Nigerians may finally be heaving a sigh of relief in no time, as latest statistics from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reveal that the curve is slowly being flattened, but issues around the pandemic continue to shape governance especially at the federal tier of government. From probe of NDDC finances and conduct of public officials during hearings at the National Assembly to backlash over public events they hosted in contravention of government’s own guidelines, July was a defining month in determining the effectiveness of President Muhammadu Buhari‘s cabinet members.
We took notes on the activities of his 43-member cabinet and have ranked based on their impact across board; the Top 5 and Bottom 5 in our effectiveness Ranking for July:
10. Abubakar Malami (Attorney-General and Minister of Justice)
One of the numerous reasons that have produced the argument for a separation of the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and that of the Minister of Justice points to the fact that most often, the Attorney General is a member of the ruling party who at all times protect the interest of the party and the government in power. Also, many Nigerians (especially among the ruling class) allow the rule of law to reign when their own interest is not threatened.
— Sahara Reporters (@SaharaReporters) July 11, 2020
Many of these played out early July, when Malami abused his office by using the official letter head of the Federal Ministry of Justice to invite guests to the wedding ceremony of his son, Abdulaziz as though it was a state sponsored event. Most worrisome was the total disregard for COVID-19 safety protocols at the said wedding ceremony which held in Kano. Proceedings at the event as seen in a viral video across social media ran contrary to Malami’s claim that he only “notified” friends and associates of the ceremony in adherence to the directive of the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID-19 restricting the gathering of more than 20 persons in attendance in order to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Abubakar Malami‘s son having a lavish wedding party in Kano, no social distancing, no face masks, then they are “spraying” local and foreign currencies like they going out of circulation YET the children of the poor are not going write their WASC exams this year! #RevolutionNow pic.twitter.com/cxkReojfEx
— Omoyele Sowore (@YeleSowore) July 11, 2020
The video clearly showed more than the stipulated number of persons at that ceremony, while the use of face mask was totally ignored by the entire guests as they were seen spraying currency notes at the couple, failing to observe physical distancing.
As Chief Law Officer of the Federation, Malami’s failure to ensure the laws of the country (for which prominent Nigerians have been prosecuted) were obeyed shows he didn’t pay close attention to his oath of office and the powers entrusted on him by virtue of the provisions of section 174 of the 1999 Constitution. These provision require of him; courageous adherence to the tenets of the Constitution, uncompromising fidelity to the public interest and the interest of justice.
9. Godswill Akpabio (Niger Delta Affairs)
One of the most dramatic probes in the country’s recent history took place this July at the National Assembly. While the exercise revealed the level of rot in the public sector, a central figure in the entire series is the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio.
In the course of answering questions at the public hearing of the investigative panel at the House of Representatives, set up to probe the corruption allegations against the Minister and NDDC’s Interim Management Committee (IMC), the former Akwa Ibom Governor unsuccessfully explained away most of the questions asked and he was obviously clinging unto straws. Although members of the National Assembly he accused of being beneficiaries of most of the contracts from the commission could actually be complicit, that such level of monumental corruption took place under Akpabio’s watch is very worrisome.
His response to the accusation of corruption and sexual assault by the immediate past Acting Chair of the Interim Management Committee (IMC), Dr Joi Nunieh, after a similar hearing at the Senate was terribly inadequate and dragged the name of the country in the mud, especially on international media.
8. Chris Ngige (Labour and Employment)
It is not news that people in ‘power’ in Nigeria know how to use it to their advantage and, a Minister has come into the picture in this light.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, accused the suspended management of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) of misappropriating N48 billion. Ngige made the allegation while appearing in an investigative hearing at the House of Representatives over the alleged illegal suspension of the management of the agency.
He has maintained he acted within presidential directives on the suspension of top management and executive committee members of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).
And, towing the line of diversion and begging questions, Ngige began the hearing with a taunt, saying the lawmakers were “his younger brothers,” except Faleke whom he said “might be up to 60 (years).” He was simply asked why he suspended the said executives.
Also, if Ngige respected the power of the legislature, he would have respected the directive to take over the supervision of recruitment for 774,000 Nigerians into the Special Public Works programme.
7. Festus Keyamo (Minister of State, Labour and Employment)
In saner climes, a scheme aimed at reducing the number of unemployed persons in a country ridden with high unemployment rate should not generate furore. But, when you consider that Nigeria is prone to drama, and the ‘who is who’ system, the spat between the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN) and members of the National Assembly over the implementation of the Federal Government’s ‘Extended Special Public Works Programme’ was an expected scenario.
President Buhari was unequivocal when he directed the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) to execute the programme but the Ministry of Labour inaugurated a ‘Special Inter-Ministerial Committee’ for the same purpose on March 29, 2020.
Obviously, politics has crept into the programme, which unfortunately caused the spat between the lawmakers and Keyamo where he walked out on the National Assembly Committee. He insisted that he had the powers to make such a pronouncement, citing Section 16 (1) of the NDE Act, I.
The Minister was also accused of hijacking the programme and, it became a dramatic event, not an interrogation. This scenario has, indeed, tainted the Minister as one who would rather use his ‘power’ than allow such schemes go through due processes.
6. Lai Mohammed (Information and Culture)
Although the Federal Government had on October 6 2019, given approval to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Banks under the aegis of the Bankers’ Committee to reconstruct the National Arts Theatre Complex Lagos, into a world-class convention center, an official handover only took place on July 12.
