Thursday 12 November 2015

The challenges before Fashola, Amaechi, Adeosun, Ngige, Fayemi, Danlami and other Ministers

Buhari's Ministers
An amalgam of core challenges, spanning critical sectors of the national economy, appears to be the greatest headache of new ministers, as they settle down for serious work amidst high public expectations.

Most of the challenges are in strategic sectors like infrastructure, power, budget and planning, solid minerals, economy, transport, works, housing and the environment.

Such ministries like finance, transportation, especially maritime, as well as budget and planning, have the Herculean task of evolving policies that would shore up government revenue, owing to the sharp decline in the international price of crude oil, Nigeria’s economic mainstay.

A lot of observers are curious about the kind of difference the new ministers could make, given the fact that a sizeable number of them are not new faces within the corridors of power at various levels of government.

Nonetheless, there is much expectation of some of the ministers because of what is considered as their relative impressive record of achievements in public office in the past, coupled with their pedigrees as professionals.

Of particular concern to stakeholders in the country is how the ministers are able to raise the bar based on the promise of the Buhari-led administration to turn around key sectors like power, infrastructure, among others, in no distant time.

Most of the ministers, shortly after they took oath of office, received loud ovation from civil servants as they assumed duties in their ministries, where they later held closed door meetings with key officials.

Individuals and groups underscored the Herculean tasks before some of the ministers, with some equating the portfolios of highly demanding. These include the minister of Power, Housing nad Works, Mr Babatunde Fashola; Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun; Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma, to name just three.

The social media was awash with the volume and nature of public expectations, with some individuals declaring that the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, had the arduous task of clearing the huge rot in the education sector.

A number of other stakeholders reacted with caution to the unfolding development, saying the country had never been in short supply of men with great ideas and minds.

A brief analysis of the challenges before the new ministers is as follows:

Babatunde Fashola - Power, Works and Housing

The immediate reaction of many Nigerians to President Buhari’s announcement of Fashola as the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, was how he would be able to tackle the enormous problems in the three ministries collapsed to be one.

Nigerians are aware of the problems being always at the receiving ends. The power situation in the country is much as burdensome as both of the works and housing.

At present, the administration boasted that from 1,750 megawatts which the generation power was in 1999, it has improved to 4,600 megawatts and with the gas facility, the country has the capacity to take generation to 5,500 megawatts. Yet, power distribution is still not impressive, as many Nigerians still depend on generating sets to power their houses and industries.

Many major roads in the country are in deplorable condition and this cuts across all the six geopolitical zones in the country. The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, currently under repairs, has been a major one affecting transportation in the country. Expectations are high on the completion of the project, as it has been dragging since the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. If the present administration is able to complete this project in record times, it will be a golden victory for the administration.

The problems of power which President Buhari, earlier before the ministers' appointment, had acknowledged to be more of distribution than generation is what Fashola will battle, likewise the expansion of electricity infrastructure to accommodate additional power generation.

Fashola, who seems not to be an alien to power issue in the country, had, as Lagos State governor, faulted the Power Reforms Act enacted by the National Assembly to regulate the power sector, as limiting the 36 states governors’ intervention in power generation, while in Lagos also, he had supervised provision of electricity to small estate like Isolo Industrial Estate through its Independent Power Plants (IPPs).

Hence, with this experience and challenges involved, he would be able to surmount both his political and administrative will to correct anomalies and impediments, thereby putting things in the right perspectives for stable electricity supply in the country.

Likewise in the housing sector, Nigeria, over the years, with its over 180 million population, has been battling with huge housing deficit, with the country’s housing shortfall estimated to be 17 million units. Now, Fashola will have to look into the possibility of complying with the United Nations-Habitat recommendation to solve the problems of rapid urbanisation in reducing the national deficit by ensuring that at least, one million housing units per annum is built.

At present, many Nigerians are said to live in slums, since the housing conditions are not matching the global standards.

