Following the completion of the screening and confirmation of the 43 ministerial nominees by the Senate, President Muhammadu Buhari will on August 21 inaugurate his new cabinet. Before the swearing-in ceremony of the new ministers, an induction retreat will be held for them from 19th to 20th August. The induction, according to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, is to build a strong platform for synergy and teamwork as well as sensitise appointees on the status of the implementation of policies, programmes and projects of government from 2015 till date.
It will also acquaint the appointees with the roadmap for delivery of government’s priorities and the next level agenda, 2019-2023, and deepen the understanding of participants on best practices in conducting government business. We commend the nominees for their successful confirmation and expect them to get to work as soon as their portfolios are assigned to them. There is indeed no time to waste.
One of the drawbacks of the screening exercise since the inception of the nascent democracy in 1999, has been the practice of the president sending the names of nominees without their portfolios attached. This has reduced the effectiveness of the exercise. To make the screening of ministers more rigorous, the president should in future attach portfolios to those being screened. It does not really matter if such act is enshrined in the extant 1999 Nigerian Constitution or not.
We urge the in-coming ministers to help the President to fulfill his campaign promises to Nigerians now that we are in the next level of the administration. They should bear in mind that this is the last leg of the administration which assumed office on May 29, 2015. This is time for consolidation of whatever they planned to achieve in office. The time of campaign is over. The ministers must understand their powers as well as their limitations in the discharge of their duties so as not to get into avoidable confrontations with their permanent secretaries in the MDAs they are assigned to. This point is very important because of the need to work with speed to solve the nation’s problems.
Since there are many jobs to be done, the ministers must hit the ground running. The minister of power should ensure that there is great improvement in the generation and distribution of electric power. Since the power sector holds the key to the industrialisation of the country, the government must inject more money into it. The minister of education must make sure that the over 13.5 million Nigerian out-of-school children are enrolled in the school system. There is urgent need to adequately fund the education sector. The government must do all in its powers to reduce the rate of illiteracy in the country. The minister of housing must reduce the nation’s housing deficit put at over 17m housing units by building massing low-cost housing units for workers and other Nigerians.
The minister of health must work hard to improve the nation’s health sector. More measures should be put in place to curb medical tourism. The government should stop the lip service to health matters. Government must create jobs for the teeming unemployed Nigerian youths. This is the best way to curb the rising criminality in the country. The economy must be diversified through agriculture and regulated exploitation of the nation’s solid minerals. We urge the President to consider the areas of specialisation and records of achievements in assigning the portfolios to the ministers.
The president must be ready to carry out a periodic assessment of his ministers to determine their performances. It must no longer be business as usual. Government should also put in place a peer review mechanism for the ministers and other appointees. The president must be ready to replace any minister who performs below expectation.
Above all, let the ministers see their appointment as a privilege and a call to national service. They must therefore discharge their duties with utmost sense of patriotism.