Nigeria: In Surprise Move, Buhari Rejigs Cabinet, Fires Agric, Power Ministers

President Muhammadu Buhari.
2 September 2021

For the first time in the over six years old administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, a minor cabinet reshuffle was effected yesterday, with two ministers losing their jobs and two others redeployed.

Those sacked were Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Sabo Nanono, and Minister of Power, Saleh Mamman.

Minister of Environment, Mohammed Abubakar, was redeployed to Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, while Minister of State for Works and Housing, Abubakar Aliyu, was elevated to Minister of Power.

It was the first midstream cabinet reorganisation by Buhari since the inception of his government in 2015.

The president said the changes were part of his administration's strategy of independent self-review.

But the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) described the president's sack of the two ministers as an attempt to mask his failure in office.

Buhari broke the news of the cabinet reshuffle at the weekly virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the State House, Abuja. He hinted that more ministers would be shown the way out in an urgent need to reinvigorate his cabinet.

Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, who read the president's statement to newsmen after the FEC meeting, quoted Buhari as saying that the cabinet rearrangement was part of measures to identify and strengthen weak areas, close gaps, build cohesion and synergy in governance, manage the economy, and improve the delivery of public good to Nigerians

Adesina also revealed that the president would fill the two vacant ministerial positions soon after confirmation of substantive nominees to be sent to the Senate in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

The president's statement read, "On Wednesday 21 August 2019 the current FEC was sworn-in after a rigorous retreat to bring returning and new members up to speed on the accomplishments, challenges and lessons drawn from my first term in office and to emphasise the nine priority areas of government for the second term.

"Two years and some months into the second term, the tradition of subjecting our projects and programmes implementation to independent and critical self-review has taken firm roots through sector reporting during cabinet meetings and at retreats.

"These significant review steps have helped to identify and strengthen weak areas, close gaps, build cohesion and synergy in governance, manage the economy and improve the delivery of public good to Nigerians."

It added, "I must commend this cabinet for demonstrating unparalleled resilience that helped the government to navigate the disruption to global systems and governance occasioned by the emergence of COVID-19 shortly after inauguration. The weekly FEC meetings were not spared because the traditional mode was altered.

"As we are all aware, change is the only factor that is constant in every human endeavour and as this administration approaches its critical phase in the second term, I have found it essential to reinvigorate this cabinet in a manner that will deepen its capacity to consolidate legacy achievements."

The president pointed out that he had personally met with the sacked ministers to thank them for their contributions to discussions in cabinet as well as the invaluable services they rendered to the nation.

He stated, "Today, effectively marks their last participation in the FEC deliberations and I wish them the best in all future endeavours.

"Finally, I wish to reiterate once more, that this process shall be continuous."

However, reacting to the president's decision to sack the two ministers, some operators in the power and agriculture sectors said both men added no value to the respective sectors they were overseeing.

National Coordinator, All Nigerian Electricity Consumers Protection Forum, Mr. Adeola Samuel-Ilori, told THISDAY, with regard to Mamman's sack, that consumers were indifferent to his discharge because they never felt his impact throughout his time in the saddle.

Samuel-Ilori said there was hardly anything that portrayed him as being in-charge of the power ministry. He alleged that Mamman was merely interested in protecting some interests in the sector.

Samuel-Ilori alleged, "The consumers' feeling cannot be different, we are indifferent, and you know why, while the man held sway, there was no feeling of his presence in that office. There was nothing he did that showed that he was in charge of the ministry or that he was overseeing either TCN or NERC and every other person. So, I don't see any reason why the consumers should feel anything about his absence.

"If you go back to how the man emerged, it would tell you that the man came for a purpose and I'm sure that the purpose must have been fulfilled."

An operator, who pleaded to remain anonymous, also alleged that the sacked power minister never added value to the sector.

The operator said about Mamman, "He was just a stumbling block in the system. The president told him to set up a board for the Transmission Commission of Nigeria, but he was just foot-dragging. Also he wasn't willing to support Siemens and he kept foot-dragging as well.

"We hold regular meetings with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on the power sector, where we always have top officials of the central bank, but he hardly attended.

"We also met with the Minister of Finance and officials of the Debt Management Office, but he was hardly in attendance. All our challenges, he is not the one resolving them, it is either the CBN Governor or Minister of Finance."

Similarly, commenting on the sack of Nanono, an operator in the agriculture sector said he was never fit for the role. The source also preferred to remain anonymous.

The source also noted the recent stockpiling of some agricultural produce by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development under Nanono, which contributed to inflationary pressure in the country.

Nanono had awarded contracts to some organisations to mop up some commodities, including maize, sorghum and rice and the move led to increase in the price of maize and rice. The arrangement, which was termed, "Emergency Procurement", had contradicted efforts by policymakers in the country to tame inflation.

PDP Tackles Buhari on Ministers' Sack

Meanwhile, PDP described the sack of ministers as an attempt to cover the president's failure in office.

In a statement by the PDP national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party said it was investigating the real reason behind the ministers' sack given the president's public approach to fighting corruption by "easing out" the culprits.

PDP asserted that the inefficiency of the Buhari administration was a product of his myopic and divisive approach to governance as well as the impunity and corruption deeply embedded in his government and party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).

PDP said even if the best hands were recruited, they would be contaminated by "incompetence, impunity, disregard for rules, divisiveness and corruption that have become the hallmark of the APC and its administration."

The party called on Buhari and APC to note that Nigerians were not swayed by the sack of the ministers but "are eagerly awaiting the exit of the Buhari presidency and the APC come May 29, 2023, as there is no hope in sight under their purview."

On its part, a civil rights advocacy group, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) urged Buhari to sack the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd); as well as the National Secretary Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd.).

According to the group, the three ministers have failed in terms of containing the security challenges plaguing the nation.

National Coordinator of HURIWA, Emmanuel Onwubiko, disclosed this in a statement made available to newsmen in Abuja

According to the HURIWA coordinator, "The Minister of Defence and the NSA to the President should be sacked. There is no doubt that students are constantly kidnapped and the security situation in Nigeria has become like a war situation and deteriorated almost to a point that the president is openly accused of undermining national security.

"The NSA should have been sacked about two years ago...

"The country has never had it so bad in terms of security threats. Borno, Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna are all under the control of terrorists and even Nigerian Defence Academy was not spared of the disgraceful attacks by terrorists.

"The fact that the justice minister justified the illegal rendition and abduction by government of the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, (Nnamdi Kanu), from Nairobi, Kenya, means that the justice minister is grossly incompetent and unfit for that high office."

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