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Buhari’s deadwood ministers

Against the recent sack of two ministers by President Muhammadu Buhari, The Nigerian Xpress examines the performance of other ministers in the cabinet, pointing out those who also deserve to be shown the way out.

Akani Alaka

Speaking with Southeast leaders at a town hall meeting while in Owerri, the capital of Imo State last Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari restated his wish to be remembered as the leader who stabilized Nigeria in the area of security, economic prosperity and triumph over corruption. But the president merely reiterated the concerns he has been showing about his legacy in recent times.

Improvements in security, corruption and economy were the promises on which the president and the ruling All Progressives Congress were first elected into office in the 2015 general elections. But the situation in the country indicates that his government has not lived up to that expectation.

Despite the recent five per cent growth in GDP as announced by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, NBS, the number of Nigerians sliding into poverty by the day as a result of the rise in the cost of living and unemployment is not improving.

While insurgent group, Boko Haram was the major security challenge he inherited when he was elected into office in 2015, the country is far less secure today with reports of rampaging bandits, criminal herdsmen and militants of all hues killing and abducting scores of citizens the country daily. The President himself agreed at Owerri that the practice of corruption in Nigeria is becoming more ‘sophisticated’ and difficult to curb.

His assertion was in tune with the declaration of Rotimi Amaechi, one of his cabinet members in a newspaper interview that ‘silent stealing’ is going on under the Buhari government. 

New Beginning in Agric, Power Ministries

The verdict is that six years out of his eight-year tenure, the president has not delivered on most of his key promises to Nigerians, though there are a couple of achievements here and there. Thus, there is a need for not only the change of approach to governance by the president but also by his lieutenants in the cabinet.  This perhaps explained the excitement that greeted the ‘unusual step’ of the president at the weekly cabinet meeting of 1st September.

Buhari had taken many Nigerians by surprise when he announced the sack of two cabinet members, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Sabo Nanono and Minister of Power, Saleh Mamman. 

Most Nigerians were surprised not because both Ministers have lived up to expectations since they were appointed into the cabinet in 2019, but because Buhari had virtually made such wielding of the big stick against his appointees a taboo since he was first elected as president in 2015.

For one, the president did not sack any member of his cabinet in his first term of four years despite the glaring underperformance of many of them. The cabinet members that did not complete the first four years with Buhari voluntarily left either to take up new appointments or as a result of death.  The president simply turned deaf ears to strident calls from Nigerians to change some of the ministers even when corruption allegations were raised against them between 2015 and 2019.

Nigerians, including perhaps the ministers too, believed the President would maintain the same stance until the surprise announcement made during the Federal Executive Council.

Justifying his action, the president said Nanono and Saleh were sacked after an independent review of their performance revealed that they were not living up to expectations. As stated by the President, the “changes were sequel to the “tradition of subjecting our projects and programmes implementation to independent and critical self-review” through sector reporting during cabinet meetings and at retreats,” in a statement to cabinet members.

He also announced the appointment of Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, Minister of Environment as the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, while Abubakar D. Aliyu, an engineer and Minister of State, Works and Housing was redeployed to the Power Ministry. The President added that “these significant review steps have helped to identify and strengthen weak areas, close gaps, build cohesion and synergy in governance, manage the economy and improve the delivery of public good to Nigerians.”

Saleh’s Road Out Of Buhari’s Govt

Many will agree that the two ministers rank among the underperforming appointees of the President.

Apart from the failure to deliver on their mandates, the two ministers have also been enmeshed in various controversies with the stakeholders in their ministries. For one, stakeholders said though he is an engineer,   Saleh did not demonstrate the ability to manage the complexities of the power sector in about two years he was in the saddle as the minister.

A major scandal during his term of office was the disappearance of appointment letters for members of the board of TCN after their appointment in January 2021. Reports indicated that the board members have not been able to get the letters of their appointment till date.

