With the death of the former Nigerian Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, a lot of Nigerians have been forced to reevaluate the quality of service the country’s ministers and public servants have offered during this very auspicious period. To help sift through the mountains of events, non-events, accusations and counter accusations that defined the month of June, we present the YNaija’s Ministers’ Effectiveness ranking.
Bashir Salihi Magashi (Defence)
Nigeria is in the middle of a national crisis. Insecurity across the nation has risen to the point where major roads like the Kaduna – Abuja Federal Highway, which connects the centennial city to the country’s capital has been rendered unmotorable by armed bandits who kidnap travellers, murder innocent citizens and terrorize the country. Killer herdsmen make life unbearable for indigenous farmers in the South and the Middle Belt, and Boko Haram has claimed important parts in the North East while reports suggest they are consolidating their power into multi-state coalition. Nigeria is in dire straits, and our last line of defense against these attacks on our sovereignty is our army.
This is why it is doubly worrying that the Minister of Defense, Bashir Magashi is being asked to face a contempt proceeding over the refusal of the army council, which he chairs, to comply with a court judgement to reinstate an illegally dismissed officer, the National Industrial Court has ruled. This is one of a chain of events that has seriously dented the trust of the average Nigerian in the military and its motives of the country. Magashi may yet turn the situation around, when he defends himself at the contempt proceeding, but the portents don’t look good.
Paullen Tallen (Women Affairs)
Women have been disproportionately affected by the Coronavirus crisis. They are predominantly independent small and medium scale business owners who have been either forced to suspend or shutter their businesses altogether in response to the government sanctioned restrictions of movement. Dr. Paullen Tallen, the Minister of Women Affairs might have caught some flack earlier her tenure as minister, but as with many other Nigerian public servants, the pandemic has provided her a unique opportunity to redeem her image, one she is taking very seriously.
Dr. Tallen will oversee a federal government initiative to roll out palliatives to assist women-owned medium and small businesses (MSMEs) recover from the impact of the pandemic. She announced this during the virtual E-launch of the National Survey on the impact of COVID-19 on women-owned businesses in Nigeria, monitored by NAN. Tallen is also working with the Ministry of Information to put in motion the machinery to launch a national campaign against rape and gender-based violence, in response to the worrying but unsurprising rise in cases of gender based violence, sexual assault and rape.
“The campaign is necessary not only to raise the level of awareness about rape and gender-based violence but to ensure that Nigerians own the fight against the abhorrent and repulsive criminal acts,” Nigeria’s Information Minister, Lai Mohammed said recently.
In addition to the National Sex Offenders Register, Tallen seems finally read to put her hand to the plow and prove her worth to her constituents.
Abubakar Malami (Attorney General and Minister of Justice)
For the first time since Nigeria gained independence, victims of gender based violence, sexual assault and rape are finally going to get their day in court. The Ministry of Justice, under the leadership of Abubakar Malami is finally giving state courts the go-ahead to establish specialised courts that deal specifically with cases involving Rape and Gender-Based Violence. For many victims of both crimes, the traditional justice system has proven a terrible nightmare. The courts are overwhelmed and the justices in these courts have been socialized to see gender based violence and sexual assault as inferior to more ‘pressing’ cases. There is also of course the stigma that comes with publicly admitting to have been assaulted or raped, for men and women. Specialized courts manned by professionals who are especially skilled in conflict management for cases like this would have litigation time and led to fare more convictions, two incredibly important wins for victims. This is what Malami had to say about the decision.
“To tackle this hydra-headed menace headlong, the ministry of Justice is currently engaging with the respective heads of courts for the establishment of specialised courts for the speedy trial of rape/gender-based violence offences in Nigeria,” Malami said.
For the specialised courts to function, the Ministry of Justice is reviewing all existing laws and policy instruments concerning rape, child defilement, and gender-based violence in the country and restructuring them to remove any ambiguity and any legal loopholes. The end goal of the exercise is to clearly define the metrics that will decide who gets to be annotated in Nigeria’s new Sex Offenders register.
Malami is also advocating to ensure the recently announced executive order granting financial autonomy to state legislature and judiciaries is implemented.
After several disparaging statements about the future of road infrastructure in Nigeria, it seems Minister for Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola has finally seen the light. His new announcement that the Federal Government has perfected a plan to concession 10 major highways in the country is a complete turn around from his earlier assessment that Nigeria’s infrastructural systems were unsalvageable.
