Posted 17 July 2011, by Staff, ThisDay Live (Leaders & Company Limited), thisdaylive.com
Fiscal Reform, Job Creation are Priorities for Okonjo-Iweala
Until her appointment as Minister of Finance by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo on July 15, 2003, only a few Nigerians, outside the economic and financial sectors, knew of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. By the time she left on August 3, 2006, shortly after her redeployment to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she had become a household name.
Okonjo-Iweala, a product of two of the best American tertiary institutions —Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology- distinguished herself in the Obasanjo cabinet by establishing the Debt Management Office, but more significantly, when in 2005 she led the team that negotiated with the Paris Club to secure a historic $18 billion debt relief for the country.
She also engendered transparency in public finances through the publication of monthly allocations from the Federation Account to the 36 states and helped Nigeria to obtain its maiden sovereign credit rating from Fitch and Standard & Poor’s. She would also be remembered as being part of the economic team that set up the Excess Crude Account to shield Nigeria from the exogenous shocks of fluctuating oil prices, and drafted the home-grown economic blueprint, the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy, which got the approval of the International Monetary Fund in its Article IV consultation with Nigeria.
Like his predecessor, President Goodluck Jonathan fished her out from her job at the World Bank, where she was the managing director, to head the finance ministry, with an expanded mandate to be in charge of the economy.
During her second stint on the job, Okonjo-Iweala will be expected to help drive the president’s transformational agenda, especially by instituting fiscal reform, a reduction in recurrent spending to the neglect of capital projects, job creation and ending a regime of deficit budgeting.
Largely, her success would depend on the quality of other members of the economic team and the political will of the presidency and legislature to institute widespread reforms in public finances. She would also play a key role in deciding what to do with the fuel subsidy regime, which skives off over N1 trillion from the treasury annually, as a decision on whether to remove the subsidy entirely or increase the pump price of petrol has become inevitable.
Airports, Airlines in Desperate Need of Turn Around
Today, Oduah-Ogiemwonyi is Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, a key ministry in the economy. Unfortunately, Oduah-Ogiemwonyi has been posted to a ministry that is almost comatose. Her ministry superintends four international airports in the country – Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano and Abuja – and a plethora of domestic airports that are all in a complete mess.
The Murtala Muhammed International Airport, the nation’s foremost gateway, in particular, is in dire need of an upgrade and facelift to burnish Nigeria’s image. This should include the installation of large baggage screening machines that would eliminate manual screening by security personnel at the airports. In addition to this is the reorientation of customs, immigration and security personnel posted to the airports to comport themselves professionally and discreetly.
Oduah-Ogiemwonyi would have to decide if the federal government has the capacity to modernise the airports itself or enter into public private partnership arrangements that would enable concessionaires to take over the management and operations of the airport.
Another area that should concern the minister is safety issues in the industry. With almost all the domestic operators under distress and burdened by massive debts, safety and standards might be compromised by airlines struggling to survive. The new aviation minister would have to work with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and airlines on a bailout plan that would help keep their heads above water.
Environmental Protection,Climate Change Will Task Mailafa
For the record, the primary mandate of the environment ministry is to protect and improve water, air, land, forest and wildlife, as mandated by Section 20 of the constitution. The administration’s policy thrust is summarised in the Environmental Renewal and Development Initiative (ERDI). The objective of ERDI, however, is to take full inventory of all natural resources, assess the level of environmental damage, design and implement restoration and rejuvenation measures.
Also, the ministry is meant to work towards the sustainable utilisation of the environment and its resources by evolving tools for poverty alleviation, ensuring food security, foreign policy and international development and good governance. Besides, a number of priority progammes have been designed to address municipal waste management and sanitation, industrial pollution control, including oil and gas, afforestation and conservation of bio-diversity and wildlife. Key areas of priority for Mailafa will be tackling desertification in northern Nigeria, stopping gas flaring and cleaning up oil spills in the Niger Delta, flooding, and controlling gully erosion in the southern part of the country.
This, in summary, underscores the importance as well as the expectations as Mailafa takes over the ministry. With her public sector experience, having worked for M-Tel and the Nigerian Extractive and Transparency Initiative, Mailafa is expected to possess both the credentials and the managerial skills required to see through these challenges.
With PIB, Alison-Madueke Can Prove Her Mettle
This alumna of Howard University and Cambridge University, both in the United States and Britain respectively, first got into the cabinet, having spent several years working in Shell, on July 26, 2007 as Minister of Transportation. She was later redeployed to the Ministry of Mines and Steel and subsequently to the Ministry of Petroleum Resources in April 2010.
