YNaija Ministers’ Effectiveness Ranking: Sunday Dare, Nwajiuba, Aregbesola occupy top spots for April

This month is unique in the life of the Muhammadu Buhari cabinet as it clocks six months since the Ministers were inaugurated and with a ravaging pandemic in our hands, this last month, in particular, have proven the mettle of these key Federal Executive Council (FEC) members.

A lot of them have been utterly silent and a few of them have shown zeal and leadership in handling the crisis from their domain. We once again beamed our spotlight on 10 out of the 36 Ministers (and Ministers of State) in our effectiveness Ranking for April:

10. Mohammad Dingyadi (Police Affairs)

A report by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) indicates that about 18 Nigerians have been killed since the outbreak of the coronavirus from extra-judicial actions by the Police. This number which is about half the number of persons who have died directly from complications arising from the virus is worrisome. This is added to the fact that hundreds of police personnel on the streets of the country are yet to be provided with the necessary personal protective equipment against the infection.

Beyond the assurance of adequate protection as patrols, surveillance and other intensified crime preventive measures to ensure safety of lives and property, days after the commencement of the Lockdown, not only are we yet to hear anything from the Minister about the spate of insecurity in Lagos and neighbouring states which heightened panic among citizens, it is utterly disappointing that no word of assurance has emanated from his office to show that he is concerned about the issues.

The Minister had said that Mr. President’s number one agenda in this Next Level dispensation is to guarantee the security of lives and properties of Nigerians, hence the re-establishment of the Ministry of Police Affairs in August. We hope the Minister and his team would intensify efforts to take this goal more seriously and speed up work on the formulation of policies that would ensure efficient, effective and technology-driven policing of the country.

9. Sadiya Umar Farouk (Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development)

Unarguably, one of the effects of the 5-week lockdown has been a massive loss of the means of livelihood for millions of Nigerians. And with many businesses shut down in an economy where 65% of citizens are involved in the informal sector, the provision of palliatives to cushion the effect of this hardship has become most sought-after.

While the Federal Government through its Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development claims to have made extensive efforts to ease the pains of the restrictive policies through food distribution, cash transfers and loans repayment waivers using the current Social Register comprising 2.6 million households, media reports show that the exercise has achieved very minimal success with allegations that ‘poor Nigerians’ were used for photo ops rocking the scheme.

Worse still, even with the directive of the President in his second ‘lockdown broadcast’ to the nation that the social register be expanded to 3.6 million households for them to benefit from the social investment programmes, the whole process has thrown up more questions and dissatisfaction than ever before and Nigerians are yet to feel the impact of Minister Farouk’s leadership of the team.

8. Adamu Adamu (Education)

On 2nd April in Abuja, Adamu in a teleconference with 237 Vice Chancellors, Rectors and Provosts directed that that varsities, polytechnics and colleges of education activate their virtual learning environment for students to continue their studies through digital devices, adding that the Federal Government would work on resolving the issues between it and ASUU to speed up the migration.

While this initiative cannot be described as an utterly bad idea, it is common knowledge that the power situation in the country is still unreliable and as such, the Minister appears to either be out of touch with happenings in the country or seeking to score political points with such ideas. Should alternative power be provided for this purpose, how would the government handle within this short time, the issue of high bandwidth costs, poor connectivity and low internet penetration with only about 47.1 per cent of the population having access to same?

There’s much work to be done, inclusive of settling the perennial labour issues with university teachers who are currently on strike, training and retraining of staff, upgrade of infrastructure, revision of curriculum amongst a host of variables that would make this achievable, and this will begin from increasing the budgetary allocation to the Ministry from the paltry 6% of the total national budget to match up with the ‘between 15 and 20%’ recommendation of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

7. Lai Mohammed (Information and Culture)

Amongst all of the most critical aspects of governance that have been underwhelming since the Buhari Administration kicked off in May 2015, information management comes top. Having performed excellently as Spokesman of then opposition party, there were little or no arguments as to the capacity Lai Mohammed possess to perform creditably as Information Minister.

