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OUR MINISTERS, THEIR LIKELY PORTFOLIOS AND WHAT NIGERIANS EXPECT FROM THEM

OUR MINISTERS, THEIR LIKELY PORTFOLIOS AND WHAT NIGERIANS EXPECT FROM THEM

BY IFEANYI OTTAH

With the appointment of ministerial nominees by President Muhammadu Buhari and with majority of them successfully screened by the Senate, it is obvious that the President’s promises of turning Nigeria around for better would soon pay off.

The Senate during the last few weeks confirmed the appointment of 24 ministerial nominees. They are former Lagos governor Babatunde Fashola former Ekiti governor, Kayode Fayemi Dr. Chris Ngige(Anambra) Senator UdoUdoma (AkwaIbom) Dr.Ogbonna Onu (Ebonyi) Audu Ogbe (Benue) Osagie Ehanire (Edo) and Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazzau (rtd) Kano.

Also confirmed as ministers by the Senate were Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC) Group Managing  Director, Ibe Kachikwu (Delta) Alhaji Lai Mohammed (Kwara) Amina Ibrahim Mohammed (Gombe); Suleiman Mohammed(Jigawa); Usman Jubril (Nasarawa) Abubakar Malami (Kebbi) Aisha Alhassan(Taraba) Solomon Dalong ( Plateau) Kemi Adeosun(Ogun) and Hadi Sirika (Katsina).

With the coming of the ministers, Nigerians’ expectations are high as they are expecting the ministers to hit the ground running as soon as they are sworn in. Nigerians are also expecting to see the professed change that had been the APC’s slogan.

Speculations are rife as to the post these nominees would occupy. However, there is a likelihood of the speculations being seventy per cent accurate.

Part of the predictions, according to newspaper reports, are that Audu Ogbeh will likely emerge as the Minister for Agriculture. His first statement had been said to be “I am Audu Ogbe and I am a farmer,” a former minister for communications, then for mines and steel development.  His interest had been apparent when he was asked questions about agriculture.

Senator UdoUdoma is tipped to be the minister of trade and investment. Udoma is presently the chairman of UAC Nigeria Plc and Union Bank of Nigeria Plc. He is also the head of the Corporate Affairs Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission. With such an impressive CV, coupled with his wealth of experience in the corporate world, it is assumed that he would do well in the trade and investment sector. During the screening exercise, he had commented that the public sector only could not turn Nigeria’s economy around except ‘we focus more on the private sector’.

It is also speculated that the former governor of Ekiti  State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi will be the Minister of State for Defence. Being a specialist in civil-military relations, with a doctorate in philosophy in War Studies from the King’s College, University of London, Fayemi is being tipped to occupy an office that usually reserved for ex-military men. Commenting on the state of Nigerian prisons, the former governor had said “our prisons have been saturated with people who do not have access to justice. It we are tough on terror, we also need to be tough on causes of terror”.

Kemi Adeosun is a woman and a chartered Accountant she is tipped to be in charge of finance.

Former governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola could also be the minister for Federal Capital Territory or taking into cognizance the change he had brought to Lagos state.

Consequently, there are some sectors in the Nigerian economy that have to be given special attention in order for President Buhari’s government to achieve its set goals.

One of the major problems bedeviling majority of the Nigerian populace is unemployment. It is no longer news that unemployment is one of the top evils bedeviling the country. The employment market is already filled to capacity. Yet every year, the education sector keeps churning out fresh graduates in their thousands into the already overstretched labour market. These youths roam the streets till their shoe soles wear off in search of non-existent job offers. When an active mind is not productively engaged, it is likely to yield to dangerous vices in order to occupy it and rid it of boredom. An idle mind they say is a devil’s workshop. It also accounts for the crime rate in our society presently. The youth between the ages 20 and 35 years are said to gulp at least, 64 million of Nigeria’s estimated 170 million populations. And at least, 70 per cent of these youths are unemployed   or rather underemployed.

This unrelenting increase in the unemployment rate   in Nigeria is very worrisome because until recently, these graduates were not taught any entrepreneurial skills that would make them to function well and survive in the cut-throat society they found themselves after school. Nothing prepares Nigerian graduates for the disappointment they are bound to meet once they leave school. When they are still in the school, they are full of hopes of a better future once they are able to live well after the rigours of learning.