Another impediment said to be against real estate in Nigeria which is the Land Use Act of 1978, residing ownership of land in state governors, coupled with rigorous property registration process, are issues the new minister would look into, likewise his ability to coordinate stakeholders in the sector.

Above all, if the Buhari-led administration is able to offer 24-hour un-interrupted power supply to Nigerians, apart from the people being eternally grateful to the administration, it would surely have gone a long way in being a catalyst to solving many other perennial problems in the country.

Rotimi Amaechi - Transportation

Contrary to most bookmakers, who had tipped him as minister of the Niger Delta, Amaechi was assigned to the Ministry of Transportation. He is assuming office amidst the torrents of challenges besetting the transport sector.

One of the challenges is about eight bills on transportation designed to reposition the nation’s transport sector and already before the National Assembly. Some of the Bills, which were assessed and reviewed many times by the executive arm of government under successive administrations, include the National Transport Commission Bill (2015); the National Roads Fund Bill; the Federal Roads Authority Bill; the Nigeria Ports and Harbour Authority Bill (2015); the National Inland Waterways Authority Bill (2015); and the Nigerian Railway Authority Bill (2015).

Amaechi, whose nomination perhaps generated much public interest before he was confirmed by the Senate, will have to contend with the Herculean task of revamping the road sector, which has almost collapsed. A poor maintenance culture has culminated in many federal highways otherwise called Trunk A roads collapsing, while work had stopped on such strategic roads like the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway owing to paucity of fund.

Major roads in the South-South and the South-East, which is prone to erosion, have become almost impassable with some road users asking the authority to declare a state of emergency on the road sector, especially given the huge loss of lives and property to road crashes.

The challenges facing the road network are occasioned by the abysmal neglect of the rail and maritime sectors of the economy. The lacklustre attitude towards the rail sector gave rise to the heavy pressure put on the road in moving goods such as petroleum products and agricultural produce from the hinterland to the cities and sea ports.

Rail transport, considered cheaper and most suitable mode of transportation for heavy traffic flows, today contributes less than half per cent to the Gross Domestic Products of the transport sector. Thus, the prolonged relegation of the Nigerian Railways Corporation has turned the corporation to drain on the Federal purse, as the NRC depends on government subvention to thrive instead of achieving self-sustenance by providing freight and passenger services.

Amaechi has the onerous responsibility of giving fillip to water transport, which at the moment has share of about 1.6 per cent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product. The sector comprises ocean transport, coastal water transport and inland water transport. The new minister will be required to tackle the variegated challenges at the major sea ports in the country.

Audu Ogbeh –Agriculture

Ogbeh is returning to a familiar terrain as this is his third time as a minister. In the Second Republic, he was the Minister of Communications and later became Minister of Steel Development.

His latest assignment as the Minister of Agriculture is seen as yet another veritable opportunity for him to put into practice all he has been advocating over the years on how agriculture could be restored as the mainstay of the Nigerian economy. The sector suffered a major setback because of oil boom with the groundnut pyramid of the North, cocoa plantations in the West and the oil palm and rubber plantations taking the back seat.

Solid minerals such as coal and tin that contributed significantly to the GDP asphyxiated.

Ogbeh is expected to consolidate on the relative success achieved by the immediate past minister of Agriculture, Dr Adesina Akinwunmu, as Nigeria was heavily dependent on agriculture, with the sector accounting for more than 40 per cent of pre-1973 GDP, but which, by 1983, declined 1.9 per cent, while exports fell 7.9 per cent.

The embarrassing astronomical decline led to serious economic and social distortions following the free fall of the international price of crude oil, which had overtaken agriculture as the backbone of the economy. The lack of basic amenities has exacerbated the issue of rural-urban migration, especially by the youth, who also desire the increasing scarce white-collar jobs in the cities.

