This week in Nigeria: Ministers finally take oath

by Lagun Akinloye

14 ministers sworn in

The endless wait for the swearing in of ministerial appointees is finally over, with the first batch of fourteen ministers taking their oath on Friday.  The first appointees contain names familiar to the Nigerian public. Former Minister of Justice Mohammed Bello-Adoke and Minister of Petroleum Mrs Deziani Alison-Madueke return to their previous roles, as does Former Minister of Information, Labaran Maku. Certain nominees have incurred the wrath of political spectators due to perceived ineffectiveness while they occupied their positions in the last dispensation – Alison-Madueke has been accused of failing to fulfil her promise to expedite the passing of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) before the end of the last term. They must be aware that Nigerians are cautiously waiting with high expectations.

El-Rufai Detained

Nasir El-Rufai, outspoken former minister of the Federal Capital Territory under Olusegun Obasanjo, was arrested in the early hours of Saturday morning by operatives of the State Security Services (SSS).  El-Rufai was on his way back from London where he had been outlining the rigging he believed took place in this year’s elections. He was picked up at and detained at Abuja airport for “inciting, inflammatory and grossly misleading” allegations he made in the Nigerian media, foreign newspapers and online. El-Rufai, a staunch critic of the PDP who joined forces with Muhammadu Buhari at the last elections, called into to question the amount of money budgeted for the security agencies in the 2011 Appropriation Bill. There has been outrage and disbelief among average Nigerians and opposition figures, who will not have failed to notice the irony of El-Rufai’s articles pointing out the intolerance in the current administration.

Boko Haram Strikes Again 

Islamist group Boko Haram continued its wave of violence over the weekend, killing a local politician and nine others in different parts of Borno State.  A beer parlour was attacked on Sunday by men on bikes who shot indiscriminately at crowds and threw bombs. Such attacks have now become a weekly occurrence  in the Maiduguri metropolis, and a serious collective effort is needed to tackle this emerging problem.  There have been calls by organisations and individuals for the sacking of those in charge of the nation’s security, however Goodluck Jonathan has reiterated that what is needed is cooperation between the police, armed forces and security agencies

IBB Advises Jonathan

Former military president General Ibrahim Babangida expressed his thoughts over the weekend on the current challenges that Nigeria faces, alongside giving a few words of advice to current president Jonathan on the way to conduct positive leadership.  Babangida also commented on the recent arrest and release of former minister of the Federal Capital Territory Nasir El-Rufai, describing it as a distraction to the job at hand and urging Jonathan to lead the nation out of the murky waters with an increased level of tolerance. Babangida, who is not known to make such open media pronouncements, stated that he did so to allow Nigerians the opportunity to appreciate the challenges President Jonathan is facing.

Cement Price Crash

The price of cement in Nigeria is higher than in other competitive emerging economies. For example in countries such as Turkey and India, the price of a 50kg bag is about $5; the same quantity in Nigeria costs between N1,900-2,200 ($12-14 ). This led to a meeting initiated by President Jonathan with all major players in the cement industry. The cement manufacturers delegation, led by Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote, listed the difficulties in the domestic sector that inevitably has a knock-on effect on cement pricing. Yet Jonathan was resolute and demanded that the price comes down within 30 days or sanctions will be enacted.  Dangote Cement today announced the significant reduction of its cement prices to N1,350 per bag. Such a decision should have a positive all round effect on the market.

ICPC and EFCC Merger

A disagreement  is brewing between the recently returned Minister of Justice Mohammed Bello-Adoke and the head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Farida Waziri over comments credited to Bello-Adoke about the possible merging of all corruption fighting units in government. The EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices Comission (ICPC) were described by Bello-Adoke at his senate ministerial screening as having overlapping functions, leading to a less effective fight against corruption. Waziri on the other hand claimed at a forum in London: “Our roles are clearly defined by the acts. There has never been any conflict nor duplications as being alleged.” Such disagreements must be thoroughly thought out in order to fashion the best model for fighting corruption in Nigeria.

This week: politics

Clarity is finally returning to the Nigerian political scene. Although very late, the swearing in of the first batch of ministers is a move in the right direction. There were spats of scepticism with the names mentioned, but that was always going to be the case in a nation that demands as much as Nigeria. Familiarity with the job at hand and a sense of continuity for civil servants might lead to the accelerated pace of effective action.

The detention of Nasir El-Rufai brings to life a scenario which Nigeria hasn’t witnessed since the days of the military junta. The “breath of fresh air” promised by Goodluck Jonathan will feel decidely musty if critics of the government are jailed for “failing to cross check facts”. The arrest also seems remarkably ill-thought out, as Jonathan’s government will have looked like a throw back to earlier years after news outlets across the world picked up the story.

General Ibrahim Babangida still commands a large following among Nigerians from all walks of life. The lists of his misdeeds are there for all to see, yet his words are received with the utmost seriousness. His comments were laden with genuine concern and some points have been echoed by others in recent times. But one must wonder if there is anything to gain by such widely distributed comments, other than endearing Babangida to northerners staunchly opposed to the Jonathan-led PDP.

Writers of the week:

The power sector is amongst the most discussed areas of Nigeria’s economic development. If tackled appropriately, power sector reform could propel Nigeria’s growth and help lift millions out of poverty. The article ‘How Jonathan can create jobs in million-Power’ by Ogho Okiti for Business day newspapers gives an interesting take on the way forward.

Tayo Ogunbiyi of touches on an important issue in reference to the recent reckless behaviour of security officials.  The numerous clashes between the police and the army have led to an avoidable loss of life. Only last week, a soldier was dismissed for his flagrant disregard of the Lagos State Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) lane.

Media outlet of the week:

The Vanguard is one of Nigerians oldest and most read newspapers. Publishing commenced in 1984 and each year since the paper has gone from strength to strength. Maintaining its Lagos base as a headquarters, the Vanguard maintains an active distribution network throughout Nigeria. The paper is a daily which also prints weekend editions, alongside specialised interests which include Financial Vanguard and Sports Vanguard. The Vanguard hosts a highly respected stable of writers and contributors whose writings cover the political, economic and social. The Vanguard has become the main source of information for many of Nigeria’s avid newspaper readers.

This article first appeared HERE on July 5, 2011.

Lagun Akinloye, a British Nigerian, studied Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Leeds. He is particularly interested  in the History and Politics of West Africa and more specifically Nigeria.

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