Economists, Industrialists, Others Set Agenda For President Muhammadu Buhari

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As the first term of President Muhammadu Buhari enters its last days, Nigerian experts comprising economists, industrialists, lawyers, politicians and other stakeholders have set agenda for him on his incoming administration. Besides identifying the critical sectors which deserve more attention from him during his second term in office, the experts urged the president to use competence and expertise as the bases for selecting his ministers and aides. In separate interviews with Akelicious, the experts averred that Buhari needs a good team to meet the growing expectations of Nigerians and to sustain as well improve on his achievements in the last four years. Akelicious conducted the interview following Buhari’s directive to his ministers and heads of critical agencies to turn in their handover notes on Wednesday. The experts urged the federal government to focus on the provision of infrastructure and formulation of the right policies to drive the private sector for the speedy development of the economy. The national president of the National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Chief Alaba Lawson, said the fixing of infrastructure, especially roads and power, is a critical job Buhari must not toy with in his second term. Lawson also appealed to the president to prioritise the implementation of the Ease of Doing Business Initiatives for better results. She said the administration should collaboration with the private sector to curb smuggling, adulteration, counterfeiting and cloning of products in the country, adding that there should be punitive sanctions for offenders. Also, the president of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr. Babatunde Ruwase, urged the federal government to commit to policies and programmes that will accelerate economic growth and ensure that the growth rate surpasses the rate of population growth. He stated that private sector investment is a critical growth driver, therefore, the government should commit to the creation of an enabling the environment to bring about a quantum leap in private investment, adding that tax, trade, monetary, and foreign exchange policies must be in alignment with this objective. On economic infrastructure, Ruwase said that the need for a functional and modern rail network cannot be overemphasized and asked the president to in the next four years expedite action on the ongoing rail projects across the country to ensure cost-effective logistics for investors across all sectors. Ruwase further called for the passage of the National Roads Fund Bill, a repository for revenue accruing from road user charging systems and any other sources for the purpose of financing the maintenance and upkeep of road infrastructure. He said that the president should also introduce tolling on interstate roads that have been completed to ensure sustainable financing and maintenance of roads. Others, according to him, are credit guarantee scheme for MSMEs to promote lending and loan repayment, improving the regulatory environment in the oil and gas industry, and encouraging more off-grid power generation for improved access to power. In the aviation sector, the stakeholders want a core professional as the minister of aviation. The trade unions particularly charged President Buhari to appoint an aviator and not a politician as the next minister of aviation if he wants to move the industry forward. A core professional, they insisted, would move the aviation sector forward The secretary-general of the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP), Comrade Abdul Rasaq Saidu, told Akelicious that the choice of the president should not just be a professional but a core professional who knows the industry very well. Saidu said: “When we talk about aviation professional, we want a practical professional that has flown an aircraft or a qualified aeronautical engineer. These are the professionals we want and not half-baked professionals. We want a full-grown and registered professional.” The labour leader added that the next minister should ensure that indebtedness of service providers such as the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigerian Meteorological Agency Nigeria (NiMet) and other parastatals are stopped since they are self-sustaining agencies. Saidu warned that the minister of state for aviation should equally work in tandem with the minister of transportation, lamenting that a situation whereby the two work separately is harmful to the industry. Also, the president, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), Engr. Abednego Galadima, said that the government should ensure the realisation of the second Abuja runway project, Nigeria Air and other laudable projects as contained in the Aviation Roadmap Document. Worried by the plight of unemployed pilots, Galadima said that NAAPE under his leadership has already approached the government with solutions to address the problem. Galadima said: “I have written a proposal to the government where we can encourage these General Aviation (GA) people, particularly Nigeria College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) and others, by giving them special subvention to enable them to buy fuel, so that these our young pilots can build hours to make them more usable, marketable and ready for the job.” On land transportation, a board member representing the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) at the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), Dr. David Chukwudi, said that no Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) will invest in the country if the New Automobile Industry Development Plan (NAIDP) Bill is not signed into law. Chukwudi said that this is also the best time for President Buhari to sign the bill into law so that foreign investors can come and invest without fears. With the Consolidated Insurance Draft expected to be submitted