In effect, it will be of interest on how Ogbeh actualises a once proclaimed agenda that focuses on creating the conducive macro-environment to stimulate greater private sector investment in agriculture, so that the private sector can assume its appropriate role as the lead and main actor in agriculture; rationalising the roles of the tiers of government in their promotional and supportive activities to stimulate growth; reorganising the institutional framework for government intervention in sector to facilitate smooth and integrated development of agricultural potential; increasing fiscal incentives to agriculture, among other sector, and reviewing import waiver anomalies with appropriate tariffication of agricultural imports, and promotion increased use of agricultural machinery and inputs through favourable tariff policy

Kemi Adeosun - Finance

Still in her 40s, Kemi Adeosun, United Kingdom (UK)-trained investment banker and hitherto the Commissioner for Finance, Ogun State, comes across as the face of the younger generation of Nigerian women with international exposure who could hold their own anywhere in the world.

Born and bred in London, the third of four children, Adeosun is a graduate of Economics from the University of East London and was also a senior manager at the PricewaterhouseCoopers, London.

Professionally she is also a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, England and Wales.

Having to come back home from the UK to take up an appointment, more so a political appointment, was not an easy decision for her, but she eventually yielded when she had an interface with Governor Ibikunle Amosun.

Adeosun is coming in as finance minister at a time when Africa's largest economy is facing its worst crisis in years, hammered by a fall in oil prices and an Islamist insurgency in the North-East.

She would initially be weighed against the achievements of her predecessor, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was a World Bank official and Finance minister with two presidents.

Many Nigerians would want to know what she is bringing to the table in solving the economic problems that the nation is currently facing, including the poor state of the naira which has been devalued by as much as 25 per cent recently.

As finance minister, Nigerians would also want to see how she would leverage on her experience as an investment banker and exposure to international finance institutions to help Nigeria out of the present economic doldrums.

Chris Ngige - Labour minister

Chris Ngige, ex-governor and ex-senator, is a medical doctor by profession. While rumours about ministerial appointments were still flying around, some had touted him as the next minister of health; but with the announcement on Wednesday, some might have wondered what a medical doctor has to do with labour matters.

However, as governor, Ngige would have had cause, like most of his colleagues, to come face to face with labour leaders on issues pertaining to welfare of workers. Therefore, if he was able to relate with labour leaders and civil servants over unpaid wages, salary arrears, pensions, unfulfilled promises and related matters, he is definitely on a familiar terrain.

As minister of labour, he would sooner than later have issues to settle with the umbrella labour groups. Though his style of dressing suggests that he is also a comrade, the ability of a medical doctor to get along with professional unionists is what Nigerians expect to play out in the coming months.

Kayode Fayemi -Solid Minerals

Kayode Fayemi, the immediate past governor of Ekiti State, once handled the issue of solid minerals at least in his state.

His appointment as the man to oversee the Ministry of Solid Minerals, therefore, poses challenges which are surmountable given his wealth of experience.

Fayemi boasts of degrees in History, Politics and International Relations from the Universities of Lagos and Ile-Ife in Nigeria and Doctorate degree in War Studies from the King's College, University of London, England coupled with his experience as a former lecturer, director, Centre for Democracy and Development (1995–1997), Secretary General, Media Empowerment for Africa (The Radio Foundation) (1993–1995), Strategy Development Adviser, Deptford City Challenge, London, UK (1991–1993), Research Officer, African Research and Information Bureau, London, UK (1992–1992), Tutorial Fellow, War Studies Department, King's College, London, UK (1987–1989).

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the exploitation of solid minerals in Nigeria contribute less than one per cent of the Gross Domestic Products, despite significant coal and iron ore reserves and known deposits of gold, uranium, tin and tantalum.

The immediate past administration of Goodluck Jonathan, at a forum in Benin, Edo State, in March 2014, revealed that 44 new solid mineral deposits were discovered in 800 locations across the country.

Undoubtedly, Fayemi would have to put the machinery in place to ensure effective exploration and exploitation of the valuable natural endowments that will lead to employment generation in Nigeria and increased contributions to the GDP.