Titled “Highway Development and Management Initiative,” the minister has confirmed he is looking to finance the project through concessionaires with the private sector as a way to offset the gargantuan costs of embarking on a road project this massive. The concessionaire will grant private investors some autonomy over the roads which will require a capital investment of N163.32bn for all ten roads and about 16bn per road. Fashola has explained that this infusion of revenue will create an estimate 23,322 jobs for Nigerians and all the peripheral tools required to adequately maintain the roads like rest areas, street lights, weight bridges and toll plazas to tax road users will be the responsibility of the investors.
It is too soon if this will become another Lekki-Epe expressway situation (exorbitant prices caused protests which led to the indefinite closure of the second Lekki-Epe toll gate) but we will have to wait and see. The roads to be worked on are Benin-Asaba, Abuja-Lokoja, Kaduna-Kano, Onitsha-Owerri-Aba, Shagamu-Benin, Abuja-Keffi-Akwanga, Kano-Maiduguri, Lokoja-Benin, Enugu-Port Harcourt, Ilorin-Jebba.
Richard Adeniyi Adebayo (Industry, Trade and Investment)
The Coronavirus pandemic threw a spanner into the plans of Nigeria to restructure its economy following the economic recession of 2016. Granted there were events already in place that threatened to derail whatever progress had already been made (border closures anyone) but the pandemic put a final nail in the coffin on our attempts to escape a potential devaluation and economic recession. There is only one play now that can truly save us, and that is the task that the Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment, Richard Adeniyi Adebayo is saddled with, creation of value through employment and enterpreneurship. The minister seems up to the task.
In a statement signed by his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Julius Toba-Jegede, the ministry announced it had set in motion a post-CoVID-19 economic recovery plan that would help create an impressive 5 million jobs. He also claims there are further efforts to save about 1.4 million existing jobs, with 40 percent of them in female-owned MSMEs and 10 percent in businesses belonging to people with special needs. All three programmes will be referred to as the MSME Survival Fund.
The Minister noted that the move is part of his ministry’s input in playing a leading role in the Federal Government’s delivery of Real Sector interventions of its Economic Sustainability Plan in the wake of the global pandemic. To achieve these, he gave an overview of three programs as The MSME Survival Fund. Now these are all commendable, if lofty statements, but we do think the government has capacity to implement.
If they will do as they promised is another matter entirely.
Sunday Dare (Youth and Sports Development)
Since the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development was merged into one MDA, we’ve noticed a distinctly larger perspective from Sunday Dare, the minister assigned the task of advancing the interests of both parties he represents. He has pushed initiatives that advance sports as a financially viable industry and has helped negotiate important deals with media giants looking to broadcast Nigerian sports to a global audience. He is also taking the country’s enduring issue of youth unemployment very seriously, and has recently announced a partnership between the ministry and technology giant IBM to facilitate an IBM Digital Skill Training Programme for 7,000 youths, taught entirely virtually to adhere to government sanctioned social distancing rules.
“As soon as COVID-19 happened, we decided to migrate from an offline platform to an online e-learning platform and within three months, with IBM partnership, we have been able to train 7,000 youths. Most of them have received IBM certifications which they can use to work anywhere in the world and right now, over 9,000 youths have registered. Some are half way through their training and that is ongoing,’’ the minister disclosed.
“So, I think youth development in our country and under the ministry of youth and sports development is on a new trajectory and the one that we are looking forward to is the 100 million AfDB Support for the DEEL Programme.’’
There are many reasons why this is praiseworthy. Technology is new frontier for almost every sector of the economy, even sports. Video game maker rakes in billions of dollars each through its Playstation gaming console, and its annual release of Football games. E-sports have become a global phenomenon, with competitors earning millions of dollars and streaming rights selling for just as much. By partnering with IBM, Sunday Dare gives us a fighting chance in a technology driven future.
Sabo Nanono, Mustapha Baba Shehuri (Agriculture and Rural Development)
With the influx of agro-allied startups and crowdsourced farming initiatives, it feels like Nigeria’s agricultural industry is finally getting the attention it deserves. But news from the frontlines seem to suggest very little of the investment the average Nigerian seems to putting into agro-allied entrepreneurship isn’t reaching the farmers that so desperately need the investment and economic boost. The pandemic has only worsened the plight of the farmer, causing incalculable losses during the imposed lock down and after. This is why the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mustapha Baba Shehuri has flagged-off the distribution of subsidised fertilizers to select vulnerable farmers as part of COVID-19 palliative to mitigate its impact on food security.
But this is only a small part of a larger initiative to give the agriculture industry in the country a boost. The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, has stated that the federal government has set aside N600 billion as an interest free loan service to support an estimated 2.4 million farmers. The initiative began in Kogi with Nanono flagging off the delivery of farming equipment from the ministry warehouse in the state as part of the Agro Processing Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support (APPEALS) project.
