implementing the president's directive as he told the ministers that he would dispatch the "Ministers Mandate" to each of them, to enable them and their respective permanent secretaries to study it, append their signatures to it and submit it within two weeks.

Mustapha also told the ministers that after returning the "mandate," the document would be kept and subsequently used to monitor and co-ordinate their activities.

"Also within the period, by the time your portfolios are assigned, we will send out the ministerial mandate for you to review within two weeks with the permanent secretaries assigned to your ministries and attach your signatures and return for the purposes of safe keep and also monitoring and co-ordination," he said.

The SGF also told the ministers to immediately get themselves familiarised with the permanent secretaries of their ministries and immediately "set out to work particularly on the budget, and taking cognisance of the fact that we have assured the National Assembly that we are sending the budget immediately they return from the recess."

While unveiling the portfolios of the 43 ministers yesterday, Buhari reassigned to himself the portfolio of the Minister of Petroleum while he named a former Governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, as the Minister of State for Petroleum.

Buhari also announced the separation of the Ministry of Power from the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. He also separated the Ministry of Aviation from the Ministry of Transportation and merged the Ministry of Budget and National Planning with the Ministry of Finance.

He also created three new ministries, which are: Ministry of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs; Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and Ministry of Police Affairs.

The president told the ministers of the agreement they reached at the end of a two-day ministerial retreat held earlier in the week, recalling how they agreed to prioritise what he described as key strategic initiatives needed to drive socio-economic growth.

According to him, the target must be achieved, "because the people of Nigeria expect nothing less from us."

He said the primary focus of the government was to work towards the delivery of results expected from it by Nigerians, adding that the ministers now have the opportunity to build on the progress already made, alter the status quo and put Nigeria on the path of growth and development.

He added that the government's economic policy, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), was still effective and remained the compass for the navigation of the country's economy and promotion of infrastructure development.

He charged the cabinet members to work harmoniously with their permanent secretaries as well as heads of agencies and parastatals under their ministries, saying doing so is crucial to moving the country to the next level.

"Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, our primary business over the next four years is to work together towards delivering the results that the people of Nigeria expect from us. We have a great opportunity as an administration to build on the progress already made in order to fundamentally shift Nigeria's trajectory on the path of steady growth and development.

"While recognising the existing challenges and the urgent need to surmount them, we must not fail to note the progress we have made since inception. Our economic policy, which is the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, is still robust and on course with the necessary policies and initiatives to sustain the country's exit from recession, engender growth and promote the value chain of infrastructural development. We believe that we can sustain our legacies and developmental strides if they are based on sustainable policies and good governance.

"Let me also emphasise that, as heads of your respective ministries, and for effective implementation of your mandates, you are required to work closely with the permanent secretaries and chief executive officers of agencies under your purview. This has become necessary considering the fact that, the task of moving the country to the Next Level requires dedication, focus, and collective efforts," Buhari said.

The president stated that meaningful progress aimed at achieving progress in the country could only be made if they all devoted attention to addressing the challenges facing the country.

He warned the ministers against allowing political affiliation, sectionalism and what he described as "primordial loyalty" to override their sense of patriotism required to drive growth and national development.

Describing their appointments as opportunities to serve and collectively raise a safer and more prosperous nation, Buhari said he was glad that each of the ministers was committed to joining the government that would do what was right for Nigerians.

"I am pleased to note that each of you is committed to be part of an administration that will work for all Nigerians--part of a government that will do what is right and best at all times for our people, even when it is difficult. This is therefore an opportunity for you, it is a call to serve and collectively build a safer, more prosperous, and fair nation," he added.

The ministers and their portfolios as unveiled by the president yesterday are: Dr. Uchechukwu Ogah (Abia), Minister of State Mines and Steel Development; Muhammadu Musa Bello (Adamawa), Minister of Federal Capital Territory; Senator Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Minister of Niger Delta; Dr. Chris N. Ngige (Anambra), Minister of Labour and Employment; Sharon O. Ikeazor (Anambra), Minister of State for Environment; Adamu Adamu (Bauchi), Minister of Education; Mariam Y. Katagum (Bauchi), Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment; Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa), Minister of State for Petroleum Resources; Senator George Akume (Benue), Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs; Mustapha Baba Shehuri (Borno), Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development and Goddy Jedy - Agba (Cross River), Minister of State for Power.