Also, Fayemi would have to improve on the implementation of roadmap for the development of solid minerals sector embarked on by the past administration which was acknowledged to have increased flow of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in exploration and extraction of minerals, which included coal, gold and iron ore, with wide consultations with stakeholders.

Ogbonnaya Onu - Science and Technology

Dr Ogbonnaya Onu is not new to science and technology. He graduated with a First Class honours degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Lagos in 1976. He later obtained his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Chemical Engineering (without passing through a Masters degree) at the reputable University of California, Berkeley, California, United States, in 1980, where he did extensive work on coal liquefaction and production of synthetic fuels under mild conditions.

He showed that it was possible under relatively mild conditions to produce synthetic fuels comparable with crude oil.

He was the first governor of Abia State from February 1992 to December 1993. Born December 1, 1951, he was the national chairman of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) until its amalgamation with other opposition parties in February 2013 to form the All Progressives Congress (APC).

He is expected, as minister, to facilitate the development and deployment of science and technology apparatus to enhance the pace of socio-economic development of the country, through appropriate technological inputs into productive activities in the nation.

Amina Mohammed - Environment

Kaduna State polity boiled following the listing of Hajia Amina Mohammed as the ministerial nominee from the state. She is said to be from Gombe by birth but her husband is from Kaduna State.

Her nomination generated controversy as many politicians from Kaduna vowed to kick against her appointment.

As the new head of the Ministry of Environment, which was established at the inception of the Chief Obasanjo administration in June 1999, she is to ensure effective coordination of all environmental matters.

She is expected to also ensure environmental matters are adequately mainstreamed into all developmental activities.

The protection of the environment is paramount to the achievement of the objectives of the country’s socio-economic reforms, including National Economic Empowerment Strategy (NEEDS) and other regional and global initiatives such as the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which has since changed to Social Development Goals (SDGs) and Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI).

The minister is also expected to prepare a comprehensive national policy for the protection of the environment and conservation of natural resources, including procedure for environmental impact assessment of all developing projects.

Lai Mohammed -Information

As the information industry welcomes Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the erstwhile ace publicist of the ruling All Progressives congress (APC), to the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, it is certain that Lai has so much more to offer the nation than he did for his party.

There is no denying the fact that Alhaji Mohammed, through his ability, utilised propaganda and facts to dislodge the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from Aso Rock. However, he must know that all eyes are now on him whether he will quickly mature to a statesman who will manage with care, the information machinery of the Buhari-led administration.

Alhaji Mohammed must understand that the success of the Buhari administration rests heavily on correct and accurate information dissemination, more especially, in this era of digital communication.

It is expected that he understands the difference between dishing out propaganda laced with half truth for the purpose of winning an election and the actual running of a Federal Government.

Since information is power, he must dish it out in such a way that he is seen as being fair to all the zones of the federation and he should be careful not to create the problem, through information, that can consume the administration.

Lai Mohammed is coming on board in the midst of agitations for the creation of a nation of Biafra, the Niger Deltans’ cry over alleged marginalisation, nose-diving economy, low self esteem for the country in the comity of nations, Boko Haram insurgency, kidnapping for ransom, unemployment for youths, alleged corruption and the rest.

However, he should understand that there is no nation on earth that is populated by the angels. He should, through information dissemination, shore up the image of Nigeria and not bring it down to ridicule by disparaging it.

Abubakar Danlami - Justice

Forty-eight-year-old Abubakar Malami, the Minister for Justice, has vast experience in the field of law and has a firm grasp of challenges facing the Nigeria legal framework.

Also, he is an accomplished politician who has held various positions in political parties in Nigeria. Having been on both sides of the divide in law and politics, he has what it takes to be the head of the Ministry of Justice in a democratic set up.

Malami, who became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 2008, also held many positions in his political party, Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) after the merger of political parties.

