More heads are expected to roll as President Muhammadu Buhari begins an unprecedented move to weed out non-performing ministers from his cabinet, Daily Trust learnt.
The president on Wednesday announced the sacking of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, and that of Power, Engr Sale Mamman during the weekly Federal Executive Council (NEC). This was the first time President Buhari would wield the big stick on any of his ministers, before the end of their terms, since he came to power in 2015.
He returned most of the ministers who served in his first tenure and posted them to the same ministries when he was re-elected in 2015. Daily Trust reports that both Nanono and Mamman are long-time associates of the president. The two sacked ministers were replaced with the Ministers of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar and the Minister of State, Works and Housing, Engr. Abubakar D. Aliyu, respectively.
Presidency sources confided in Daily Trust yesterday that those penciled down to be axed were more than the two eased out and that more ministers would be shown the exit any moment from now.
Announcing his decision to the cabinet members during the FEC meeting, President Buhari said the cabinet reshuffle would be a “continuous” exercise. He said the changes in the team, which he formed on August 21, 2019 were sequel to the “Tradition of subjecting our projects and programs implementation to independent and critical self-review” through sector reporting during Cabinet meetings and at retreats.
Buhari’s statement, insiders say, was an indirect reference to a Cabinet Office review he commissioned with the mandate to review activities of all ministries, their presentations before the FEC and contributions of the ministers as individuals in shaping policies and discussions in the council. Apart from the need to strengthen “weak areas” and improve the delivery of public good to Nigerians as adduced by the president, sources said the sacked ministers were not fully on top of key issues in their ministries.
A presidential aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak on the matter said Buhari was “particularly disappointed” in the two ministers going by the premium he placed in the two ministries. “The president was deliberate in assigning portfolios to the two men. Mamman, from Taraba State, was expected to get the Mambilla Power Project up and going, himself being from the area. But up to this moment, nothing tangible is achieved in that regard.
“The choice of Nanono to superintend agriculture ministry flowed from the same principle. As a seasoned farmer himself and someone from Kano, he was expected to reposition the sector and help government’s diversification mantra,” the source said. He should weed out poor performers – CSOs.
Speaking on the matter, the Director, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan, said the president’s decision should be in the interest of the country. “It is better late than never. If the president has woken up to his responsibilities, then we are happy about it. We hope to see more of such happen and importantly replacement with better appointees,” she said. On his part, the Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Head, Transparency International Nigeria (TI-Nigeria), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said that many Nigerians have lost hope that the president will take action on those ministers who, he said, have “Clearly contributed to his government’s poor ratings by their lack of positive initiatives, proactiveness and responsive governance to deliver good governance”. According to him, if the sacking of the two ministers was due to credible complaints and evidence-based corruption-related issues, the president should make it known to the public so that other ministers can wake up and avoid getting involved in any issue that will tarnish the image of the government and Nigerians.
“Nigerians have repeatedly complained about the poor performance of some ministers and allegations of corruption but the president did not respond to the concerns being expressed by Nigerians rather he reappointed them for the second tenure. Again, some of the ministers have no energy and capacity to run modern governance but due to political greed they accepted the appointment and therefore, failing to carry out their work as expected.
“There should be a mechanism to evaluate each minister’s performance and failure to meet expectations, the person should simply leave. However, if there is an allegation of corruption it must be investigated and if found guilty he/she be punished not just sacked alone,” Rafsanjani said. Don’t use them to cover your failures – PDP The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has described the sacking of the two ministers as “infective attempt” to cover for the president’s “failures” in office. The party, in a statement by its spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan, said it was also investigating the real reason behind their sack given Buhari’s public approach to fighting corruption by “easing out” the culprits. “The party however asserts that the manifest inefficiency of the Buhari administration is a product of President Buhari’s myopic and divisive approach to governance as well as the impunity and corruption deeply embedded in his administration and party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).” Hasten action in rejigging cabinet – CNPP The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) has hailed the president for relieving two ministers in the federal cabinet of their appointments, asking him to appoint young technocrats to fill vacant posts. In a statement issued in Abuja by its Secretary General, Chief Willy Ezugwu, the CNPP urged President Buhari to “hasten action in overhauling his cabinet as there are many underperforming ministers as well as heads of agencies and parastatals still in government.” According to the umbrella body of all registered political parties and political associations in Nigeria, “like we have constantly advised Mr. President to replace some non-performing members of his cabinet, we also urge Mr. President to replace some of his advisers. “The CNPP believes that there could still be areas the President can salvage in terms of performance