However, once out there, after endless search for jobs that are practically non- existent, they become discouraged. Though students are now taught entrepreneurial skills in schools, how would they establish viable businesses at the end of it all? The current scheme of the federal government to give out loans to corps members at the end of their service year, is a step in the right direction.

Creating employment opportunities is simple. Let our industries work again. Many government projects after a few trial runs, are abandoned. Most do not even go beyond the planning stage. If President Buhari’s government can once and for all, rid itself of saboteurs who also are unfortunately in the system of governance, then Nigeria might begin to bubble again.

On agriculture, Nigeria’s economy which had depended solely on fuel ever since its discovery, has now begun to have problems as fuel business is no longer as lucrative as it used to be   before the economic meltdown. Agriculture, including farming and herding, accounts for 23 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP and engages 3 per cent of export earnings before 1970. Since then, however, agriculture has stagnated, partly due to government neglect and poor investment, and also due to ecological factors such as drought, disease and reduction in soil fertility.

It could be recalled that since the mid-1990s, agriculture’s share of exports has declined to less than five per cent. Once an exporter of food to nearby countries, Nigeria must now import food to meet domestic needs of her citizens.

Some analysts have posited that Nigeria needs to have a workable plan towards revitalizing her agriculture. The country has an enormous land mass that is so fertile that one only needs to drop seedlings on the ground and it would germinate. Agriculture alone could mop up at least a half of the able-bodied youth that throng the labour market in search of job. According to them, all our agriculture needs to thrive is the political will of  Buhari’sadministration to make it work. The natural resources are already on ground.

Then, there must be a good road network so that farmers can transport their produce to markets or points of sales. Poor road network had been the dearth of so many farming ventures because their produce get spoilt before they are sold as they are not able to transport it in time. Hence, when they are not sold or properly preserved, the farmers are forced to witness losses on their investment.

The government must make loans available to farmers, not pen farmers but actual farmers who will put the loans to good use. Also, government at all levels need to go into agriculture. It could be the major break that the nation needs to break even.

On health, the APC governmentneeds to make the health sector work efficiently. Successive governments have committed several millions of Naira to develop the health sector and make it operational with state of the art equipment. With all these, can one safely say that the health sector is no longer in shambles?

The tendency of prominent Nigerians to travel to foreign hospitals for treatment has been fingered as one of the ways through which the country experiences capital flight. Capital flight, in economics, occurs when assets or money rapidly flow out of the country due to an effect of economic consequence. This could lead to disappearance of wealth and it is usually accompanied by a sharp drop in the exchange rate of the affected country.

It is noteworthy that most of these equipment would have been procured by various administrations at the federal level. However, maintenance of these facilities is another cause for concern. These facilities are often damaged due to mismanagement and incompetence. Due to this, people rarely patronized these facilities because they often fail.

According to statistics, Nigeria loses N81 billion yearly to medical tourism. It has become the vogue for the rich to seek medical treatment abroad. For mere medical check-up even routine ones, off they go. In this regard, Nigeria is losing so much. Not only much needed revenue but also respect. Prominent citizens seeking medical treatment abroad shows our health sector to be in shambles while the health workers are seen as incompetent.

There is a need for the establishment of a broad range of health facilities, programmes and advanced treatments and diagnostic services all over the country. Government needs to be sincere in this regard and ensure the maintenance of these equipment in order to ensure sustainability.

The ones that we have already should be patronized. It is only then that they could be put to use. It is sad to note that people’s confidence in government owned facilities have been eroded by the decay, unprofessional attitude, incompetence and corruption in the sector. Those who have the wherewithal are quick to dodge using these facilities while the masses are at their mercy.

There is the need to rebuild the esteem of these facilities in order to restore people’s confidence in them. Also, officials in the health sector need to work on their attitude and manners and they also need to update their experience in dealing with new upcoming ailments and ways to handle them.

Education

While the nation is making a steady progress as regards the education sector, much needs to be done in order to put Nigeria on the front line with other countries that are already there. The minister that would be in charge of education clearly has his or her work cut out for him or her. The Nigerian people have lost faith in the education sector, especially at the primary and secondary school levels.