He was the National Legal Adviser for CPC; chairman of the Legal Team, CPC Presidential Campaign Organisation (2011); member of the PDP Legal Team of 2003 election petitions; member, Kano State Local Government Election Tribunal (2004); resource person, Manifesto Drafting Sub-committee of the Inter-party Merger Committees of the CPC, ACN, ANPP, APGA and DPP towards the formation of APC and member, National Convention and Congress Committee (2013).

He was also a member of the APC Electoral Committee for the Anambra State Gubernatorial Election in 2013; member, Kebbi State Committee on Federal Government’s National Conference of 2013; chairman of APC Kano State Congress Appeals Committee (May 2014) and member, APC Constitution sub-committee (June 2014).

Malami was an aspirant for the office of governor of Kebbi State in 2015 on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, but he lost the ticket to Atiku Bagudu.

Despite his impressive foray in the political terrain and landmark achievements as a lawyer, his work is not going to be an easy one as the challenges facing the Justice ministry at present are enormous.

Malami will have to, as a matter of urgency, look into the call for judicial reforms if the change agenda of the APC is to become a reality, considering the fact that an efficient justice delivery system is paramount to the nation’s economic growth and development.

Also, there is the need to amend many of the nation’s laws as they are not in sync with modern trends. There is the need for immediate repeal/amendment of antiquated laws and the enactment of modern laws. There is the need for an immediate and thorough clean-up of the criminal justice system and an improvement to the working conditions of judges in most states of the federation, while issues of delay in cases, especially criminal matters, be treated and policies put in place to curb tactics employed by parties to judicial proceedings to delay and undermine the justice system

The new Minister of Justice must be prepared to fight the powers that be and must have the political will to establish the rule of law against all odds and support the anti-corruption war of the Federal Government.

Prof Isaac Adewole -Health

Professor Isaac Adewole, the outgoing Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan (UI), prior to his appointment as minister,had also served as Provost, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, the largest and oldest medical school in Nigeria.

With a 32-year working experience as a physician in Nigeria and 23 active years as a clinical teacher in College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Professor Adewole, the Osun State born, has research interest in the Human papillomavirus, HIV and Gynaecologic oncology.

This is a specialised field of medicine that focuses on cancers of the female reproductive system, including ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, vaginal cancer, cervical cancer and vulvar cancer.

The new health minister, who is also a member of the governing council, Adeleke University and currently chairs the National Panel on Cervical Cancer Control Policy, would, however, be faced with tasks of revamping the health sector, which is one reason for medical tourism.

Nigeria’s health sector is a peculiar one. If its professionals are not at daggers drawn over salary and monetisation benefits, it is embroiled in one controversy or the other. The incessant strike by health professionals has been identified as a major contributor to the country’s poor health indices.

The Nigerian health care system is continuously faced with shortage of doctors, because of emigration by skilled Nigerian doctors to North America and Europe.

In 1995, it was estimated that 21,000 Nigerian doctors were practising in the United States alone, which is about the same as the number of doctors working in the Nigerian public service.

The health sector needs to do more in the area of child mortality reduction. A country’s infant mortality rate is a reflection of the quality of health delivery available to its citizens, and, to a large extent, a reflection of the quality of life enjoyed by the citizens of that country.

The government should pay more attention to local clinics and non-functional primary healthcare centres where the low class patronise.

Solomon Dalong - Sports

The North-Central zone will have to oversee sports in Nigeria again, with the appointment of Mr Solomon Dalong as Minister of Youth and Sports. He succeeds Dr Tamuno Danagogo from Rivers State, who last held the portfolio.

Dalong from Plateau State is the 15th sports minister and the 10th from the North-Central zone to occupy the office since the advent of the Fourth Republic in 1999.

Only Professor Tahoeed Adedoja (South-West) and Danagogo (South) came from outside the northern zone.

Born on September 26, 1964, Dalong, a graduate of Law from the University of Jos, has no known antecedents in sports, except the will to succeed as a Nigerian who is passionate about sports.