Contrary to expectations however, the Minister has failed to excel in this stead as his Ministry is most often, reactive rather than proactive. Besides the Minister’s failure to use initiatives as regular media chats for Nigerians to stay abreast of the successes of the administration, the all-important National Orientation Agency (NOA) has been in slumber mode under his leadership. For instance, considering the conspiracy theories that have greeted the battle against the spread of the coronavirus since February, and the dangers such phenomena pose, the NOA should be at the forefront of information co-ordination.

With disturbing videos on social media about protests against efforts to contain the spread of the virus, people drinking water they used in washing their hands, the NOA would have done a great job sensitizing Nigerians about the fight in their local dialects added to other measures, especially in the North. A National Information Centre coordinating the daily media briefing of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 and even the war against insurgency would have been great.

We hope Alhaji Lai would visit the archives and check up the strategies of the widely acclaimed Mass Mobilization for Self Reliance, Social Justice and Economic Recovery – MAMSER of the Babaginda regime to enable him scale up his achievements after 6 months in this second stint as image-maker of the Buhari Administration.

6. Hadi Sirika (Aviation)

The country witnessed a clash between the Federal Government and Rivers State Government earlier in the month after Governor Nyesom Wike led security agents to arrest two pilots working for Caverton Helicopters alongside ten passengers at the Air Force base, Port Harcourt for breaching the state’s COVID-19 containment orders.

At the centre of the issues was the question as to who erred between the Federal Government acting through the Aviation Minister authorised airplanes and helicopters conveying essential workers (oil workers) to land at the Air Force base under what it described as in the national interest as well as boost national revenue and the governor who maintained that such business interests and operations were in clear disregard of the lives and health of the people.

Quite importantly, while the federal agencies may have “lawfully, legally and correctly” approve the flights, Honourable Sirika who was one of the major actors at the centre of this crisis would have saved the nation the unnecessary drama and bickering between both tiers of governments if the state government had been informed and carried into confidence in the process, thus eliminating suspicion, conflict of interests in the battle to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

5. Geoffrey Onyeama (Foreign Affairs)

For this month, two issues rocked the Foreign Affairs Ministry; the first being an allegation that Nigerians in the United Kingdom were charged £350 to test for #COVID19 as part of the evacuation process which has been refuted and the second – alleged maltreatment of Nigerians by Chinese authorities in Guangzhou province while enforcing measures against COVID-19.

Although the Minister has cleared the air on the allegations, the viral video from China (in spite of Nigeria’s support for China by refusing to bar his citizens from flying into the country at the height of the virus spread in March) shows why the Ministry has to adopt a more proactive approach in ensuring that the rights and dignities of Nigerians are protected all over the world, which will in tun provide evidence to citizens of many countries that the Nigerian Government takes the issue of the human rights and well being of Nigerians everywhere in the world very seriously.

Furthermore, it’s been over three weeks since the Federal Government commenced plans for the evacuation of Nigerians from some countries and in spite of paying their airfares for the trip to Nigeria, a lot of them are reportedly stranded especially after an Emirates evacuation flight from Dubai to Lagos was cancelled. It would also have been highly commendable if the travel cost for Nigerian Nationals ready to evacuate some of these foreign countries back to Nigeria were borne by the Federal Government through private support.

4. Rauf Aregbosola (Interior)
Although statistics from the NCDC showed that the number of  COVID-19 cases moved from 174 confirmed cases, nine recoveries and two deaths to 1337 confirmed cases, 255 discharged and 40 deaths, as at 27th April, transmission from most of the cases from foreign travels reduced to 19%.
Now fixed on curtailing community-to-community transmission, it is evident that the land border arrival protocols employed by the Federal Government as part of the containment strategy has been largely effective. The Interior Ministry led by Honourable Aregebesola deserves credit for the positive results judging from the proportion of cases imported from other countries.
With lack of data being a hindrance to contact tracing and relief efforts, tthe issue of a reliable citizens’ database still remains a huge priority and it is expected that the Minister would make efforts in the weeks to come, along with other members of the recently inaugurated Committee on Citizen Data Management and Harmonization to ensure a single database owned and managed by the Federal Government is achieved, as identity management remains one of the most critical factors in national development.