by his administration if his cabinet is urgently rejigged to place square poles in square holes. “And, beyond redeployment of some already spent ministers, the CNPP urges President Buhari to shop for young technocrats and more innovative citizens, even outside his party, for appointment to ensure that he succeeds in the remaining less than two years of his tenure”, the CNPP counselled. Nanono’s stint and his ‘sins’Perhaps, the most wave Nanono made as a minister since his appointment two years ago was his gaffe that a N30 meal could be enough for an adult Nigerian, in response to criticism on the economic hardship during a radio interview. Since taking over office on August 21, 2019, as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Mohammed Sabo Nanono, has been under scrutiny over a number of issues, which drew adversaries to him. First, his attempt to force a change in the leadership of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) drew him into a legal battle with the association. With a case on the issue still in court, Nanono continued to recognise a faction of the leadership. Nanono was also fingered in a number of alleged infractions such as awarding N30 million for the construction of a mosque which many considered as unjustifiable. The minister was also accused of awarding contracts to two shadowy companies worth several billions to buy grains at a time the market was extremely volatile, triggering a price hike. Nanono was also accused of spending over N1 billion to renovate the ministry’s old headquarters when the building the ministry bought for over N7 billion was abandoned in Central Business District, AbujaUnder his watch, the ministry came under investigation for alleged misappropriation of N16 billion by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). The minister had openly attacked the Central Bank of Nigeria’s policy on Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, canvassing for it to be moved to the Ministry of Agriculture. For over two years, the minister has been talking about importing tractors under a bilateral arrangement with the Brazilian government for mechanisation but that did not happen. He has not also been able to drive the president’s pronouncement of recruiting over 50,000 agric extension workers. Farmers from the South-South have also accused the minister of neglecting their region in agric policies and programmes. They said he did not have any strong policy on tree crops. Since taking over office, the federal ministry has not been able to drive success programme of the administration as most of the programmes are domiciled with other agencies of government outside the ministry. Despite all these, however, one of the major successes of Nanono has been his ability to champion the National Fertilizer Quality Control Act 2019 as a vital component of the Agricultural Policy of the present administration and the bid to reposition Nigeria fertiliser industry and the agro-economy from oil and gas to agribusiness. Nanono also supervised the launch of the RUGA project where he has awarded the construction and rehabilitation of facilities in the grazing reserves in Borno, Gombe, Niger, Nasarawa and other places to kick start the RUGA project under the National Livestock Transformation Programme. During the lockdown, the ministry also procured fertiliser, seeds and some farm implement for a number of farmers to mitigate the challenges of COVID-19 impact on farmers across the country. On seed, the minister has increased the capacity of the quantity of seed and seedlings produced in the country to up to 81,000 metric tonnes and has introduced policies that strengthened the seed sector. Meanwhile, the mood in the ministry was that of excitement among some junior and senior staffers as many said they anticipated this long ago in view of the minister’s alleged involvement in many alleged shady deals as contained in leaked documents. Power: The many controversies under Mamman The erstwhile Minister of Power, Engr. Sale Mamman courted many controversies shortly after he assumed office in August 2019.First of such was the sacking of the former Managing Director of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), Mrs Damilola Ogunbiyi over internal issues in December 2019. The federal government shortly after reversed the sack to resignation. More internal crisis continued among the power sector agencies culminating in the removal of the Managing Director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Mr Usman Gur Mohammed in May 2020, a move that was frowned at by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha and generated ripples from labour unions in the power sector. The erstwhile MD of Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading PLC (NBET), Dr Marilyn Amobi also had a headlong encounter with the former minister until she was removed in June 2020. There was also the removal of Prof. James Momoh, Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), in November 2020 for attaining 70 years, earlier than his tenure ending 2022. Another major crisis during the minister’s reign was the case of missing appointment letters for members of the board of TCN after their appointment in January 2021. The appointed board members, it was learnt, were to be given their appointment letters from the SGF’s office before they could be inaugurated but sources said while the letters left the SGF office, the board members could not get the letters from the ministry till date. Under the minister, although power system collapses reduced, there were cases of power tariff hike controversies forcing the government to dialogue with organised labour and consequently reversing the tariff hike in some instances. Meanwhile, a statement from the ministry’s spokesman, Austin Asoluka, has said Engr Abubakar Aliyu is the new Minister of Power. Engr Aliyu was the former Minister of State Works and Housing. “His appointment was announced today, after the FEC meeting presided over by Mr President,” the statement noted. Engr. Aliyu has been working with Babatunde Fashola, the current Works and Housing Minister. Fashola had served as the Minister of Power, Works and Housing from November 2015 to May 2019, before splitting of the ministry after Buhari’s re-election.(Daily Trust)