It is refreshing to see the country’s most enduring industry get much needed support, economic and otherwise.
Timipre Sylva (Minister of State, Petroleum)
The lodestone of all Nigeria’s cultural and economic problems lies in its dependence on crude oil as its primary export. Since crude oil and its by products were discovered in Nigeria in the early 60’s, it has warped our collective identity, excusing the inexcusable and justifying the unjustifiable. Subsidies which have been argued against for nearly 30 years remain firmly in place, profiting a small group of marketers who refuse to obey government directives and threaten scarcity when they are challenged in any way. Flaring is still a problem more than a decade after it was officially slated to end. These are the challenges that former governor and now Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Silva has to wade through and make sense of.
He announced recently on behalf of the federal government that the ministry would review the prices of domestic gas in the country, in furtherance of its plan to encourage the penetration of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) which is expected to serve as an alternative to petrol. LPG increase by almost 1000 naira in 2019, in response to rumours of inflation and the closure of the country’s land borders. LPG is a resource the country has in excess but as yet has failed to adequately distribute it to citizens who require it to fuel their lives. By reviewing LPG prices with a view to reducing them and improving the delivery network, the federal government might be able to alleviate the country’s enduring power and energy crisis with a green sustainable solution. This is what Timpre Silva had to say on the matter.
“Without appropriate pricing, we can’t have it right. We have to ensure that gas becomes affordable. That is the only way our country can thrive. It is sad to note that we sell gas cheaply to investors while the price is high in the domestic sector to the extent that some Nigerians say diesel is cheaper than gas. Once we solve the issue of gas in Nigeria, we would have solved a lot of problems in the country. Luckily for us, gas is something we have in abundance,’’ he explained.
Geoffrey Onyema (Foreign Affairs)
With the exception of a few missteps (stranding Nigerians in China) the Nigerian ministry of Foreign Affairs has shown true leadership during the Coronavirus pandemic, working tirelessly to ensure our international bilateral relationships remained strengthened as we restricted movement and closed our borders to limit the spread of the pandemic. Once it was safe to do so, the ministry showed leadership in its efforts to contact, locate and return stranded Nigerians home to their families amid the pandemic. The Nigerian in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), recently confirmed the arrival of 269 Nigerians that were stranded in India in Lagos and Abuja. This is the most recent of several emergency evacuations that include the evacuation of 322 Nigerians from New Jersey, U.S.A to Lagos as well as evacuations from the UK in partnership with AirPeace.
Onyeama also showed stellar leadership in handling a diplomatic snafu that saw a building in the Nigerian High Commission in Ghana demolished by unknown parties. Considered an act of war to infiltrate without permission the high commission of another country (the land on which a high commission is built is considered sovereign land of the country in question).
What could have escalated into an incident was swiftly defused by Onyema and an official apology secured from the President Nana Akufo-Addo‘s administration.
Hadi Sirika (Aviation)
The political and economic sham that was Nigeria Air will always hang over Minister Hadi Sirika’s legacy as head honcho at the Ministry of Aviation but a lot of time has passed since those dark days and now Sirika is on the path to redemption. Sirika worked closely with the Ministry of Health at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic to implement self reporting and quarantine measures at the national and domestic airports and followed it up with swift closure of all our airports when the first cases of the pandemic were confirmed in the country. Since then, Sirika has followed all international health protocols and delayed the reopening of our airports until it was absolutely imprudent to not do so.
Now that the airports are being reopened, Hadi Sirika on behalf of the Federal Government has acquired Profiling Robots to process passengers at the Departure Hall of airports.This was disclosed by the government via NTA News Twitter handle, as the test run was done at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.What you need to know: The robots would be used for passenger facilitation processes including profiling, check-ins, temperature checks as well as detection of security threats including dangerous goods and arms.
Received outline business case certificate of compliance from ICRC for the concession of our 4 airports. Our roadmap is on course. Aviation has become the fastest growing sector of our economy under our watch. Thank you Mr President, thank you all!🙏🏽💪🏽🇳🇬🇳🇬🇳🇬 pic.twitter.com/lCLt2lKU3b
— Hadi Sirika (@hadisirika) June 23, 2020
The minister has also successfully midwifed the process of relinquishing control of four airports to private investors through a concessionaire agreement that will see new money pumped into the industry and hopefully standards rise. So far, the airports have been a sink of revenue for the government and have been poorly managed by all parties involved. By ceding control to parties with the experience and funding to make a difference, Sirika is doing his bit to reposition aviation as an economically viable industry.
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.