Stakeholders accused him of not giving enough support for the actualization of the agreement the Federal Government signed with the German firm, Siemens to strengthen the national grid. He was also said to be absent at meetings of stakeholders in the power sector with other agencies of government like the Central Bank of Nigeria, Ministry of Finance and the Debt Management Office. He had after barely three months in office courted controversies with the sack of Damilola Ogunbiyi as the Managing Director of the Rural Electrification Agency.

He had replaced Ogunbiyi with Salihijo Ahmad, a former Level 12 officer in a federal government’s agency. Many said the new REA boss lacked the experience to run the agency, but was appointed because he is the son of late Salihijo Mohammed Ahmed who worked with President Buhari at the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund. Ogunbiyi was due to resume as the boss of a United Nations agency few months before she was sacked and her unjust removal had put her in jeopardy of losing the appointment as the global body sought more information from the Nigerian government.

In the end, the government reversed her sack to resignation to enable her to take up the appointment.  In the same vein, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha condemned Saleh’s unjustified sack of the Managing Director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Usman Gur Mohammed in May 2020 while the minister was in battle with MD of Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading PLC (NBET), Dr Marilyn Amobi until she was removed in June 2020.

Saleh’s removal of Prof. James Momoh as the Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) in November 2020 for attaining 70 years was also greeted with controversies. The tenure of Momoh was supposed to end in 2022.

In reaction to the criticisms, Saleh had claimed that he inherited a lot of ‘in-fighting’ in the sector and that he was carrying out the changes to deliver results, in a statement by his spokesperson, Aaron Artimas. He also accused a Lagos-based cabal of using faceless groups to undermine his efforts to improve the sector. 

He added that the appointments were made because ‘despite the huge resources President Muhammadu Buhari “poured” into the power ministry for over four years, there has been no tangible result,’ a statement many interpreted to be an indictment of the government which appointed him to office.

Nanono of Controversies

Just like in the Ministry of Power, the sack of Nanono as the Minister of Agriculture was greeted with joy by workers in his Ministry and stakeholders in the sector. Nanono had landed in controversies when, soon after his appointment, he told journalists that a plate of food could be bought for N30. The former minister’s attempt to appoint new leadership for the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) had resulted in the split of the association and a legal battle.

Thus, it was not a surprise that some members of AFAN were among the first set of stakeholders to hail the president for kicking out the minister.  Dr Femi Oke, Chairman, AFAN, Lagos and South-West Zone said in an interview that the minister failed to address issues regarding food security, farmers/herders clashes and many more.

“He ignored issues affecting the sector and dabbled into issues not related to the sector. So, his removal is a plus to President Muhammadu Buhari‘s administration. We farmers are happy with his removal. During his tenure, prices of food and other commodities skyrocketed. Instead of formulating policies that would bring the prices down, the minister adopted policies that were not favourable to the people”, Oke said.

Some weeks before he was removed, the minister had again drawn the anger of Nigerians when it was revealed that his Ministry is building a mosque at the cost of N30 million in an IDP camp in Borno State. Also, he was accused of contributing to the high cost of food in the country with the award of multibillion contracts to some unknown companies to buy up grains in the market. This is in addition to 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, Abuja.

Before he was sacked, the Ministry of Agriculture was being investigated by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission over alleged N16 billion fraud. In the same vein, the minister was accused of not championing Federal Government’s policies in the sector like the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, thus leaving the Central Bank of Nigeria to be in the driver’s seat.

‘Non-Performing Ministers’ 


The President had promised that the process of weeding out cabinet members who are not living up to expectations will be a continuous one. In tune with this promise, many Nigerians have been pointing out other non-performing ministers. 

Left to members of the National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, two cabinet members that should be on the list of those to be kicked out whenever Buhari is ready are Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Dr. Chris Ngige, the Minister of Health, Osagie Enahire. President of NARD, Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi called for the sack of the two ministers over the protracted and recurring strikes by doctors in the country during a recent television interview.

