President Muhammadu Buhari now has his full complement of 43 ministers, made up of ministers and ministers of state. He retains the portfolio of minister of petroleum resources. The new cabinet the President inaugurated Wednesday has 36 men and 7 women. One of the latter, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, who has been given the added responsibility of finance, budget and national planning, is a carry-over from the old cabinet. There is a new ministry of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development headed by Mrs. Sa’adiya Umar Farouk from Zamfara State.
Before they were sworn into office, the ministers, then known as ministers-designate, had attended a two-day retreat in Abuja. Addressing them, President Buhari said they were expected to hit the ground running. And indeed so they did. From the venue of the ceremony they all headed to their respective ministries. Buhari told them that the “majority of our people are poor and are anxiously hoping for a better life. Our responsibility as leaders of this great country is to meet these basic needs for our people.” He said Nigerians hoped for “a Nigeria in which they do not have to worry about what they will eat, where they will live or if they can afford to pay for their children’s education or healthcare.”
The President said in the last four years, his government was able to turn around a “rent seeking economy dependent largely on oil revenues and imports”, salvage the nation’s decayed infrastructure and downgrade the rampaging and ravaging Boko Haram terrorists in the north-east to the extent that their “activities are now limited to sporadic attacks against soft targets.” However, he admitted there are more challenges ahead, including the new security threats of banditry in he north-west and kidnapping all over the nation.
“Whilst we have obvious successes to celebrate, the challenges ahead are significant as you would have observed”, he said. He reminded the new team that “public service is not easy work, and at times it can be thankless.” Therefore, they should “see this opportunity to serve as an honour to give your best to deliver on this mandate, for a more prosperous Nigeria, not for some, but for all Nigerians. You will find that working collaboratively and purposefully will enable us to achieve quicker results, recognizing that four years is not a very long time.” Buhari ended the address on a note of optimism. “But I have no doubt in your individual capacities and our collective patriotic commitment to deliver a better Nigeria for us, our children and a brighter future for all.”
On his own part, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha told the ministers that they would be “monitored and evaluated” to track their performances “against cascaded strategic initiatives”. According to him, “This is an integral measure to ensure we deliver on our agreed objectives.” These include: consolidate and accelerate on the agricultural agenda to achieve full food sufficiency; increase revenue, implement measures to reduce leakages and drive cost optimisation; ensure effective coordination between monetary and fiscal policy; invest in human capital development with strong focus on early education and health insurance; facilitate investment in oil and gas sector by ensuring speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill and Deep Offshore Oil and Exploration & Production Bill; resolve the liquidity challenge in power sector and facilitate private sector investment.”
It is a long to-do list and four years, as the President has warned, is not a long time. This is why the ministers must appreciate their boss’ advice that they hit the ground running.