to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) soon, the industry stakeholders expect the next cabinet to give it special attention when it is presented, so that, it can quickly get to the National Assembly for deliberation and possible passage into law. Also, the chairman, Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA), Mr. Tope Smart, called for reforms in the industry, especially the passage of the Consolidated Insurance Bill into law. He called on the Executive arm of government to speed up the process of passaging into law of the Insurance Bill to enhance insurance service delivery in the country. Market observers lamented that the current 2003 Insurance Act restrict operators from carrying out certain functions, especially in the implementation of the compulsory insurances. In the maritime sector, the acting national president of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Kayode Farinto said: “We want a minister who is a round peg in a round hole, a minister who is committed, knows his onions and put his ears to the ground. Farinto said: “The agenda we are setting is for President Buhari to have a senior special assistant on maritime so that he will have strong information about happenings in the industry and if the sector is well harnessed, it can generate over N2 trillion into the Federation Account. “We need to fix the roads, intermodal system especially the rails need to be working and also a situation where the eastern port will be revitalised. If the government is serious about fixing the maritime industry, it can fund the nation’s annual budget. We are talking about blue economy which is what is happening in the world and we have a lot that is not being harnessed in Nigeria,” he said. To the former managing director of ACCION Microfinance Bank and director at Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA), Bunmi Lawson, said that competence and ability to execute plans should be one of the criteria that should be used in selecting the new cabinet. “The Nigerian economy is not growing as fast as we want, so for it to grow faster it is going to be about implementation. As Nigerians, we have a lot of plans. When it comes to articulating plans we have it, but what we need are people who can actually get things done for the economy to grow. “For instance, the power sector is one critical area and I think that that ministry should be broken up into three, so we don’t need to have power, works and housing in one ministry. These are critical areas and they are too much for one person. Power should be separated and let the president get someone who can actually deliver on the goals of providing electricity for all Nigerians. Stating that infrastructure, the ministries of finance, health, education are key areas to focus on, she urged the president to ensure that “people who have the knowledge and know what to do and can get it done are appointed and not people who talk and nothing gets done.” Likewise, the managing director of HighCap Securities Limited, Mr. David Adonri, said that the appointment of members of the next cabinet should be based on competence, loyalty, expertise, experience and not on sentiments, ethnicity and religious affiliation. Adonri also urged the government to focus on policy re-direction from public sector-driven economy to market-driven forces, stressing that the new government should come up with market aid policy that will create an enabling environment for the private sector to operate. He added that the federal government needs to do more on its monetary and fiscal policy formulation to bring interest rate to lower single digit, as this will lead to financial assets migrating from fixed income securities to equities as the economy needs more equities for its finance. Lawyers Caution Against Feudal, Partisan Considerations Eminent lawyers, including rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), Afam Osigwe, and Dr. Kayode Ajulo, have also added their voice on the expected cabinet. Ozekhome asked the president to look at competence and not ethnic bias as consideration for the appointment of his ministers and aides. According to him, the appointments made in the last four years had been characterised by nepotism, favouritism and biases and called on Buhari not to repeat the same mistakes. He said: ‘’I have only one advice for the president. He should appoint square pegs in square holes. He should not be nepotistic in his appointment and should understand that Nigeria is bigger than Daura and the Northwest zone,’’ he said. Similarly, former secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Afam Osigwe, expects the president not to delay the appointment of his ministers for his second term in office. He also called on the president to take the issue of security more seriously. Also, an Abuja-based lawyer and founder of the Egalitarian Mission International, Dr. Kayode Ajulo, said that the president should not wait for six months again before appointing ministers. According to him, the delay in appointing ministers will affect businesses and investments in the country. He also called on the president to do more on the economy, security and the fight against corruption. The lawyers claimed that over 90 per cent of the current ministers are not known to Nigerians on account of performance and those known are for negative reasons. The lawyers urged the president to beam his searchlight in the east, north, south and west for the best lawyer and irrespective of his or her background to be appointed the minister of justice and the Attorney-General of the Federation in order to avoid trampling on the rule of law. They also asked Buhari to look for the likes of the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina who is an agricultural economist to run the Ministry of Agriculture, rather than engaging someone to man such a ministry because he knows something about agriculture. According to Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN), “most of the president cabinet members