Last weekend, precisely August 21 marked one year when President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated his ministers who will assist him in taking governance to the Next Level. The 43-member-cabinet includes Uchechukwu Ogah – Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development; Muhammad Bello – Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT); Godswill Akpabio – Minister of Niger Delta; Chris Ngige – Minister of Labour and Employment; Sharon Ikeazor – Minister of State for Environment; Adamu Adamu – Minister of Education; Mariam Katagum – Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment; Timipre Silva – Minister of State for Petroleum Resources; George Akume – Minister of Special Duties and International Affairs and Mustapha Shehuri – Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development.
Others are Godwin Agba – Minister of State for Power, Festus Keyamo – Minister of State for Niger Delta (later redeployed to Ministry of Labour); Ogbonnaya Onu – Minister of Science and Technology; Osagie Ehanire – Minister of Health; Clement Agba – Minister of State for Budget and National Planning; Adeniyi Adebayo – Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment; Geoffery Onyeama – Minister of Foreign Affairs; Ali Isa Ibrahim Pantami – Minister of Communication; Emeka Nwajuba – Minister of State for Education; Suleiman Adamu – Minister of Water Resources; Zainab Ahmed – Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Mohammed Mahmoud – Minister of Environment; Sabo Nanono – Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development; Bashir Magashi – Minister of Defence.
The list also includes Hadi Sirika – Minister of Aviation; Abubakar Malami – Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation; Ramatu Tijani – Minister of State for Federal Capital Territory (FCT); Lai Mohammed – Minister of Information and Culture; Gbemisola Saraki – Minister of State for Transportation; Babatunde Fashola – Minister of Works and Housing; Olorunimbe Mamora – Minister of State for Health; Mohammed Abdullahi – Minister of State for Science and Technology; Zubairu Dada – Minister of State for Foreign Affairs; Olamilekan Adegbite – Minister of Mines and Steel Development; Tayo Alasoadura – Minister of State for Labour and Employment (later redeployed to Niger Delta Affairs); Rauf Aregbesola – Minister of Interior; Sunday Dare – Minister of Sports and Youth Development; Pauline Tallen – Minister of Women Affairs; Rotimi Amaechi – Minister of Transportation; Mohammed Dangadi – Minister of Police Affairs; Saleh Mamman – Minister of Power; Abubakar Aliyu – Minister of State for Works and Housing and Sadiya Umar Faruk – Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.
Only a handful of the Ministers were able to brief the media about what they were able to achieve in office in the last one year even though Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity said they have performed creditably well to the admiration of President Buhari.
However, since assumption of office, several of the Ministers have been involved in one controversy or another, a development that has taken the shine of whatever they may have achieved in the last one year.
The Minister of Agriculture incurred the wrath of Nigerians when he said there is no hunger in the land, in spite of the fact that many Nigerians have been complaining about economic hardship.
“I think we are producing enough food to feed ourselves. There is no hunger in the country and when people talk about hunger, I just laugh because they do not know hunger. They need to go to other countries to know what hunger is all about”.
Outraged by the insensitivity of the Minister, many Nigerians demanded his sack but President Buhari ignored the calls.
Fashola, the Minister of Works and Housing angered many Nigerians when he said that Nigerian roads were not as bad as people portrayed.
Addressing journalists, Fashola said the reports on the poor state of the country’s roads were mere hypes.
“The roads are not as bad as they are often portrayed. I know that this is going to be your headline, but the roads are not that bad”.
Many Nigerians who lashed out at the Minister said he was not in touch with reality.
Sadiya Umar Farouq
Since her assumption of office, it has been one controversy after the other. Criticised for her poor management of the Federal government cash transfer programme, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management was also enmeshed in the controversy of unpaid salaries of N-Power beneficiaries.
Nigerian social media users, including lawyer and rights activists also faulted the Minister’s claim that N523.3 million was used in feeding school children in Lagos, Ogun and FCT during the lockdown. Many parents in the affected states also demanded a probe saying their children were not fed during the lockdown.
When Akpabio’s name was announced as Minister, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) said “The only nominee I am not satisfied with is Godswill Akpabio. I don’t know how he got into the list. That is the only one I have a reservation about”. Several loyalists of Akpabio, especially from Akwa-Ibom APC attacked Sagay, saying his position on the Minister was wrong.
The Minister is currently enmeshed in a controversy with the National Assembly as well as Joi Nunieh, immediate past acting managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) who has leveled some serious allegations against him, including sexual harassment for which Akpabio received a slap from her, an allegation the Minister has denied. She also told newsmen that the minister wrote several memos requesting for assistance to pay for legal services. She said she declined such requests.
Akpabio is also at daggers drawn with some prominent Nigerians whom he accused of collecting contracts from the NDDC. Many of these, including former governors have denied the claim and directed the Minister to issue a rebuttal of the allegations he made.
Ali Isa Pantami
Earlier, this year, Pantami, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, and the Chairman and CEO of the Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa were involved in public spat over the usage of office facility of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). Dabiri, who took to Twitter had accused Pantami of using violence against her and her staff allegedly because she is a woman.
“In one year, we don’t have an office. The office we got, given to us by NCC (Nigeria Communications Commission)…but we were actually driven away by the Honourable Minister of communications and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Pantami.
“Within two days, they drove us out with guns and what happened? The place was given to us by NCC. You know we all help each other, NCC as an agency of government said there is a place you can use to settle in, and just as we settled in, I was in Ethiopia when I got a call. I thought that it was a joke”.
In his reaction Pantami also took to Twitter where he called Dabiri-Erewa a liar. “This is a fat lie from her. The owner of the building @NgComCommission has faulted her lies on their social media platforms. The minister has never given that directives (sic) to any gunman. We need to be very objective in reporting. I have never sent any gunmen there, and I have no one,” he retorted.
It is unclear if the Presidency has resolved the altercation between the duo.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed
The Minister of Information came under public opprobrium in May when it was reported that he ordered the detention of a broadcaster, Rotimi Jolayemi, aka Oba Akewi, who was said to have recited a poem on air which was highly critical of the Minister.
Part of the song which was recited in Yoruba language went thus “Having a child like Lai Mohammed is tantamount to a loss. Liar Mohammed. He lied so many times and sold out the nation with his lying tricks. The man lied to a stage that Kwara has no more lies in it. For people who see Lai Mohammed as the alpha, do you think Lai is normal? Lai is not different from an animal and he should have been jailed a long time ago”
The incident led to divergent views among Nigerians. While those who listened to the poem condemned the poet for using vulgar languages against the Minister, others condemned the arrest of Jolayemi’s sbilings and his wife, Dorcas who was detained for eight days before the poet who had earlier fled, showed up.
After appeals by several human rights group such as Amnesty International and Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Jolayemi was released in June after spending 45 days in police custody.
The Minister of Labour was involved in controversy with the management of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, (NSITF). Ngige was alleged to have suspended top management and executive committee members of the NSITF, although the presidential directive bars ministers from sacking heads of agencies. He was also accused by Hon. James Faleke, a member of the House of Reps of abuse of office and hijacking the budget of the NSITF and removing the board to cover his tracks.
Keyamo, the Minister of State Labour and Productivity was engaged in a shouting match with the National Assembly over who should control the implementation of the 774,000 jobs for public works projects nationwide.
Keyamo had appeared before a joint committee of the National Assembly, to explain how his ministry planned to carry out the task. In the course of the briefing by the minister, the members had asked for an executive session where details of the exercise would be disclosed for them in camera to make their inputs. But the minister declined the request and a shouting match ensued between him and the National Assembly members which led to a walkout by the minister.