Out of the 43 ministers recently inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari, five of them will contend with serious headaches following the myriad of challenges on ground at their respective ministries. President Muhammadu Buhari had in the ministerial retreat before the inauguration charged the ministers to be ready for “laborious days”. As they settle down for their ministerial duties, so the challenges cutting across national spheres will be coming up, like the morning dew. Here are the ministers with biggest tasks ahead.
Bashir Magashi (Defence)
Terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and other forms of insecurity have eroded the successes earlier recorded by the Buhari-led administration. Under Mansur Dan-Ali, the predecessor of Magashi in the Ministry of Defence, security challenges escalated across the country. Each of the six geopolitical zones of the country battled with one form of insecurity or the other.
The performance of Dan-Ali was ballooned by the nefarious activities of armed bandits in Zamfara, his home state. All eyes are now on Magashi, a former military administrator of Sokoto State, to turn the tide. Hours after he was sworn in, Boko Haram insurgents took over control of Gubio town, headquarters of Gubio Local Government Area of Borno State, though the situation was later brought under control. The Kano-born retired General is expected to address the presumed rivalry among the security chiefs. When he appeared before the Senate for screening, he said rivalry among the security chiefs contributes to the escalation of insecurity. Another challenge the new defence minister will face is the seeming prevailing bad blood between the army and the police. The recent killing of police officers who were on a mission to arrest a kidnap kingpin in Taraba State on the orders of an Army captain has added salt to injury. Stagnation caused by continued retention of service chiefs It is believed that the refusal of the president to let go the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin, Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Yusuf Tukur Buratai, Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas, and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Abubakar Sadique, has reportedly dampened the morale of senior officers in the armed forces. The new minister’s input or advice in this direction may calm the situation.
Rauf Aregbesola (Interior)
Aregbesola, the new Interior Minister, is a two-time governor of Osun State. The mandate of the ministry, among other things, is to foster the maintenance of internal security and citizenship integrity for the promotion of good governance. Aregbesola, an engineer, shocked the country when he said he knew nothing about the ministry. His predecessor was a retired Army General, Abdulrahaman Dambazau. The former governor said: “My relationship with the ministry is distant. What I know about the ministry is what I read in the newspapers.” Aside the issue of internal security, Aragbesola will superintend over the Federal Fire Service, Nigerian Correctional Service, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Nigerian Immigration Service. The battle to decongest and implement the ongoing reforms in the prisons falls under his supervision. Weeks ago, the president assented to the bill changing the name of the Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS) to Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS).
Saleh Mamman/Goddy Jedy-Agba (Power)
Much has not been achieved in the area of power supply in the country. Though the generation capacity has increased from 4,500mw in 2015 to around 7,500mw, the daily power supply to Nigerians from the national grid fluctuates between 3,800 and 4,000mw, hence the epileptic power supply being experienced in the country. In his first tenure, President Buhari invested N900bn in the sector. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said: “Since assumption of office, we have invested so far in terms of support-N700 billion in the power sector. Earlier, we invested N200 billion.” It is widely believed that the abysmal power supply contributed to the gale of closure of small scale industries witnessed under Buhari’s first tenure. At many events, Buhari had lamented how $16bn was squandered under the 16 years of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Buhari’s words: “They (PDP) said they spent $16 billion on power, but where is the power? The irresponsible expenditure of that period has not been explained, and Nigerians deserve an answer on that terrible mismanagement of the country.” Mamman, who hails from Taraba State, is being expected to turn the fortunes of the sector. The poor performance of the distribution companies (DISCOs) would also give the power minister some serious headache. The power minister and the minister of state Goddy Jedy-Agba are to drive the implementation of the recently signed Electricity Road Map agreement between the federal government and a German company, Siemens. Under the roadmap, the country is to generate 7,000 megawatts by 2021 and 11,000 megawatts by 2023. Close to four decades, the Mambilla Power Project, one of Africa’s biggest dam projects, a projected hydro-power plant, has been hanging. In 2018, the Federal Executive Council approved the contract for engineering work of the Mambilla Hydro Electric Power Plant in Taraba State in the sum of $5.792bn. As an indigene of Taraba, Mamman is expected to ensure that the project is given the needed attention. The Mambilla Power Station, one of Africa’s biggest dam projects, will be connected to three dams across the Donga River in Taraba State. Conceived in 1982, the main Mambilla Dam is a large rolled compact concrete dam and reservoir at 1,300 metres above sea level. The Federal Executive Council on Wednesday approved the contract for the engineering work of the Mambilla Hydro Electric Power Plant in Taraba State in the sum of $5.792bn.
Muhammadu Buhari/ Timipre Sylva
With his decision not to relinquish the position of substantive Minister of Petroleum, President Buhari and the junior minister, Timipre Sylva are going to battle with the challenges in the petroleum industry. Like in 2015, the president kept the substantive post of Minister of Petroleum to himself. As a one-time petroleum minister, the president is expected to turn around the fortunes of the petroleum sector, the cash cow of the country. Fuel/ Subsidy: In 2016, the federal government announced the removal of petroleum subsidy, thus the pump price became N143/N145 per litre. But months after the removal, it emerged that the subsidy was still ongoing but under another guise. It’s being called under-recovery with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the sole beneficiary. This is a burble waiting to burst, and Nigerians are watching. Revival of refineries: Except for the uproar, nothing much was achieved on the revival of the comatose refineries of the country. Still, refined petroleum crude is being imported into the country. The Dangote Refinery is being awaited. PIB: In the past 20 years, the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) has been impossible. Efforts by the eighth National Assembly to get it passed failed, as the president declines assent to it.
Zainab Ahmed/ Clement Agba (Finance/Budget)
Zainab Ahmed’s assumption of office for a second term came days after the presidency raised alarm that the country might be heading for a fiscal crisis if urgent steps are not taken to halt the negative trends in target setting and target realization in tax revenue. A presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, said via a statement said: “Anyone conversant with Federal Executive Council deliberations would have observed that issues bordering on revenue form the number one concern of what Nigeria faces today, and therefore, often take a prime place in discussions of the body.” The onus is on Zainab Ahmed and the junior minister to set in the machinery to tackle the challenge for the revival of the country’s economy. The country is out of recession, according to the managers of the economy, but its impact has not been felt by the masses. Poor budget implementation is another challenge the minister must look into. The quest to return the country’s fiscal year to January-December lies on the table of the minister.