are people appointed for political or partisan purpose instead of competence. “In my own view, the president should know that era of politicking with appointments is over since he’s in his second and final term. The ministerial positions are no longer jobs for the boys or partisan members; he has to look beyond his ethnic or feudal evaluations in selecting his cabinet members this time around. “For the attorney-general of the federation (AGF), he has to look for a competent hand who would advise him properly, and that is the only way his administration would avoid trampling on the rule of law,” he said. Another eminent layer, Chief Emeka Ngige (SAN), said that “President Buhari should know he is entering his second term and should focus on what history would say about his performance, in other words the legacies he will be leaving behind. Ngige said: “He has to go for the professionals and technocrats, persons who would guide him well on what to do and not otherwise. Even when party leaders nominate for him, he should only accept such persons if they are sound. “For AGF office, the president should look in the direction of the East, North, South and West for the best man for the job. He has been a litigant and he should know the best lawyer for the job,” Ngige said. Barr. Alasa Ismaila said: “He (president) shouldn’t find it difficult to rejig his cabinet in order to change the current narratives of insecurity, household economic hardship and unemployment. “He is even too much in a haste to dissolve his cabinet now because such will only overheat the polity and create tension all over the place. It will certainly create distraction because these ministers would now be lobbying to retain their seats,” he said. A lecturer at the Agricultural Economics Department of the University of Ibadan, Prof. Victor Olugbenga Okorua, said that “the president must look for the likes of Dr. Akinwumi Adesina to be appointed the minister of agriculture who brought in so much professionalism and innovations in his time. “It is not enough to say somebody knows about farming and therefore makes him the minister of agriculture. “He should also bring in economists as ministers of finance and budget. These positions are not for accountants or other professionals if the country must progress from this level of economic downturn in the country,” Okorua stated. Also, speaking on the kind of cabinet members Buhari should have, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former minister of sport, Alhaji Bala Ka’oje, said they should not be people prone to errors or those who engaged in blame games. Ka’oje appealed to Buhari to do proper background to get the right people into his cabinet, adding that the appointments should be based on speciality. According to Ka’oje, a situation where some ministers don’t know much about what to do in their ministries but keep making errors is unacceptable. He Akelicious in Abuja, Ka’oje said that he is happy that his party won many states and constituencies in the 2019 general elections but added that Nigerians will be expecting capable hands as ministers who will help the president to take the country to the next level. He said: “I want those who are advising Buhari to sit down and get the right kind of people that will help him to run the affairs of the country. So many errors are being made but we want that corrected this time. Some don’t even know the mandate of their ministries. This is another opportunity the president has gotten to change things for the better.” Relatedly, there are strong indications that Buhari may not delay the unveiling his ministers and aides for his second term. Early Appointment Of Ministers, Aides Likely As a pointer that new cabinet may emerge immediately after the May 29 inauguration, Buhari has asked ministers and agency heads to turn in their handover notes by Wednesday next week. Some sources even hazard the people that make the new cabinet during interviews with Akelicious. Last Wednesday, Buhari in a statement issued by his senior special assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, asked his appointees to come up with a comprehensive status report on policies, programmes and projects of their respective ministries, departments and agencies. According to the statement, the top government officials have Wednesday, April 24, 2019 as the deadline for the submission of their reports to the Presidential Audit Committee in the Office of the Vice President. Akelicious gathered that a circular to that effect had been issued by the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, directing the FEC members to ensure that all outstanding memoranda they intend to present to the council are submitted to the Cabinet Affairs Office, Office of the SGF, not later than Tuesday, April 30, 2019. According to the circular, the ninth and 10th meetings of the council have been shifted to Thursday, April 25, and Thursday, May 2, 2019 as a result of the Easter and May Day celebrations. Dependable sources said that while efforts are being made for cabinet members to submit their reports, the compilation of the names for next cabinet has commenced. The sources said that three outgoing governors and a deputy governor who may make the list are Umaru Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State, who has been elected a senator for the 9th National Assembly, Jibrilla Bindow of Adamawa State, Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos State, and Bala Barnabas Bantex from Kaduna State. Other names also being flaunted as likely ministers and aides are Kayode Adesola, Rotimi Amaechi, Chris Ngige, Hadi Sirika, Abdulrahman Danbazau and Fatima Gambo. There also Ogbonnaya Onu, Abubakar Malami, Ahmed Mohammad Kwarra, Audu Ogbeh, Halima Babayo, Adebayo Adelabu, and Senator Godswill Akpabio. Sources say more people from different states of the country are being considered but that their track records will play prominent roles in their appointments.

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