So many comments, from the sublime to the ridiculous, have been passed at the recent decisions taken by President Muhammadu Buhari to chart a new course for his Next Level administration.
Like a good coach who after an exhilarating first half in a tasking football match, the President, having studied the performance of his team resolved to make adjustments for an impactful outcome.
In an obvious determination to positively impact on the nation’s socio-political trajectory in the next four years and etch his name in gold, the President took some far reaching decisions that have been ‘mischievously’ accorded political interpretations by his critics.
Unlike in the past where certain powers are delegated to subordinates, the President has resolved to take personal charge of the nation’s economy by rejigging the structure and bringing in fresh, but tested hands, to give the required direction with a view to providing a new pedestal for progress and prosperity.
Regardless of what his critics may say, the success or failure of this administration can only be adduced to the President who is the captain of the ship. If it succeeds, Buhari gets the glory but will also carry the burden of failure if it goes otherwise. So, ultimately the buck stops at his table.
It is within this premise that one situates the ongoing speculations adducing political underpinnings to the President’s decision to disband the Economic Management Team (EMT) chaired by his Vice, Yemi Osinbajo, and his creation of a new Economic Advisory Council (EAC) to be chaired by a reknown Economists, Professor Doyin Salami.
Prior to Buhari’s latest decision to set up an independent economic team devoid of bureaucratic encumbrances, since the team will be reporting directly to him, economic and financial experts have berated the disbanded EMT as a gathering of politicians and non-professionals without any economic pedigree and background required to supervise and impact on an economy as volatile as that of the country.
Members of the EMT chaired by the Vice President, a Professor of Law, was unveiled in 2016 with Minister of Finance and National Planning Minister with the Minister of State; Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment; Minister of Agriculture; Minister of Information and Culture and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as members.
Others were Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters; Director-General of the Budget Office; Director-General of the Debt Management Office and Director-General of the National Bureau of Statistics.
A cursory look through the EMT composition will show an assemblage of professionals who are not particularly adept in economic matters. Even though experts and consultants were being regularly invited to their deliberations, results on ground show apparent discrepancies between set goals and achievables.
The performance of the economy under the supervision of the EMT only reflected its membership. A critical committee without experts cannot be blamed for the modest economic achievements recorded in Buhari’s first term.
One of the President’s focus on assumption of power in 2015 was job creation for the teeming populace, especially the young people. It would appear that the EMT did not do much in this regard as statistic showed that the unemployment rate worsened. Reports indicated that at the end of the first quarter of 2015, the unemployment rate in Nigeria was 7.5%. The number of unemployed Nigerians during that period were recorded at 5.5 million. But at the third quarter of 2018, the number of unemployed Nigerians rose to 20.9 million while the unemployment rate rose to 23.1%.
With the reality on ground, only a naive leader without a burning desire to achieve his goals will shun the wise counsel that he brings on board experts to assist in repositioning the nation’s tottering economy.
However, the EMT cannot be adjudged to be a total failure because it was able to bring on board measures that ensured the nation’s exit from recession between 2016 2017. Though there have been fears that the nation may regress, there were assurances from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) last year that the country had fully recovered.
With the assemblage of the Salami-led economic egg-heads comprising of Dr. Mohammed Sagagi – Vice-Chairman; Prof. Ode Ojowu; Dr. Shehu Yahaya; Dr. Iyabo Masha; Prof. Chukwuma Soludo; Mr. Bismark Rewane; and Dr. Mohammed Adaya Salisu (Senior Special Assistant to the President, Development Policy) as members, one can only wait to see what happens to the nation’s economy going forward.
Synopses of the credentials of the new appointees into the EAC indicate a bend towards intellectualism by the Buhari’s administration.
The Chairman, Professor Doyin Salami, a Doctorate degree holder from Queen Mary College, University of London, is a senior lecturer at the Lagos Business School where he leads sessions in the economic environment of business. He served as its director of programmes for five years until January 2005.
His research interests include corporate long-term financial management; macroeconomic policy; corporate competitiveness and risk management; and characteristics of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). He served as a member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and had been a member of the Federal Government’s Economic Management Team.
The Vice Chairman of the panel, Mohammed Sagagi, holds a masters degree in Economics from the University of Warwick, Conventry, England. He is an Economist and Development Consultant with a strong academic background and extensive private sector experience in Nigeria. His expertise and ability to carry out research, conduct diagnostic studies, design interventions as well as formulate practical development strategies are legendary.
Dr. Mohammed Adaya Salisu (Senior Special Assistant to the President, Development Policy) is the Secretary to the panel. He bagged a Doctorate degree from Lancaster University, United Kingdom.
Bismark Rewane is the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Financial Derivatives Company Limited in Lagos. He has more than thirty years of experience as an Economist, Banker & Financial Analyst. He is a Chartered Member of the Institute of Bankers of England and Wales and a Fellow of The Nigerian Institute of Bankers.
Former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Professor Charles Soludo, needs no much introduction. The Anambra state born Economist had cumulative four years of post-doctoral training in some of the world’s most prestigious institutions, including: The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC; University of Cambridge, UK, as Smuts Research Fellow and Fellow of the Wolfson College; the UN Economic Commission for Africa as a Post-Doctoral Fellow amongst others.
He is a monetary policy expert who had worked at the World Bank both as a short and long-term consultant since 1993 and also at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Addis Ababa.
Shehu Yahaya had an outstanding career in Academia and Development Finance, having held management and executive roles, including Executive Director at the African Development Bank and member, Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Before joining the African Development Bank, he served as Deputy General Manager at Nigeria Export-Import Bank (NEXIM). He was a lecturer in Macroeconomics at the Department of Economics at the University of Sussex, UK and Head of Economics Department in Bayero University Kano, Nigeria.
Iyabo Masha, the only woman appointed into the Council, is an acknowledged global economist with a demonstrated history of working in central banking and financial markets, economic management, international lending, finance and development. She focused majorly on macroeconomic stabilization policy research and implementation.
She had worked with the International Monetary Fund since 2003 in Washington D.C. Metro Area and had assignments in more than 10 emerging markets (Asian and African countries) with focus on comprehensive economic management including policy reform advisory services and dialogue with governments; financing and lending programs, analytic research and economic modelling and forecasting.
She worked at Central Bank of Nigeria’s Research Department between 1998 and 2003. She also worked with the World Bank between 1997 and 1998 as well as the IRIS Center, the University of Maryland at College Park as a consultant.
She is the immediate past IMF Representative for Sierra Leone.
Ode Ojowu, also a Professor of Economics, was the Chief Economic Adviser to former President Olusegun Onasanjo. He was equally a former Chief Executive of the National Planning Commission. He has held positions at the IMF, the World Bank, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
With the assemblage of these local and internationally recognised economists, the task of socio-economic reengineering of the country for sustainable growth and prosperity may have begun in earnest. Those reading political meanings to the substitution of the EMT with the EAC should hold their breath and await the much expected impacts of their dexterity on the nation’s economy.