In an unprecedented move since he assumed office six years ago, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday fired two ministers in his cabinet for poor performance in their assigned duties.
The affected ones are the minister of agriculture and rural development, Mohammed Sabo Nanono, and his counterpart in the power ministry, Engr. Sale Mamman.
This will come as a pleasant surprise to many Nigerians as the president had been seen to be reluctant to remove his appointees even when there was public outcry for him to do so for one infraction or the other.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the two ministers’ performances were subjected to independent and critical review after which both of them were relieved of their posts for falling below expectations,
Consequently, they were immediately replaced. The minister of environment, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, was redeployed to take over Nanono’s role at agriculture and rural development ministry while the minister of state for works and housing, Engr. Abubakar D. Aliyu, will step up as minister of power.
According to President Buhari, substantive nominations will be made to fill the consequential vacancies in accordance with the requirements of the constitution.
He also warned that the process of cabinet reshuffle will be continuous based on review.
The president said, “On Wednesday 21st August, 2019, the current Federal Executive Council (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 goods to Nigerians.
“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 the inauguration. The weekly Federal Executive Council meetings were not spared because the traditional model 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.”
“Accordingly, a few cabinet changes, marking the beginning of a continuous process, have been approved,” and he went on to announce the ministerial changes.
The president went on: “In due course, substantive nominations will be made to fill the consequential vacancies in accordance with the requirements of the constitution.
“I have personally met with the departing members to thank them for their contributions to discussions in cabinet and the invaluable services rendered to the nation. Today, effectively marks their last participation in the Federal Executive Council deliberations and I wish them the best in all future endeavours.
“Finally, I wish to reiterate, once more, that this process shall be continuous.”
Peak Power Generation Drops From 5420MW To 4,701MW Food Inflation rises from 13.7% To 21%
Available data indicate that Nigeria’s electricity supply, though a perennial problem, remained erratic throughout the two year tenure of the former power minister, Engr Sale Mamman.
Despite massive investment in the power sector on his watch, the country’s peak power generation remained abysmal.
From the all-time daily peak generation of 5,420.30 megawatts on August 18, 2019 few days to Saleh’s appointment, generation dropped to a peak of 4,701.40 megawatts on August 31, 2021.
Saleh during his one year in office had said that over the past year, $6.150 billion (about N2.373 trillion) had been secured for infrastructural development and earmarked for critical projects.
The grants were meant for critical projects including $2.3 billion for Siemens, $1.6 billion for Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Programme (TREP), $1.7 billion for Distribution, $550 million for the Nigerian Electricity Project (NEP), a rural electrification project being funded by the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AFDB).
Mamman had said with the fund, the ministry had begun implementing critical infrastructure to transform the generation, transmission, and distribution of 25,000MW of electricity by 2025.
In addition to these, the country committed much more funds into the sector during his second year with little to show for it.
In his submission, Kola Olubiyo, president, Nigeria Consumer Protection Network,backed the action of the president.
“The action of President Muhammadu Buhari in dropping the ministers and members of cabinet for non-performance is quite commendable..
“It was a case of lameduck, lackadaisical and laissez faire attitude towards serious national policy issues that affect the PMB’s Economic Sustainability Strategic Programme,” adding that some cabinet members exhibit what is called ‘I don’t care attitude’ in Nigerian parlance.
“We have never had this magnitude of unprecedented, nonchalant attitude by the privileged elite in highly esteemed positions of authority.
“The decision by President Muhammadu Buhari to drop some ministers and rejig his cabinet is a step in the right direction.
“it is our desires and hope that Mr. President Muhammadu will do a full circle re-shufflement of his cabinet in the days to come in order to inject fresh energy, fresh blood and provide the much needed impetus for re- calibration, total overhaul and rejigging of his cabinet,” he said.
Also speaking with LEADERSHIP, Adetayo Adegbemle, executive director of PowerupNig, said the cabinet reshuffle was overdue and a welcome development, especially with power and agriculture being pivotal to the daily livelihood of every Nigerian.
Adegbemle noted that the power ministry had lost steam in the last two years which also coincided with the period the previous minister in charge was removed.
He observed that policy directions and leadership were clearly lacking.
“Power generation has also changed, but this cannot be tied down to any specific intervention by the former minister, meeting it at an average of 3,700MW in 2019 and leaving it at an average of 4,200MW.
“Even though we have an interim leadership, it would be expected that strong leadership of the power sector is required of whoever is put in charge.”
He said that a quick review and audit of the Power Sector is needed as the five-year post-privatisation of the sector had been due since 2019 and the new minister would do well to champion this.
“The federal government also funded the national mass metering programme, an intervention quite like the NIPP, but for metering there is need for an accelerated process.
“There’s also a quick need for the Corporate Governance of the Privatised Power Companies to be looked into. Work is already cut out for whoever is made to lead the power ministry,” he added.
In his reaction, Engr. Kola Balogun, chairman and chief executive officer of Momas Electricity Meter Manufacturing Company, MEMMCOL, complained of lack of advocacy on the part of the ministry to help in achieving the government’s mass metering initiative.
Balogun observed that termination of the appointment of the minister may not be unconnected with frequent system collapse which heightened in the last few months.
He urged the incoming minister to prioritise metering of electricity consumers as it will help to stabilise the power distribution subsector.
On her part, Joy Ogaji, the MD/CEO/executive secretary of the Association of Power Generation Companies (APGC), advised the incoming minister to advance synergy among inter-related agencies and ensure closer collaboration with critical stakeholders to accelerate the government’s transformation agenda in the industry.