The NARD president was reacting to comments by Ngige that the Federal Government might sack the striking doctors if they failed to return to work by invoking the relevant sections of the Labour Law which states, in part, that for the period a worker withdraws his services, the government or his employers are not entitled to pay.

However, Okhuaihesuyi blamed the two ministers for the spate of strikes by the doctors over failure to take actions that will lead to the call off of the industrial action. “I want to ask Nigerians to tell those that are the cause of the strike and have not done their work that they should be sacked or resign from the positions they hold,” said the NARD president.

“The minister of health, the minister of labour, the NDCM Registrar, Sanusi; they are the ones that should be held responsible for the strike we are on and something needs to be done to them. If they can do that to them, then they can implement the no-work no-pay policy,” he added.

Members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU are also singing the same tune about the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu. Leaders of the different zones of ASUU at press conferences in various parts of the country last week accused the Federal Government of failing to implement the December 22, 2020 Memorandum of Action on which basis they called off their last strike.

The Benin Zonal Coordinator of ASUU, Benin, Prof. Fred Esumeh, who addressed journalists in Benin on ‘Another Inevitable Round of Crisis in Nigerian Universities,’ said the university teachers are only waiting for a signal from their national body to abandon the classrooms.

ASUU had in March 2020 embarked on a strike which lasted till December over funding of the universities, controversies over the platform to adopt for payment of salaries of its members and insufficient funding of state-owned universities by their owner-states. Members of ASUU said the Federal Government has not addressed solutions agreed on for tackling the problems as contained in the Memorandum of Action. “We appeal to all stakeholders and lovers of education to admonish the government to fulfil its part of the agreement for the future of our country and the protection of our endangered education system. ASUU should not be held responsible if our campuses are shut down again,” Zonal Coordinator, ASUU, Akure Zone, Prof. Olufayo Olu-Olu said at another press conference last week.

Don’t Put The Blame On Me

Like with NARD, Ngige has also been the chief negotiator with ASUU in the protracted disagreement with the Federal Government which was carried over from the previous administrations. But Ngige, in what seems an indictment of his colleagues at a recent meeting complained that the ‘load’ of negotiating with different unions in both sectors was too much on him because the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education were not living up to expectations.

“Whether you are talking about ASUU, SSANU, NMA, JOHESU, etc., their employers are the Federal Ministries of Education and Health respectively.

Those ministries should do their work with their employees. The employers of workers under these unions should take care of them. Here, I’m only a conciliator but the load is much because some people aren’t doing their bit,” Ngige lamented in a meeting with the Forum of Chairmen of Health Institutions in Nigeria.

Adamu Adamu, Osagie Enahire 

Speaking to The Nigerian Xpress last week, some labour union activists agree with the minister. They pointed out that the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu has been especially silent and his performance so far, not just in stopping the debiltating strikes of ASUU, but in the development of the education sector have been below expectations.

Indeed, Emeka Nwajiuba, the Minister of State was the one that has been representing the Ministry in the usually long meetings with ASUU. “Adamu is hardly seen even at events organized in the sector and when it comes to representation of the Federal Government, the face that you will see is that of Emeka Nwajiuba, Minister of State. Maybe Adamu Adamu has a problem he is battling with. But is it not better for the president to remove him and just leave Nwajiuba or appoint a more competent person.”

In the same vein, if judged by their inability to end the recurring strikes by the key unions in the sector they are presiding over, Ehanire and the Minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora should also be asked to go. “They are only better than Adamu Adamu because at least, they are prominent in events organized in the sector and they have also initiated some policies of their own to move the health sector forward,” said an analyst.

The ‘Ghost Minister’ In FCT

In the same shoe with Adamu Adamu is Mohammed Musa Bello, the Minister of Federal Capital Territory, FCT. Nothing indicates Bello’s lack of visibility in the administration of FCT than the fact that most residents of Abuja could not even easily recall his name.

