By - Tobi Idowu
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday finally swore in and assigned portfolios to the 43 newly inaugurated ministers about a month after the constitution of his ‘NextLevel’ cabinet was announced and speedily approved by the senate.
The new ministers, who took their oaths of office at the Council Chamber, State House, Abuja, are now expected to help in the delivery of Buhari’s promises during his reelection campaign.
Creation of more ministries
Perhaps to cater for the number of people he nominated as ministers, president Buhari, during the swearing in of the new ministers, announced the creation of five new Ministries, namely; Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Police Affairs and Ministry of Special Duties and International Affairs.
The remaining two ministries are Aviation and Power, which were excised from ministries of Transport and Power, Housing and works respectively.
“I am pleased to inform you that the Federal Ministries have been further expanded to ensure effective service delivery,” the president explained.
There were only 37 ministers during Buhari’s first term.
Buhari retains Petroleum portfolio
As was the case during his first term, President Buhari has named himself as the Minister of Petroleum Resources, which is arguably the most strategic ministry in the country because of the dominant nature of the petroleum sector in the Nigerian economic. He made the disclosure while assigning portfolios to the new ministers after they took oaths and the new cabinet inaugurated.
The president would be steering the ship of the ministry alongside former Bayelsa State Governor Timipre Sylva, who will serve as the Minister of State. Buhari had worked with Dr. Ibe Kachukwu during his first term.
Some analysts however think Mr Sylva might find it difficult to operate in this kind of arrangement where some stakeholders could attempt to undermine his authority if they sense they could bypass him in reaching out to the president.
“We can have a situation where a powerful Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) might bypass the minister of state, bringing about a diminution of his authority to superintend the ministry and the NNPC,” Adeola Adenikinju, a professor and director, Centre for Petroleum, Energy Economics and Law (CPEEL), University of Ibadan offered in a report by the Guardian.
“This reduces the ability of (Sylva) to embark on independent policies and actions. If stakeholders start doubting the power of the minister of state, it will undermine his authority and effectiveness in midwifing reforms.”
Buhari headed the Petroleum ministry during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s military rule in the 70s.
12 ministers to continue in their previous posts
Of the 14 ministers from the last cabinet who were named to be part of the new cabinet, 12 of them were returned to serve in their previous posts. One of them, Babatunde Fashola, a former governor of Lagos state, had one of his previous briefs taken from him. Fashola had combined the Ministries of power, housing and works in Buhari’s first term, which made people call him the super minister. Fashola will now only head the works and housing ministry.
Zainab Ahmed, who became finance minister in September last year after her predecessor, Kemi Adeosun resigned after a certificate forgery scandal, will continue to steer the ministry, but with additional responsibilities for the budget and national planning.
Other returning ministers are Chris Ngige (Labour and Employment), Adamu Adamu (Education), Ogbonnaya Onu (Science and Technology), Geoffery Onyeama (Foreign Affairs), Abubakar Malami (Justice), Lai Mohammed (Information and Culture), Suleiman Adamu (Water Resources), Mohammed Bello (Federal Capital Territory), and Rotimi Amaechi (Transportation) retained their ministries.
Meanwhile, Osagie Enahire, who was Minister of State for Health during Buhari’s first term, has been named the new Minister of Health, while Hadi Sirika who was the former Minister of State for Aviation was named the Minister of Aviation by the president.
More women junior ministers
President Buhari only nominated seven female minsters out of the 43 names he submitted to the senate. This represents 16.28% of the entire 43-member ministerial list; or 15.91% with Buhari as the Petroleum minister.
However, alongside Ahmed, Pauline Tallen (named the minister of women) and Sadiya Umar Faruk (Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development), who will be heading their assigned ministries, the other women ministers announced by the president will be deputising in their ministries.
The ministers include, minister of state for transport, Senator Gbemisola Saraki; minister of state for environment, Sharon Ikeazu; minister of state for FCT, Rahmatu Tijjani; minister of state for Industry, Trade and Investment, Hajiya Maryam Katagun.
Why North gets more substantive ministers
Of the 44 Ministers appointed, the North has 24 while the South has 20. Out of those 24 ministers from the North, 17 of them are assigned cabinet posts, that is they are full ministers; whereas, of the 20 from the South 12 are Cabinet Ministers.
Notably, the Northwest, the President’s region, has all its nominees having substantive posts. More so, two states from the region, Kano and Kaduna got two full ministers each as according to Buhari, they were rewarded for the massive votes he received during the 2019 presidential election.
Kano gave Buhari 1, 464,768 votes – the highest in the February 23 election – while he had 993, 445 votes from Kaduna.
Speaking during a courtesy visit to Shehu Idris, emir of Zazzau, at his palace in Zaria, Kaduna, the president said he had appreciated those who gave him massive support in those states.
“Kaduna and Kano are the only two states I gave two substantive positions in my council. So, I have appreciated your votes and paid you back by giving you ministers of environment and finance.”
A poor parade of “recycled foot-travelers”
The major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in assessing Buhari’s cabinet, described the new ministers inaugurated as a reflection of the President’s lack of capacity to solve the problems confronting the country.
In a statement by the spokesman for the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, the berated the president for assembling a team made up of persons “indicted for corruption and treasury looting,” and dismissed the new cabinet as a parade of “recycled foot-travelers.”
“Of course, Mr President has severally demonstrated a lack of required capacity to lead a nation as complex as Nigeria, especially at this trying times.
“At a ceremony where Nigerians had expected the forceful articulation of a progressive policy thrust, Mr. President bored the nation with an empty and directionless script that only evoked more despondency in our nation,” it said.
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