This is why so many people are opting to take their children and wards to private schools. Most of the schools in the rural areas are worse off while much concentration is based on those in the urban areas. Also, most of the teachers prefer staying and working in the urban areas than going to work in the rural areas.

Teachers should be given incentives that would encourage them to work in the rural areas because schools in the rural areas are lagging behind while those in the urban areas have the choicest of the pickings both in personnel and equipment.

Currently, no Nigerian university is rated among the world’s top 1000. The United States alone has eight universities among the top ten on the world ranking. In sharp reverse to when South Africans and Cameroonians attended Nigerian universities in the early 90s, now Nigerians are going to the nearby countries such as Ghana and Benin Republic and even South Africa to study.

The incoming minister must do something about the falling standard of education. It is high time we reversed the downward spiral trend.

On Petroleum

It could be recalled that oil was discovered in Oloibiri in the Niger Delta in 1956 after half a century of exploration. Since then, the Nigerian petroleum industry has been adjudged the largest in the African continent. In the long run, the euphoria and the excitement that the discovery of the oil brought did not last long.

The president would do well to heed the advice of the advisors that urged him to overhaul the petroleum sector.  Without mincing words, the petroleum sector needs to be overhauled if the presidency needs to make any headway in the sector. It is so much steeped in corruption that the system is almost without any understanding. The question on the layman’s lip is why we import petrol if we have so much petroleum deposit as our natural resources.

The rot in the petroleum sector, if not quickly tackled, might become overwhelming for the APC government.

Peter Esele, former president of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), in a news report had indicted the former executive and legislative arms of government in the last dispensation for the rot in the sector.

He had also expressed his disappointment with the NNPC especially with the released forensic reports. There is a need for the sector to be run as a going concern, he said.

He also condemned a situation whereby the minister in charge of petroleum is also the chairman of the board of the NNPC. He believed that this would not give room for the proper checks and balances.

Our refineries need to be working. Whatever needs to be done to make it functional in its full capacity must be done. Considering the current trend as regards this sector, there seems to be light at the end of tunnel.

Power Supply

The electricity power supply also leaves much to be desired though it seemed to have improved reasonably in the past few months. However, the issue is still a thorn in our as we are still far away from becoming self-sufficient in electricity, generation and distribution.

Analysts have observed that despite the privatization of the sector, no visible changes can be seen. The current electricity supply is hoped to pick under the current administration as some citizens of the country now profess a definite change in supply in their areas.

According to reports, successive governments in Nigeria have spent over 30 billion dollars in the sector in the past fifteen years. However, the total electricity supply now is 5000 megawatts for a country of 170 million people.

The poor electricity supply accounts for the reasons why major foreign companies find it difficult to establish branches in Nigeria. It is also the reason why most of our industries are operating almost at a loss.

For our industries and small scale business to thrive, the new minister that will be in charge of power must make concerted effort in breaking the jinx that has been associated with the power sector. The development of Nigeria’s industrial sector hinges so much on this aspect.

The power sector needs much attention if Nigeria is to meet its target of being one of the world’s best economies by the year 2020.

On Security

The most recent form of threat to national security sprouted in the last decade and it has been a near-daily violence in Northern Nigeria which is increasingly targeting churches. Bombings and other attacks have killed dozens of Christians in recent years. The loss is huge and immeasurable.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram has not spared worship centres in its attacks. In fact, the sect, deliberately target and desecrate these sacred grounds with the blood and flesh of the victims of their attacks. Last year June, The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), said it has lost not less than 750 churches to Boko Haram attacks.

There is also the fear that the extremists might be able to spread their tentacles down South if their activities are not nipped in the bud.

The governor of Kaduna state, Nasir El-Rufai has declared that he is ready to jail any parent who does not send his/her children to school. This is a clear effort aimed at ridding the society of miscreants that formed the bulk of the terrorists’ recruits.

However, former managing director of Daily Times, OtunbaTola Adeniyi, said the ministers are expected to address major issues confronting the nation  at present, namely, mass unemployment, power, corruption, insecurity and violent crimes , shortage of  supplies, decayed and decaying infrastructure and others.

He advised the new administration to borrow from the new experiences of other countries which were once confronted with the challenges we now face, by instituting a marshal plan to combat unemployment and other economic challenges.