The bankers say they are targeting 1 million jobs from the project expected to be completed in 18 months, that would boost the potentials of the creative and entertainment industry over the next 5 years. With activities such as music, movies, fashion and ICT, the transformed complex is been tipped to be a source of growth for the economy in order to reduce the country’s dependence on revenues from crude oil. Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed shares in the credit for this initiative as the management of theatre falls under his Ministry.
Not new to controversies, reports indicated that the Minister made attempts to stop the continent’s biggest reality TV show, Big Brother Naija (BBN) which entered its fifth season on July 20, from airing; citing fears of a possible spread of COVID-19 among housemates. Acting Director-General of the NBC, Armstrong Idachaba, reportedly told senior management members that he had been directed by the minister to shut down the show, but the producers of the show, MultiChoice Ltd, already met with the necessary safety criteria by the NBC and the Lagos state government.
The report led to heavy backlash on the Minister on social media but, the minister, in a statement by his media aide debunked the claim, describing it as speculative and without a memo to support same.
“That statement is not credited to the minister. We will not dignify speculative reports; if a minister issues a directive, it will not be issued verbally. “There’s going to be a memo to that effect that he will send; anybody that is sure that the minister made that statement should provide a memo,” the statement read.
5. Zainab Ahmed (Finance, Budget and National Planning)
The Finance Ministry released N995.665 billion for capital expenditure to implement the 2020 revised budget.
Importantly, the federal government under its Strategic Revenue Growth Initiative (SRGI), identified new revenue initiatives that could fetch it between N13 trillion and N18 trillion from both oil and non-oil revenue sources.
4. Geoffrey Onyeama (Foreign Affairs)
With many countries imposing lockdown in their territories following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nigerian Foreign Affairs Ministry says it has successfully co-ordinated the evacuation of over 6,317 Nigerians from different countries around the world.
Under the arrangement, although the returnees bear the cost of their flight tickets to Nigeria and are expected to self-isolate upon their return, for four weeks, the Foreign Affairs Ministry under Onyeama are seen to have handled the job well through efforts of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) in collaboration with Nigerian Missions around the world.
In the month under review, stranded Nigerians were evacuated from France, 247 from Malaysia and Thailand. 158 from the Niger Republic. 102 Nigerians were evacuated from Casablanca, Morocco on July 30 while those airlifted from Egypt on July 31 were put at 212. This is in addition to previous evacuation from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), United Kingdom, United States, Saudi Araba, India, Turkey, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Senegal, Pakistan, China, Lebanon, Canada, South Africa and Ghana.
3. Olamilekan Adegbite (Mines and Steel Development)
For a country blessed with at least one mineral per state, it has remained a mystery that focus has been placed on just oil and gas in the last 50 years or more. Also, while there are have been Ministers who have paid lip service to the idea of diversifying the economy, Hon Adegbite appears to be walking the talk especially with the initiative of a Solid Minerals Development Fund and the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMI).
Under his leadership, two gold refineries have been licensed to refine to international standards and in the month under review, the first batch of artisanally-mined gold bars processed and refined according to the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) standards, required for the use of gold as a reserve instrument by the Central Bank of Nigeria, was unveiled to the President at a reception ceremony on July 16, 2020.
The development means that the Central Bank will be purchasing gold that has been mined, processed and refined under the PAGMI for both local and international investors to buy as well as for use as part of Nigeria’s external reserves. With the PAGMI which formalises and integrates artisanal gold mining activities into Nigeria’s legal, economic and institutional framework, Nigeria is poised to fetch about $675 million yearly (about N261.9 billion) as 400 buying centres across the country have been registered biometrically were gold are sourced and sold responsibly.
In similar vein, the Ministry signed a Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) on July 8, with Sealink Promotional Company Limited on the use of Ajaokuta jetty landing port to enable transportation of goods at an easy and cheaper rate as well as increase commercial activities around the jetty. According to the Minister, “the use of waterways as means of transportation will not only increase the volume of commerce, but would remove the huge logistics challenges encountered on the road, reduce the damage done to the roads by heavy duty trucks as well as decrease the high cost of road maintenance.”
2. Richard Adeniyi Adebayo (Industry, Trade and Investment)
To meet the need of the nation throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, the Federal Government through the Ministry assisted over 56 companies to boost the production of hand sanitisers and ventilators to meet the need of the nation. About ten ventilators companies, 46 producers of hand sanitizer, among other manufacturing companies received economic stimulus to boost their current capacity during the period of the lockdown.
Adebayo is also assuring quality policies to come out of the pandemic very strongly against predictions of economic doom as well as more support to the manufacturing and other key sectors of the economy to boost their productivity as a result of the pandemic.
1. Osagie Ehanire (Health)
One of the major challenges citizens had with the fight against COVID-19 in the country was low testing capacity. For many, the country could not fully say how much of success it was recording in the battle against the pandemic if the testing capacity in relation to the population is low.
On July 27, Dr. Ehanire revealed that 60 Public Health Laboratories were now active in Nigeria, which together should be in a position to address testing capacity challenges and to ramp up utilisation if only the logistics could be improved.
“With 262,579 persons tested, we have crossed the quarter million mark. When the epidemic curve will begin to flatten is still a matter of conjecture, given the relatively small fraction of our population that has been tested so far,” Ehanire said.
According to the Minister, efforts are also ongoing to develop innovative interventions to reduce COVID-19 case fatalities to below one per cent. Indeed, latest statistics especially from Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) shows that we are recording decline in positive cases and this Ministry in its collaboration with State Ministries of Health as well as the different State Taskforce on COVID-19 deserves credit for working round the clock to move us to this point. There’s more to be done though.
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
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Political Journalist, Analyst and Social Change Advocate with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.