PMB New Cabinet: Four Ministers with Urgent Economic Agenda 1
Muhammadu Buhari has inaugurated his new cabinet of 43 ministers for his second term as the President of Nigeria. The new cabinet faces a long list of challenges including tepid growth following Nigeria’s emergence from recession in 2017, high unemployment and galloping inflation that has hit the poorest people in a nation of 190 million people, most of whom live on less than $2 a day. In order to tackle the challenges ahead, Re-ignite Public Affairs in this edition of Engage Nigeria has grouped four ministries under Economy that will be central in placing the country on the right economic direction. They include:
- Finance, Budget & National Planning – Zainab Ahmed
- Agriculture & Rural Development – Sabo Nanono
- Industry, Trade & Investment – Richard Adeniyi Adebayo
- Mines & Steel Development – Olamilekan Adegbite
This analysis seeks to point out key issues the above ministries and ministers should focus on seriously as they resume work. They are great matters of urgent national importance that cannot wait any longer.
Zainab Ahmed/Clement Agba (Finance, Budget & National Planning)
Zainab Ahmed, who became Finance Minister in September last year after the resignation of former Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, retained the position with additional responsibilities for the budget and national planning. In this new role, Mrs. Ahmed will be supported by Clement Ikanade Agba, the Minister of State, Budget and National Planning. By the virtue of her office, Ahmed will coordinate all major activities of the economy. This includes but is not limited to determining tax rates and policies for your business, work with Central Bank to curb inflation and set interest rate (the cost at which you borrow and lend money in an economy).
The onus is on Zainab Ahmed and the Minister of State to set in the machinery to tackle the challenges for the revival of Nigeria’s economy.The urgent issues before the Minister includes, early preparation of the 2020 budget and early submission to National Assembly of Nigeria (NASS) by October; controversial VAT increase; variance in tax target and actual collections; collaboration with monetary authorities to sustain the economy, economic policies to absorb low oil price shock, and debt servicing.
Sabo Nanono (Agriculture & Rural Development)
Agriculture is the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy, employing approximately two-thirds of the country’s total labour force and contributing 40 percent to Nigeria’s GDP. Fifty-three percent of Nigeria’s population live in rural areas and 70 percent of the rural people are subsistence smallholder farmers, who produce some 90 percent of Nigeria’s food. The major problems of rural areas in Nigeria are summarized as, inadequate levels of agriculture productivity particular in food crop; high levels of absolute and rural poverty; and poor level of infrastructure facilities.
With these problems, the responsibility of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, is to set in motion the machinery to begin realising the food security and economic diversification objectives of the Buhari-led government, strengthen the CBN Anchor Borrower Programme (ABP) through mechanization, provide security for farmers, and revisit previous agricultural policies and programmes of the previous administration (GEM).
Richard Adeniyi Adebayo/Mariam Katagum (Industry, Trade & Investment)
On assumption of office in 2015, many observers thought that President Muhammadu Buhari government would surpass the achievements of his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan on trade and investment in the country. The Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI) which is tasked with a mandate to create an enabling environment to stimulate industrialization and accelerate domestic and foreign investment is yet to significantly improve the country’s industrial, trading and investment environment when considering the high level of poverty and unemployment in the country.
With the appointment of Adeniyi Adebayo as the Minister and Nariam Katagun as Minister of State, to help drive president Buhari’s second term mandate, the new ministers’ starting point should be to reduce the nation’s dependence on oil. The emphasis should be how to upgrade the non-oil sector of the economy including boosting industrialization and investment prospects, enhancing domestic, regional and global trade, sustaining investors’ confidence, standardized Made-in-Nigeria goods in order to access international markets, and prepare Nigeria to maximize the opportunities from AFCTA agreement.
Olamilekan Adegbite/Okechukwu Ogar (Mines & Steel Development)
The mining sector was a key player in the Nigerian economy until the oil boom era which spanned the 1960s and 1970s following which other sectors were neglected for the new found oil sector believed to be the money spinner. In the most recent times, the mining of minerals in Nigeria has accounted for as low as 0.3 per cent of the GDP, due to the influence of its vast oil resources. The domestic mining industry is underdeveloped, leading to Nigeria having to import minerals that it could produce domestically, such as salt or iron ore. Perhaps, being conscious of the dire consequences of the trend for Nigeria’s future in the light of the projections and the stagnation which the economy has witnessed over the years, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came on board with the mantra of change and economic diversification, placing premium on the development of other critical sectors that were for so long neglected, including that of solid minerals. However, despite the efforts made in trying to revitalize the sector in the past four years, it is however incontrovertible that the mines and steel development sector is underperforming and plagued with issues.
In the midst of these challenges, Olamilekan Adegbite, the new Minister of Mines and Steel Development and Okechukwu Ogar, the Minister of State, need to take the responsibility and set the necessary apparatus to tackle the challenges for the revival of the sector. The focus should be on how to enthrone strong regulatory regime, resolve non-compliance with existing mining laws leading to conflicts with State Governments, enthrone professionalism in the mining sector as obtainable in South Africa and Australia, create bankable data to enable operators succeed in the sector, stem the tide of illegal mining and associated insecurity and loss of lives and property as in the case of Zamfara state, strengthen artisanal miners and small companies operating in the sector in order to discourage illegal mining, and ensure continuity with the roadmap established by former Minister and Governor of Ekiti State, Fayemi Kayode.
Finally, the four ministries and the ministers examined in this week edition of Engage Nigeria will need to deliver quality performance in order to meet the expectations of Nigerians. It is important that they should be open to suggestions and criticisms, especially from the civil society groups and the media who are the mouth-piece of the people. The Ministers should work with them while shunning sycophancies.