“Funds must be found to engage in massive construction projects throughout the country. Roads, bridges, houses must massively constructed in all local governments in the states and at the federal level. Each state must begin to target construction of 50,000 housing units.  Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Ibadan, Port Harcourt and other major urban centres need more than 250,000 housing funds”, he said.

“Immediate revision of our criminal laws to adequately punish offenders should be embarked upon and our law enforcement agencies strengthened and empowered. Community policing must begin soonest while the police strength (federal  and states) should be increased to about two million. There should be no sacred cows and everybody must be equal before the law.”

A social critic, Edwin  Madunagor  expressed optimism about leadership of  President Buhari, describing it as ‘a very serious one’. He said many of the ministers nominated are also serious and intelligent people. “Because of the situation in the country now, they will be compelled by the mood of the nation to do the right things”, he said.

Former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA), Mr. OlisaAgbakoba, SAN, said that the ministers must be able to deliver on the campaign agenda of the APC..

He says: “My expectation is that they should be people who should be able to first of all, deliver on the campaign agenda of the APC. Secondly, the change agenda of the President and then, thirdly and most importantly, the expectations of Nigerians.

“They should also be able to tackle the critical ones. Our economy has stopped producing jobs.  Our health sector and education, are in shambles.  My expectation is that they will be the best quality who will help the President deliver on his promises. It is like a football team; if I’m going to a competition, I will go with the best players and I expect that these are the best”.

Afenifere’s spokesperson, Yinka Odumakin, said that the ministers are expected to bring fresh ideas to the table.

He said: “Once they are confirmed, people expect them to settle down and get to work, look at the critical areas and how to bring about the change which their party promised. There are many areas of our national life that need attention. Importantly, areas like infrastructure, power, education, the economy, agriculture and the diversification of our economy.

“One has not seen brilliant presentations so far, maybe because of time or the way the thing is structured and of course, there are no challenging questions in terms of issues. We hope they will be able to bring ideas on thetable that can make the person to feel the impact of governance. We have not seen rigorous deliberations in terms of looking at the issues that affect the country. So, they will need to do more of rigorous thinking and try to find solution to the problems”.

Other screened ministers and their portfolios

Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi Niger Delta

Amaechi who was tipped as the minister for Niger Delta, passed through rigorous screening in the senate. He was the immediate past governor of Rivers State and was born on May 27, 1965.

Amaechi is a politician just like every other one we have in the country pursuing permanent interest not permanent enemies as he was a member of PDP before defecting to the APC.

As speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, relationship between him and Odili translated into a harmonious relationship between the Executive and Legislativ arms of government.

Amaechi was appointed the Director General of the APC Presidential campaign in which Buhari was the Presidential candidate.

However, Amaechi could pass as one nominee whose image has been badly hurt by allegation of corruption by his political opponents.

The current governor of Rivers State, Chief NyesomWike has alleged that Amaechi and his administration had not only breached the public trust on him but also unlawfully converted over N70billinon of the state resources as well as the sale of the state power asset,, allegations the former governor has denied.

Adebayo Shittu -Aviation

Shittu, a legal practitioner and former Attorney General in Oyo state came from the Congress for Progressive Change, (CPC) wing of the APC. He was noted to have stood  by his party and refused to defect even when he contested and lost the gubernatorial primary against Governor AbiolaAjimobi.

Shittu hails from Saki which is said to be one of the politically maligned areas of Oyo State but regarded as the area that determined the outcome of the 2015 elections in the state.

He had gathered a lot of experience in politics having been actively involved in political activities since 1979 and was also a gubernatorial aspirant in Oyo state.

Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu  Science and Technology (Power)

A first class Chemical Engineer from the University of Lagos, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu was born on December1, 1951 in Ohaozara local government area of Ebonyi State.  He later proceeded to the University of Califonia, UC Berkeley, Califonia, USA, where he obtained his Doctorate of Philososophy degree in Chemical Engineering in1980.

On his return to Nigeria, he started lecturing as the pioneer Head, Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Port Harcourt, Acting Dean, Faculty of Engineering in 1985 and was also elected by senate into the governing council of the University. In 1989, Dr Onu served as a director of the Nigeria Cement Company, Nigercem, Nkalagu; Visitor of Abia State University, Uturu, he was the pioneer national president of Raw Materials Society of Nigeria;  member, pioneer Board of Governors of the Federal Government Raw Materials, Research and Development Council.

