Stakeholders Hail Sack Of ‘Under-Performing’ Agriculture, Power ministers

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In what came as a shock to many, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, relieved two ministers of their appointments. The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Nanono, and his Power counterpart, Saleh Mamman, were sacked in a bid to reinvigorate the cabinet and consolidate legacy achievements, according to the President’s address during the Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja.

The two ministers were sworn in August 2019 as part of the over 40 ministers who make up the current Federal Executive Council. Though the President did not reveal the rating of the sacked ministers, many Nigerians have constantly complained about the poor state of power and high price of food in the country.

The President, in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said the ministers were sacked after an independent and critical self-review of their performance, an important evaluation marking the beginning of a continuous process, which will see more members exit the cabinet.

President Buhari also hinted that the contributions of the ministers could be considered ‘weak.’ “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,” he added.

After relieving the ministers of their jobs, President Buhari redeployed Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, Minister of Environment, to the Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development, while Engr. Abubakar Aliyu, Minister of State, Works & Housing, was asked to assume office as the Minister of Power with immediate effect.

The President’s spokesman further hinted that the exercise would continue to fill vacancies as prescribed in the Constitution. “In due course, substantive nominations will be made to fill the consequential vacancies in accordance with the requirements of the Constitution.

“I have personally met with the departing members to thank them for their contributions to discussions in cabinet and the invaluable services rendered to the nation. Today effectively marks their last participation in the Federal Executive Council deliberations and I wish them the best in all future endeavours. I wish to reiterate once more, that this process shall be continuous.”

Reacting, Kingsley Moghalu, a former presidential candidate of the Young Progressive Party (YPP), said the President’s decision was the right thing though it came late. In a series of tweets, the former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), accused the Buhari government of weak performance.

He wrote: “After six years of weak performance by his government, President Buhari has reportedly fired two Ministers (Agriculture and Power) who, presumably in his judgment deserved to go. It’s the correct decision but very late in the day.”

But the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has described the President’s resort to sacking the two ministers as “a ludicrous and infective attempt to cover for his failures in office.”

The party said it is investigating the real reason behind their sack given Mr. President’s public approach to fighting corruption by “easing out” the culprits.

The party, in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, however, asserted that “the manifest inefficiency of the Buhari administration is a product of the President’s myopic and divisive approach to governance, as well as the impunity and corruption deeply embedded in his administration and party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).”

The party called on President Buhari and the APC to note that Nigerians were not swayed by the sack of the ministers, but were eagerly awaiting the exit of the Buhari presidency and the APC come May 29, 2023, “as there is no hope in sight under their purview.”

A civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has equally urged President Buhari to fire the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd); as well as the National Secretary Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (retd.). According to the group, the three members of the cabinet have failed in terms of suppressing the security challenges plaguing the nation.

National Coordinator of HURIWA, Emmanuel Onwubiko, said the dismissal of the two ministers was long overdue, describing them as “colossal failures, with food prices skyrocketing in the last two years and distribution of electricity criminally unstable, just as the prices have skyrocketed without commensurate services.

“The Minister of Defence and the NSA to the President should be sacked. There is, no doubt, that students are constantly kidnapped and the security situation in Nigeria has become like a war situation and deteriorated almost to a point that the President is openly accused of undermining national security. The NSA should have been sacked about two years ago. The country has never had it so bad in terms of security threats. Borno, Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna are all under the control of terrorists and even Nigerian Defence Academy was not spared of the disgraceful attacks by terrorists.

“The fact that the Justice Minister justified the illegal rendition and abduction by the government of the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, from Nairobi, Kenya means that he is grossly incompetent and unfit for that high office,” Onwubiko said.

Meanwhile, stakeholders in the agricultural sector have commended the sack of the former Minister, Nanono, over poor performance. They said President Buhari should have sacked the minister earlier, for the sector had never performed so badly in the last 10 years.

The chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in Kano State, Mr Abdulrasheed Magaji, said Nanono performed “selfishly, dishonorably and below average. He handled the ministry like a personal outfit unprofessionally.”

A catfish farmer and former president of Catfish and Allied Fish Farmers Association of Nigeria (CAFFAN), Mr Rotimi Oloye, said: “The man was a colossal failure on his assignment. He was a mismatch for the big job. He was all about his private agenda and vendetta.”

He added that the ex-minister did not help in getting the government support to the targeted groups and he messed up all efforts of the government through his biased relationship with stakeholders.

He recommends that “a minister of agriculture should be energetic, younger and up-to-date on international development.”

An aquaculture farmer, Femi Ade, said: “I think President Buhari got annoyed seeing the guy cannot stop Southern states from signing into law anti-open grazing laws.”

National President of Agriculture Bureau Association, Suleiman Dikwa, pointed out that from all indicators, the sector has been underperforming, as investment has not been commensurate with current realities.

He revealed that recent statistics ranked the country fifth in the world on the food affordability index, that is Nigeria is one of the countries with a higher food price in the world. He said another report shows that about $6.7 billion is lost annually to poor post-harvest handling.

While lamenting the poor management of investment in the sector, he pointed out that the quantum of investment by the Central Bank on the Anchor Borrowers Scheme and also the Nigerian Incentive Risk Sharing for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) should have been channeled towards curbing post-harvest losses.

Dikwa further added that none of the projects initiated by the minister saw the light of the day, as they were mere talks on the paper, saying that even the plan to borrow $1.1billion for mechanisation project was not actualised.

He lamented that most of the funds and farm inputs were not getting to the farmers because they were allegedly cornered by politicians who have connections at the CBN.

President of the All Farmers Association, Kabir Ibrahim, has congratulated the newly appointed Minister of Agriculture, Abubakar.
FOR the erstwhile Minister of Power, Mamman, currently self-isolating after a trip abroad, the power sector has been in comatose and the separation of the former Ministry of Power, Work and Housing under Babatunde Fashola was thought to provide some leeway in the sector.

Mamman’s two years journey came with intrigue and drama characterised by cluelessness, especially in the areas of policy and regulatory issues.

Shortly after being appointed, Mamman ordered the suspension of the then Managing Director of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), Damilola Ogunbiyi, and asked for the immediate stepping down of the Managing Director of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET), Marilyn Amobi. The development created tension and disconnection in the administration as the president reversed the decision shortly after the announcement was made by Mamman.

His reorganisation agenda also led to the sack of the then Managing Director of Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Muhammed Gur.

Being from Taraba, the Minister resuscitated the Mambilla power plant but the hope of the project has been in limbo as the development has been more of talk than work.

Described as an alley of the former Chief of Staff to the President, late Abba Kyari, most stakeholders believe that the demise of Kyari was the beginning of the troubles for Mamman.

While the increase in tariff was pursued with vigour during his two years in office and mass metering introduced on the condition that there would be an increase in electricity supply, Mamman had earlier in the year apologised to Nigerians over the current power outages and shortages in various parts of the country. This is in addition to repeated grid collapse.

Former Chairman of Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Sam Amadi, said sacking the minister was a good decision.

“He has not shown any leadership in the sector. He did not show the capacity to drive up the performance of the agencies and entities in the market,” Amadi told The Guardian.
According to Amadi, Mamman “basically failed,” describing his performance as “woeful.”

He noted that the removal may signal that the government really wants to do its best to solve the crisis of the sector, adding it would be a shame if Buhari fails after eight years to crack the riddle of the power sector.

Amadi noted that the new minister has an enormous responsibility, stressing that he would be taking over at a time when trust in the sector is very low and the crisis of financial viability and service delivery is also low.

“He needs to quickly up the trust quotient and reshape expectation and engender commitment by the stakeholder, especially new and old investors. He has to restore regulatory independence and improve policy guidance in the sector,” Amadi noted.