In her first year as petroleum minister, she was pitted against multinationals over her agenda, especially her enthusiasm to ensure compliance with the Nigerian Content Act that opened the door for more Nigerian participation in the oil and gas sector.
She was also instrumental to signing landmark agreements that would usher in investments worth billions of dollars in gas development and distribution for power generation and petrochemical and allied industries in the country.
With her return to the ministry, Alison-Madueke, 50, is expected to take measures to end the nation’s dependence on the importation of fuel, especially by ensuring the reification of her hope that Nigeria will become a net exporter of refined products by 2014. This she is vigorously pursuing with the memorandum of understanding signed by NNPC and a Chinese construction firm and banks for the construction of three Greenfield refineries in Lagos, Bayelsa and Kogi States.
Irrespective, pressure will be brought to bear on the minister to find a lasting solution to the artificial kerosene scarcity that has bedevilled the country since the beginning of the year.
Another extremely important task that should occupy Alison-Madueke’s time is the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill whose enactment into law has been stymied by needless controversy. A very important legislation that would transform operations in the oil and gas sector, set out new fiscal terms for companies operating oil acreages, and pave the way for the restructuring of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the PIB has suffered four years of delay and numerous amendments that have made the bill completely unrecognisable from the original draft. Alison-Madueke would have to work with the National Assembly to get the bill back on track for its passage into law.
Broadband Policy, Industry Consolidation are Key for Omobola Johnson
She is coming in as the first minister of a newly-created Ministry of Communication Technology. One of the primary challenges of communication technology ministry will be to draft a broadband policy and a legal and regulatory framework that would engender the broadband access for economic development.
Her biggest task, however, would be to consolidate the multiplicity of government agencies starting from the Nigerian Communications Commission, Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, National Information Technology Development Agency, Galaxy Backbone Plc, National Spectrum Board and Nigerian Communication Satellite Company, among a host of others, in the communications and technology sector that are duplicating and falling over each other in the sector.
Although Johnson comes with a resume that can take on the challenges of starting a new ministry, she would still have to contend with the overlapping role her ministry would have with the Ministries of Information and Communications, and Science and Technology, and the turf wars certain to take place as her ministry tries to instill sanity in the ICT sector.
Providing Water to Home and Agriculture
A civil rights activist, Ochekpe would be expected to bring her skills in advocacy and grassroots mobilisation, particularly in the area of rural development, by rolling out pipe-borne water schemes and dam irrigation projects for agricultural production.
A former professor of education and former Dean, Faculty of Education at the Bayero University, Ruqayyatu Rufai was a health commissioner as well as an education and science commissioner in her home state, Jigawa State.
She joined President Jonathan’s cabinet shortly after he was named president last year. The education sector, admittedly, showed some promise during her brief tenure as the helmswoman of the Federal Ministry of Education.
It was under her watch that several developmental activities were jump-started. It is also to her credit that Jonathan increased the budgetary allocation to the sector. Her reappointment to this ministry could therefore be seen as a tacit endorsement by the president.
But does she really deserve to be returned? Yes, one year might indeed be too short to evaluate a minister’s performance in such a key ministry. Still, the current appalling state of the sector in Nigeria cannot be ignored. From primary to tertiary level, it is the same sad tales of falling standards, low enrolment records by pupils at primary and secondary school level, poor performance in examinations, poorly trained and ill-motivated teaching and academic personnel at all levels, and inadequate funding.
Worse still, the national policy on education is weighed down by bureaucratic hurdles and inability of the ministry to effectively implement its supervisory role. Even the minister attested to this during her screening for reappointment.
Nothing short of sanitising the sector and improving standards would appease Nigerians. Wholesale reforms that would see state governments playing a more active role in improving education standards and improving enrolment figures to wipe out illiteracy would also be required.
At the tertiary level, the ministry would have to evolve a transformative agenda that would reform university and technical education so that Nigeria will stop churning out semi-literate graduates. The university system would have to be restructured from the bottom up to employ the best qualified academics, engage in research, and must be adequately equipped to ensure that students are conversant with state-of-the-art global technologies. This would require that the ministry evolves a fee-paying, scholarship and grant structure with the Nigerian University Commission and the universities, so that Nigerian higher institutions can become financially autonomous and competitive.