Dalong is coming at a time the crisis in Nigerian football has been laid to rest, except the challenges that, if addressed, could move sports in Nigeria to the next level.

However, he will have to ensure a better outing of Team Nigeria at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, first by ensuring that the grade A sports federations which include, football, boxing, athletics, basketball, table tennis, weightlifting, taekwondo, judo are well prepared for the Games.

The issue of funding remains the most critical aspect to tackle as he needs to ensure that federations send their athletes to qualifying tournaments to win the Olympic slots, while effective camping of athletes especially abroad must be ensured to enable the athletes to perform optimally at Rio 2016.

Dalong needs to prove bookmakers wrong this time that he is not a minister of football alone. Indeed, some sports are dying in Nigeria and this Dalong would have to address to make other grade B sports like karate, swimming, volleyball, tennis and handball get the desired attention.

The National Stadium, Lagos, othersise known as the sports city, has been abandoned for years now and with the coming in of Dalong, observers believe he would revive this national edifice which has become an eyesore in recent times.

Pastor Usani Uguru - Niger Delta

There is no gainsaying the fact that the people of the Niger Delta region of the country will receive with mixed feelings the announcement of Pastor Usani Uguru as the minister saddled with the responsibility of taking care of their interests.

The mixed feeling may have nothing to do with the person of the pastor-turned-minister, but may have so much to do with the experiences of the people, whose promises made to them about their welfare by past administrations and their ministers did not translate into better life for them.

It is good that President Buhari chose the man from Cross River state to sit in the cockpit of the ministry and so, the people expect him to immediately begin to address all the challenges without having to go through any learning process.

Among the numerous problems confronting the people is the urgent completion of the East /West road; acute shortage of schools for the children, especially those living in the riverine areas; unemployment rate, which has led many youths into criminal activities, including kidnapping for ransom, militancy and oil bunkering.

Currently in vogue in the Niger Delta is the establishment of illegal oil refineries and illegal oil bunkering but these are being frontally challenged by the nation as the Nigeria Navy is busy fishing out and destroying the illegal refineries.

The minister will also have to fight the challenges of provision of drinking water and health care facilities for the people. The Bakassi people resident in Cameroon should also be looked into.

Senator Aisha Alhassan

Now that Senator Alhassan has been sworn in as Minister of Women Affairs, her wealth of experience, as both legal practitioner and politician, would be brought to bear in the discharge of her duties as minister directly saddled with women affairs and, by extension, children.

Going by the broad mandate of the ministry, which is to advise government on gender and children issues, including those affecting persons with disabilities and the aged; initiation of policy guidelines and gender equality and mainstreaming at both the national and international levels, Alhassan is expected to live to the billing of the mandate in ensuring that women and children fare better.

What readily came to mind after her choice is her background in legal profession which, undoubtedly, will propel her to set in motion as early as possible, measures that will ensure the safety of vulnerable children and women ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgents at the IDPs camps scattered all over the north-eastern part of the country.

Alhassan will have to update the data of women and children by sending out the various units under her purview to adequately cater for these crises-induced victims rather than relying on the existing data.

With the population of women roughly estimated at over 50 million and with findings revealing they are great potentials to evolving a new economic order, it behoves of the minister to see to the enactment of stiff penalty on rapists and perpetrators of domestic violence whose victims are mostly women, in line with the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), while also paying critical attention to girl-child education, elimination of all forms of violence against women and the girl-child and intensification of campaigns against harmful traditional practices affecting women and girls.

There is equally the need for Alhassan to ensure that the various formulated policies and strategies for the development of various categories of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) are implemented, while making sure the era of paying lip service to giving subvention to recognised rehabilitation centres and non-government organisation (NGOs) is over.

The women affairs ministry should equally see to the long overdue rehabilitation of alcoholic and drug addicts, cult members and school drop-outs, among others, as seen in other developed climes, through effective planning, just as she is also expected to intensify the coordination of inter-governmental welfare activities.

Credit: Nigerian Tribune

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