3. Osagie Ehanire and Olorunnimbe Mamora (Health) 

The duo retains a top 5 spot in our rankings for this month largely because their handling of the coronavirus situation hasn’t recorded any major setback. This is not to say that the fight has been very impressive especially when compared with countries like Ghana, South Africa, Senegal and a host of others, as Nigeria still has a very low testing capacity with only about 10,500 tests carried out so far, almost 9 weeks after the announcement of an index case in the country.

Both ministers had to slip 2 places however, because they failed to convince Nigerians that they had knowledge of the existence of hazard allowance for health workers, as seen in the Senior Minister’s answers during a hearing at the National Assembly earlier in the month. With the attendant backlash from Nigerians over the issue, it is laudable that the Federal Government has signed a memorandum of understanding on the provision of hazard allowances and other incentives with key health sector professional associations alongside the payment of insurance contribution premium to the tune of over NGN 100,000,000 for 5,000 frontline health care workers in response to #COVID19.

The consistent addition of new laboratories to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) network of molecular #COVID19 laboratories, engagement of hundreds of ad-hoc staff to support various areas of response including the call centres, contact tracing, follow-up of persons of interests, recall of retired but essential staff are also plus for the Ministers’ ratings.

2. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba (State, Education)

With the federal government’s closure of all schools across the country in March to curtail the spread of coronavirus along with the postponement of the Senior School Certificate examinations conducted by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), National Examination Council (NECO) and National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB), there had been skepticism about how the students at the primary and secondary schools would cope, especially with the high rate of vices present among young people even while being productively engaged.

Thus, the decision by the Federal Government to launch free e-learning portals for Nigerian students in primary and secondary levels on schoolgate.ng and mobileclassroom.com.ng is commendable. The collaboration between the Federal Ministry of Education and network providers to also grant the students free access on their mobile phones is also a step in the right direction.

The initiative is coordinated by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) in conjunction with the State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs) under the leadership of the junior Minister.

  1. Sunday Akin Dare (Youth and Sports Development)

One of the beautiful things the Minister did in the month of April was his ministry’s collaboration with Nigerian Legends in Sports to sensitize the public in the fight against Coronavirus.

In the video which featured past and present athletes like Segun Odegbami, Austin Jay Jay Okocha, Daniel Igali and Mary Onyali, Adekuoroye Odunayo, Ese Brume, Aruna Quadri and Blessing Okagbare, they each took turns in enjoining the public to follow all governmental initiatives that will curb the spread of the virus and emphasized on strict adherence to social distancing. At a time where a large number of Nigerians still doubt the existence of COVID-19, using such persons of influence to drive the message will help citizens connect better with the message, it is definitely an A+ for the Minister.

Quite importantly, the Minister has been able to rally support for Nigerian athletes whose source of earnings has ceased as a result of the suspension of all major sporting events, due to the pandemic. This, he has done through an initiative known as ‘Athletes’ Relief Fund’ to be raised from the proceeds of the National Lottery Trust Fund, partner agencies, corporate bodies and individuals, to take care of athletes’ welfare, training, preparation and participation in major international competitions.

A combination of innovation, proper accountability and due process exhibited by his leadership has made sponsors and individuals feel comfortable in supporting or sponsoring such initiatives (previously unheard).

Editor’s Note: The YNaija Effectiveness Ranking is a perception index by our special editorial programme as determined by correspondent assessment, news reports, and opinion surveys. It is graded on the following parameters: campaign promise, social impact, and infrastructural development.

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