Under Maina, Affirmation Action Moves to Centre Stage
Before her appointment as Minister for Women Affairs, Maina had been board chairman of several financial and educational institutions. As a politician, she holds sway as a notable member of the Peoples Democratic Party in different capacities.
Importantly, however, as executive director, Women Affairs of the Jonathan/Sambo Presidential Campaign, Maina’s new posting may be the right fit for someone used to managing women initiatives. But beyond the limited scope of the ruling party’s arrangement, she is expected to have a broader and wider vision of her assignment, more so as a minister serving Nigeria and not the PDP.
Her activities are expected to reflect national spread while developmental initiatives for girl-child/female education, economic empowerment, and skills acquisition for the feminine gender should be given focus and priority.
Pepple Should Take Land Reform to the Front Burner
She would be expected to drive the executive’s input in the efforts to reform the Land Use Act, which have been in the works since the Obasanjo era. Pepple would also be expected to lead efforts to improve the country’s housing policy, particularly as it relates to housing for public servants and low income earners.
Olajumoke Akinjide was born on August 4, 1959 in Ibadan. The daughter of Second Republic Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Richard Akinjide, she was educated at King’s College London, where she obtained a Bachelor of Law degree and Harvard School of Law, where she graduated in 1981 with a Master’s degree. She attended the Nigerian law School in Lagos and was called to the Nigerian Bar as a Solicitor and Barrister in 1982.
Akinjide cut her teeth in legal practice in her family’s law firm, Akinjide & Co, in Lagos, and later practised in London. In 2001, she was appointed Special Assistant to the President on the Federal Capital Territory by the then president, Olusegun Obasanjo, and subsequently held the office of Special Assistant on G-77 Matters and Nigerians in the Diaspora Organisation. She contested the Oyo Central senatorial seat in the last general elections on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party but lost to the Action Congress of Nigeria’s candidate.
As Minister of State for FCT, Akinjide is confronted with expectations from her native Oyo State and the federal capital. Being a nominee of the immediate past governor of the state, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala, she faces the challenge of helping to further restore the Abuja Master Plan, a controversial mission that could pit her against elements who may want to deviate from the plan.
Erelu Olusola Obada was the immediate deputy governor of Osun state. Trained as a lawyer, she acquitted herself well as the person in charge of coordinating some of the agricultural policies of the state. Some of that experience in government would come in useful in her new role as Minister of State for Defence.
The ministry is in charge of defending the nation’s territorial integrity, and coordinating the activities of the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force and the Nigerian Navy, as well as other defence agencies. She and her superior, Dr. Haliru Bello, will tackle the daunting task of professionalising and training the military and modernising its equipment to fit with the times. This has to be done in the face of fiscal restraint.
She would also have to contend with the serious security breaches on the nation’s borders as some elements of Boko Haram, a fanatical religious sect that is causing security havoc in the country, reportedly slipped in through them. Her ministry is also tasked with keeping the peace in crisis-prone regions such as the Niger Delta and Borno State through the Joint task Force, as well as Plateau State.
Nigeria in Need of Vibrant,Purposeful Foreign Policy
It is no longer enough to expend resources – human and financial – in the name of fighting and containing violence in Africa and the rest of the world through peace keeping roles. There must be commensurate returns for all these efforts. Nigeria must henceforth weigh the cost and benefits of this policy.
It would therefore behoove on Professor Viola Onwuliri, a professor of biochemistry and running mate of former Imo State governor, Ikedi Ohakim, in the last election, and her new boss in the foreign affairs ministry, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, to spearhead the new direction of decisive leadership with economic interest at the forefront of this agenda. Perhaps it may make a lot of difference in the fact that Professor Onwuliri, who has been appointed minister of state in the foreign affairs ministry, will be working with a career diplomat to steer her in the right direction.
Striving to Stimulate Development in Niger Delta
Thus, her new placement could benefit from her capacity building initiatives and executive managerial skills. The Ministry of Niger Delta, though created by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, is an initiative deemed long overdue in the light of the obvious marginalisation and underdevelopment of the region responsible for about 90 percent of the nation’s income.
As a coordinator of the intervening agencies in the zone, the Niger Delta ministry is of significant importance to the security and stability of the polity. Although, Kuchi is serving as a junior minister, she has an assignment that weighs up with some substantive ministries. While it may be safe to say the ministry has begun to enjoy a degree of stability owing to the amnesty programme and other similar initiatives designed to cushion the effect of long years of marginalisation, all eyes are on Kuchi and her senior minister, Elder Godsday Orubebe, to roll out development project in the Niger Delta states.