As Nigerians await the assigning of portfolios to President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministers-designate, experts have expressed their views on who they feel will be best positioned to handle the “power, petroleum and finance” ministries.
About 81 days after Buhari was sworn into office as the fourth President of Nigeria in the fourth republic, its citizens are yet to know who the persons that will do the bidding of the Presidency across various sectors of the economy are. The wait could end today. It is expected that each of the appointees will be capable of steering the economy, which is still within the throws of the 2016 recession and staring another in the eye, due to plummeting oil prices, towards sustainability.
The Ministry of Petroleum Resources
Ibe Kachikwu, a private sector veteran in the oil and gas sector, was deemed not to be good enough by PMB to return as the Minister of State for Petroleum. It is unclear if PMB will choose to hold on to the office Minister of Petroleum Resources but Abel Akeni, head of Extractives at public finance advocacy firm BudgIt, believes Uchechukwu Ogah’s years of investing in the oil and gas sector could make him a candidate to replace Kachikwu.
“He is sound, he is coming from the private sector,” Akeni said.’ Ogah, who contested for the governorship sit in Abia state in the March 2019 polls under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), is a private investor that has built assets in the oil and gas industry. He owns an energy firm, Master Energy Group and has years of experience in the banking industry.
The choice of a minister or minister of state for the ministry which oversees Nigeria’s life support oil and gas will be between Ogah and Godwin Jedy-Agba, former Group General Manager Crude Oil Marketing Division in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The power industry in Nigeria is burdened by huge liquidity concerns. Yet, German firm Siemens feels it can improve power generation, transmission and distribution in the country to 25,000mw at over N1.15tn in costs. This sector was merged with works and housing during PMB’s first term in office and headed by Babatunde Raji Fashola. Kunle Olubiyo, the convener of the Nigeria Consumer Protection Network, says Fashola will most likely get the nod to handle the power sector In order to continue the policies of the government.
He, however, feels that the ministers are simply figureheads doing the bidding of the president. He believes bureaucrats such as the permanent secretaries, are best positioned to move the various ministries forward.
“The ministers do not really play the role, it is the bureaucrats… the accountable officer is the perm sec. whatever direction that they pick they will just give the minister and the SA – special adviser and the minister will roll along. He, however, said the presidency and whoever it chooses to head the ministry of power should ensure the mid-term review scheduled with electricity distribution companies in the 2013 privatization of power assets, is duly organised.
The Nigerian economy is facing another slump as oil prices trend below $60. The expectation that low oil prices could become structurally etched in stone draws near and Atiku Samuel, a policy analyst, believes none of the persons in the list of ministerial nominees is prepared or capable of dealing with the complex situation the country’s economy is facing.
Mr. Atiku says the ministry of finance is saddled with increasing Nigeria’s revenue generation and the distribution of the country’s
‘very thin resources’.
“We are in a very critical stage if you look globally, people are exiting from fossil fuel which is the backbone that holds everything together in Nigeria,” Atiku said.
He said whoever gets the nod needs to improve the country’s revenue collection and resource distribution.
“The minister needs to look at how to increase revenue collection, how to widen the tax net. Nigeria has one of the largest Company Income Tax in the world, the minister needs to look at that, how to capture all the companies in the tax bracket.
“A list of about 19,000 organizations were published recently, that they’ve been evading tax, the Minister of finance will have to know why they are evading tax, how they are evading these taxes so that they can plug those holes.”
He also said the new minister will have to think out an effective way of implementing PMB’s policy of halting the use of the country’s foreign exchange reserve for food import.
He, however, thinks that Zainab Ahmed will return as minister of finance, thanks to her connection with Nasir El-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State.
Where the economy is in four years will speak to the success of these ministers and Buhari’s presidency. Some of his protectionist policies such as import restrictions are however bound to clash with the country’s signing of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement and experts like Atiku, say there is little margin for error in the next four years.