Available data also showed that high food price inflation has been a persistent problem in Nigeria since the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It stood at 21 per cent in July, having risen from 13.17 per cent in August 2019 when the former minister of agriculture, Nanono, was appointed.
The World Bank has warned that millions of Nigerians are being pushed into poverty and food insecurity because of steep rises in the prices of staple goods.
President’s Action Won’t Change Anything – PDP
However, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said President Muhammadu Buhari’s sacking of minister of agriculture and rural development, Mohammed Nanono, and his power counterpart, Saleh Mamman, is an infective attempt to cover for his failures in office.
The opposition party said it was also investigating the real reason behind their sack given Mr. President’s public approach to fighting corruption by “easing out” the culprits.
PDP national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the inefficiency of the Buhari administration is a product of myopic and divisive approach to governance as well as impunity and corruption in the All Progressives Congress-led administration.
Ologbondiyan added that even if the best hands are recruited, they will be contaminated by incompetence, impunity, disregard to rules, divisiveness and corruption that have become the hallmark of the APC and its administration.
“The party calls on President Buhari and the APC to note that Nigerians are 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,” the party said.
FEC Approves N89bn For Works, Aviation Projects
Meanwhile, the federal government has approved about N89.6 billion worth of contracts for award under the ministries of aviation and works and housing.
The minister of works and housing, Babatunde Fashola, and presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, disclosed this to State House correspondents after the federal executive council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday.
According to Fashola, council approved for the ministry of works and housing contract for the dualisation of the Odukpani-Itu-Ikot Ekpene road at the cost of N79.649 billion.
He explained that the approved contract is in relation to the section from Oku Iboku Power Plant to Abak of about 26 kilometres stretch.
“Council approved the award to Messers Sematech Nigeria Ltd for N79.649 billion to be executed over 16 months. So, this will help complete the dualisation gaps between the one awarded to Julius Berger and the section awarded to CCECC. When this is done, motorists in that area will now have an option of the dual carriageway instead of the existing single carriageway,” he said.
According to the minister, this contract is in recognition of the heavy cargo that passes through that area: from the south-south through to the north central state Benue through Katsina Ala, and to the south east state of Abia.
“It’s a very very important trade link for the country,” he said, adding that part of the road project had in 2020 been awarded at the close of N54 billion.
Asked to give an update on the 2020 contract award for the same project, Fashola expressed regret that there had been paucity of funds to implement the project.
He said: “Okay, first of all, it’s important for us to have a common understanding of the area, that is the rain forest area of Nigeria, mangrove areas, very high water table and rains in seven, eight months of the year.
“So, when we awarded the first section, from Odukpani-Itu to Julius Berger in 2016, they could not move to site because of the limited budgetary requisitions.
“So, that slowed down work in that area and they didn’t move to site until 2018. And the second section, which was from Abak to Ikot Ikot Ekpene, was awarded in February 2020. We have had to mobilise some Sukuk resources to the area.
“Sometime last year, you might recall that I was there visiting with the governor; I actually went twice and we focused first on the link road from Alese Ugep area because that was a very big bad one. That one takes like three, four days to traverse a 70 kilometre road.
“Now, we have that under control, resolved, and motorable in the first phase to Odukpani. That has reduced the journey time there to less than two hours, from days. So, again, it’s a work in progress.
“We’re still challenged by resources – what we can mobilise there. When you look at the contract amount, it is about N54 billion. As you rightly pointed out, we have about N4 billion, N5 billion in the Sukuk. And if you look at this year’s budget for the whole area, the amount approved by parliament was N100 million.
“So, again, we’re hoping that we can fund this one, because we’ve proposed it for this year’s Sukuk. So, these are the challenges that we face.
“We mobilsed the contractors. Now it is to keep them resourced and financed so that they can do the work, especially during the forthcoming dry season.
“So, when you see the minister of finance, talking about the deficit that needs to be financed by borrowing, this is what is largely deployed to. But it’s just not enough because almost all of what was left undone for about two decades, we’ve inherited it, and we asked for the job and we are committed to doing it.”
Speaking further, Fashola blamed the collapse of a section of the Lokoja-Kabba road on natural causes.
“As we go through the rainy season, this is the context in which to locate the Lokoja-Kabba. It’s a failure caused by nature and ageing. We expect that these things will happen, but we don’t know where it will happen every time.”
While noting that his ministry was often unable to respond to such failures, he called for the setting up of a contingency maintenance fund, which he said should have a sizable amount.
“So, we’ve been proposing that Nigeria should have an emergency provision in the works budget, but we haven’t been successful enough. There must be a contingency, a sizable sum, for when we see failures. Last year, we had a problem like that in Kebbi, where roads were washed away. We couldn’t respond because we didn’t have the resources. But we will lean on FERMA (Federal Roads Maintenance Agency)
“Well, traditionally back in Lagos when I was governor, I think we used to provide about five percent of our capital expenditure as a contingency fund for emergencies. Something between three and five percent; it varies across the world.”
For aviation ministry, Femi Adesina, who briefed on behalf of the minister, said the Ministry of Aviation brought the memo for the approval of award of contracts for the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos; Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja; Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, and Katsina Airport in Katsina.
He said for Lagos, it was for the expansion of terminal building at domestic terminal GAT, for the sum of N2,817,579,271.99. For the Katsina Airport, it’s expansion of Katsina Airport Apron, awarded at N527,353,693.12.
According to him, there were also the expansion of Lagos Cargo Apron Area awarded at N1,982,943,242.81, expansion of Abuja Domestic Apron Area at N795,976,947.94 and expansion of Kano Apron Area at N1,059,120,234.37.