In 1991, he was elected the first governor of Old Abia State. He commenced work on the establishment of a technology village and the introduction of computers into public schools.

Onu was the national chairman of ANPP before the party merged with three other parties to form   the APC.

Senator Aisha JummaiAlhassan  Women Affairs

Born September 16, 1959 in Jalingo,Taraba State, Aisha JummaiAlhassan graduated as a lawyer from the Ahmadu Bello University in 1985. She worked as a Magistrate Grade 11 in April 1988 in the kaduna State Judiciary and later went for the Technical Aid Corps Programme of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs (on Secondment) to the Republic of Fiji from 1990-1992, where she was admitted to the Fijian Bar and enrolled as a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of Fiji.

When she was in Fiji, her services were transferred from Kaduna State Judiciary to FCT Judiciary in 1991 as Magistrate Grade 1. Upon return to the country, she assumed duty at FCT, where she was the only female magistrate in the area.

She rose through the ranks and became the first female chief magistrate in the FCT in 1996, wherein, she was moved to Judicial Administration as the first female Deputy Chief Registrar and Director Litigation, High Court of the FCT, Abuja in 1997.

She was appointed the first female attorney-general of Taraba State in 1997. She later returned to the FCT Judiciary after the handing over to a democratically-elected government in May, 1999 and continued in office as Director (Litigation).

She joined the PDP in 2005 and contested for the Taraba Central Senatorial district in 2011 under the platform of PDP and won. She was one of the senators who defected to the APC when the party came on board. Last year, she emerged the gubernatorial candidate of the APC in Taraba State but lost to the PDP candidate, Dairus Dickson Isaku and she is presently contesting the outcome of the election before the Taraba State Election Petition tribunal.

Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige  Health

Born on August 8, 1952, Ngige was governor of Anambra State from 29th May, 2003 to 17th March, 2006 under the PDP. He was elected Senator for Anambra Central Constituency in April, 2011.

A medical doctor by profession, Ngige graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in1979. He immediately went into the civil service, serving at the National Assembly and State House clinics at different times. He retired in 1998 as a deputy director in the Federal Ministry.

On February 6, 2010, Ngige,  again  contested for the governorship seat of Anambra State but lost. In April, 2011, Ngige contested for the Senatorial seat of Anambra Central on the Action Congress of Nigeria, platform and won.

Ngige’s tenure as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria came to an end following his defeat in the 2015 election by Mrs. Uche Ekwunife who replaced him as senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial District in the Senate.

General AbdulrahmanDambazau (rtd) -Defence

Born on March 14,1954Dambazau, is a retired Nigerian Army Lieutenant General who served as Chief of Army Staff, COAS, between 2008 and 2010.

Dambazau was in the Nigerian Defence Academy Kaduna as a member of the 17 Regular Combatant Course. He was commissioned as a second Lieutenant into the Infantry Corps of the Nigerian Army in June 1977.He served as a military Police Officer, Aide De Camp to the Chief of Army Staff ,1979, commanded military Police units and served as a special Investigator (1984-1985). He was Registrar of the Nigerian Defence Academy.

Dr. Ibe Kachikwu  Petroleum and Natural Resources

Kachikwu, a man of multiple parts, came to his assignment as the Group Managing Director, GMD of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC) blazing like a meteor.  He graduated with honours from the Faculty of Law at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and received seven of the available nine prizes in 1999, He holds the LLM Havard Distinction and was best graduating student in 1980 with Specialization in Energy, Petroleum and Investment Law Strategy after completing his doctoral thesis in a record time.

With a H.Dip.T.L. from Georgetown, the United States of America (USA),the new NNPC Chief executive is a fellow, Society for Corporate Governance (FSCG);Chartered Institute of Arbitration (FCIArb); Chartered Institute for Petroleum Policy, FCIPP and a visiting professorship in various Universities in the world including Harvard Law, his alma matter.

His appointment in July as new helms man at the NNPC has brought a lot of changes including resuscitation of the Warri, Port Harcourt and Kaduna refineries that are now working at appreciable capacity.

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