Others include: Festus Keyamo (Delta), Minister of State Niger Delta; Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu (Ebonyi), Minister of Science and Technology; Dr. Osagie Ehanire (Edo), Minister of Health; Clement Ikanade Agba (Edo), Minister of State for Budget and National Planning; Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo (Ekiti), Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Geoffrey Onyeama (Enugu), Minister of Foreign Affairs; Dr. Ali Isa Ibrahim Pantami (Gombe), Minister of Communications; Emeka Nwajiuba (Imo), Minister of State Education; Suleiman Adamu (Jigawa), Minister of Water Resources; Zainab Ahmed (Kaduna), Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Dr. Muhammad Mahmoud (Kaduna), Minister of Environment; Sabo Nanono (Kano), Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and retired Maj. Gen. Bashir Salihi Magashi (Kano), Minister of Defence.

Also assigned portfolios are: Senator Hadi Sirika, (Katsina) Minister of Aviation; Abubakar Malami (Kebbi), Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; Ramatu Tijjani (Kogi), Minister of State for Federal Capital Territory; Lai Mohammed (Kwara) Minister of Information and Culture; Gbemisola Saraki (Kwara), Minister of State for Transportation; Babatunde Raji Fashola (Lagos), Minister of Works and Housing; Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora (Lagos), Minister of State for Health; Mohammed Abdullahi (Nasarawa), Minister of State for Science and Technology; Zubairu Dada (Niger), Minister of State for Foreign Affairs; Olamilekan Adegbite (Ogun), Minister of Mines and Steel Development; Senator Omotayo Alasoadura (Ondo), Minister of State, Labour and Employment; Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Minister of Interior; Sunday Dare (Oyo), Minister of Youth and Sports; Pauline Tallen (Plateau), Minister of Women Affairs; Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Minister of Transportation.

The rest are: Muhammadu Maigari Dingyadi (Sokoto), Minister of Police Affairs; Saleh Mamman (Taraba), Minister of Power; Abubakar Aliyu (Yobe), Minister of State, Works and Housing; and Sa'adiya Umar Farouk (Zamfara), Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

The swearing in ceremony was graced by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan; Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Wase; National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC); National Leader of APC, Senator Bola Tinubu; former Interim National Chairman of APC, Chief Bisi Akande; Chairman of the Nigeria Governors' Forum, Kayode Fayemi; Osun State Governor, Gboyega Oyetola and former Ogun State governor, Olusegun Osoba.

Analysts Seek Urgent Action

Meanwhile, some economists and analysts have stressed the need for urgent measures to address the challenges of the current slow economic growth.

Speaking to THISDAY on the new ministers, the immediate past Director General, West Africa Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFEM), Prof. Akpan Ekpo, advised the ministers to hit the ground running.

"The president won an election in February and the ministers are being sworn in today (yesterday), so they should hit the ground running. They should all tackle the issue of the economy. The economy is not in good shape.

"The unemployment rate keeps rising and insecurity is a big problem and with that you can't attract any foreign investor. So, they have to hit the ground running. There should be a lot of inter-ministerial coordination. What we have now in the economy is that the Central Bank is doing a lot. The government needs to move very fast and put in place appropriate fiscal policies to address this challenges. To me, it is very urgent that it is like they have started yesterday," he said.

On his part, the Managing Director, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Mr. Bismarck Rewane said: "If four weeks from today, I am still feeling the same level of poverty or hardship, then I will begin to scream."

When asked if four weeks was not too early to expect results from the ministers, Rewane said: "How many weeks do we have in a year? 52! So, are we going to wait till next year before we begin to see results? No. So, in four weeks we want to start seeing some outcomes.

"The animal that would get lost, on the first day that you blow your whistle for it to follow you, it would run in another direction. So, in four weeks we would know whether we are going anywhere.

"So, they have to perform. We would assess after the first four weeks and thereafter the first eight weeks. I don't want to pre-empt them by giving them any agenda, but in four weeks we would see if anything has changed."

Analysts at CSL Stockbrokers Limited also told THISDAY that from an economic development point of view, they do not expect a fundamental change in strategy and policy framework of the government in addressing the critical challenges facing the country.

"In our opinion, the ministerial list shows a continuation of a historical pattern of offering leadership positions of key parastatals as compensations for political support without giving much consideration to competence. With Nigeria at a critical juncture of economic and national development, the country is in dire need of technocrats who have the capacity and willingness to put the country on a path of growth.

"We do not believe these appointments will allay concerns on the ability of this administration to steer Nigeria back on the path of sustainable growth and national development. Consequently, we do not expect that this will be the much-awaited catalyst to stimulate renewed interest in Nigeria from an investment viewpoint," they added.

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