Residents of Abuja complained that infrastructure in the capital city has decayed while the once-captivating environment has degenerated under Bello who, ironically was one of the 14 ministers retained by the president from his first term. His tenure has also recorded an increase in crimes such as armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, ‘one-chance’, within the city and the satellite towns. “It’s unfortunate really because if you know what Abuja city looked like before the appointment of Bello, you will know that the man has not added any value to the city. Rather, you will see that the city is no longer well-lighted at night while the infrastructure is collapsing. Many of us cannot wait for him to go,” Abubakar Jimoh a resident of the city told this newspaper last week. However, the saving grace has been Ramatu Tijjani, the Minister of State who has tried to fill in the gaps for Bello in some of the areas of his failings. 

‘Security Ministers’, Others Not Living Up To Expectations

With the current state of insecurity in the country, most Nigerians will certainly vote for the sack of Bashir Salihi Magashi as Minister of Defence. Just like his predecessors, Magashi has failed to rise to the duty of finding solutions to the myriad of security challenges confronting the country. Indeed, the minister once ridiculously asked communities under attack by bandits to defend themselves against the criminals.

Just like Magashi, the Minister of Police Affairs, Muhammad Maigari Dingyadi has also not made any significant impact in turning around Nigeria’s policing system.

Police personnel have continued to complain of poor welfare with the minister accused of inaction in terms of reforming the police system to meet up with the security challenges confronting the country.

As Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio has been involved in controversies over the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC for most of the over two years he has been in office. Stakeholders complain that the minister has not lived up to expectations in terms of impacting Nigeria’s oil-producing region, citing the example of his inability to continue work on the East-West Road. 

Many Nigerians don’t even know that Tayo Alasoadura, Minister of State for Niger Delta is a member of the cabinet. In the same vein, George Akume, the Minister of Special Duties has been quiet, with many Nigerians unaware that he was appointed into the cabinet by President Buhari until his recent fight with his State Governor, Samuel Ortom.

Other such ‘anonymous’ ministers in the cabinet include Mohammed Abdullahi, the Minister of State, Science and Technology; Zubair Dada, Minister of State, Foreign Affairs; Mustapha Baba Shehuri, Minister of State Agriculture and Rural Development and ironically Festus Keyamo, the Minister of State for Labour.

On the other hand are Ministers whose fortes seem to be in raking up one controversy after the other with befuddling policies.

Controversial Average Performers

Many Nigerians will certainly call for the sack of Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed over his obsession to control social and mainstream media, though the president may think he is doing a good job. There is also Sadiya Umar Faruk, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management who has had to contend with different allegations of corruption and mismanagement which she has repeatedly denied.

Also, Suleiman Adamu, the Minister of Water Resources has repeatedly drawn the anger of Nigerians in the southern part of the country over his bid to bring all water resources in the country under the control of the Federal Government.

And while the ICT sector has become a key driver of the Nigerian economy under his leadership, many Nigerians had in the past called for the sack of Ali Isa Pantami, the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy over past extremist views. And if the state of the economy is to be used as the judge, most Nigerians will vote for the exit of Zainab Ahmed from office as the Minister of Finance over the ballooning cost of living in the country, declining economic performance and increasing indebtedness of the country. In the same vein, various allegations of corruption have been levelled against Abubakar Malami, Minister of Justice/Attorney General of the Federation, though none of them has been proved yet. But the minister has also been accused of not discouraging some obvious violation of rights of Nigerians by security operatives, especially the Department of State Services, DSS.

While Babatunde Fashola, the Minister of Works and Housing has been making positive impressions in the Buhari administration’s bid to give Nigerians passable roads, the delivery has been slow. This is in spite of the introduction of innovations like the Sukuk and the Presidential Infrastructure Funding Initiative for funding of the major projects.

However, Nigerians have continued to applaud the efforts of Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Transportation who many will easily describe as the shining light of the Buhari administration. But for many others, the president may just have to summon the courage to ask them to go if he is serious about his legacy.