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Barely one year to go, Buhari appoints economic adviser

By Geoff Iyatse (Lagos) and Terhemba Daka (Abuja)
05 January 2022   |   4:33 am
With less than sixteen months to the end of his tenure, President Muhammadu Buhari has appointed Dr. Doyin Salami to serve as his first Chief Economic Adviser.

President Muhammadu Buhari. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

• Zaka: Appointment is vote of no confidence on NEC
• Salami’s economic thoughts at variance with President’s philosophy, says Adonri

With less than sixteen months to the end of his tenure, President Muhammadu Buhari has appointed Dr. Doyin Salami to serve as his first Chief Economic Adviser.
  
The administration has witnessed two recessions in less than seven years of its reign with the country taking a bottom position in key economic indices – unemployment and inflation among many others.
   
The administration has also been consistently knocked for its lacklustre management of the economy and dreary outputs of its policies, though the administration has consistently claimed to have inherited a “dying” economy.   
   
However, all along, the office of the Chief Economic Adviser to the President had remained unoccupied. But two years ago, Salami, 59, a frontline economic scholar, was picked to head a hurriedly-inaugurated Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC), which many said was established without reference to the National Economic Council (NEC) headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

  
Speaking on what difference Salami’s new appointment would make, a professor of economics and consultant to the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), Ken Ife, said that “he now has executive power unlike in his previous office, which was purely advisory and on a part-time basis.”    
   
Salami, a 1989 doctorate graduate in economics of Queen Mary College, University of London, until his recent appointment, was Managing Director and Head, Markets Practice, at KAINOS Edge Consulting Limited. He was also a member of the Adjunct Faculty at the Lagos Business School (LBS), Pan-Atlantic University, where he recently attained the rank of a senior fellow/associate professor.
   
According to a statement issued by Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the Chief Economic Adviser to the President (CEAP) is expected to address all issues on the domestic economy and present views on them to the President.
   
The statement further said that Salami would closely monitor national and international developments, trends and develop appropriate policy responses and make recommendations to the President. He is also expected to pay attention to national economic policies to foster macro-economic stability, promote growth, create jobs and eradicate poverty.

He was a member of the monetary policy committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Government’s economic management team.

Apart from leading sessions at Lagos Business School, Salami also consults for multiple organisations, including Department for International Development (DFID), World Bank, United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), and United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
   
Buhari has now set a record as the first President since the country’s return to democracy in 1999 to have led the country this far without CEAP. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed Philip Asiodu as CEAP on his assumption of office. After Asiodu’s resignation in 2001, Magnus Kpakol replaced him immediately.
   
Before his death, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua had Tanimu Yakubu Kurfi as Chief Economic Adviser while Dr. Goodluck Jonathan promptly appointed Prof. Precious Garba to occupy the office as soon as he stepped into office in 2010.

BALA Zaka, an energy economist with a hard stance on Buhari’s performance, described the appointment as a vote of no confidence on the performance of NEC but said the decision “is not too late.
   
“If you have travelled a million miles and suddenly realise you are heading towards a wrong direction, the best decision is to turn to where you are coming from. 
   
“So, it does not matter how many years the President has left. It is good that he makes the decision. If he succeeds in getting to where he started the journey, somebody else can take over from him. The good thing is that the President has confirmed that the National Economic Team was not doing well,” he said.
   
Zaka said many Nigerians would eventually commend the President for the appointment if it rights the wrongs with the macroeconomic outlook. He noted that if only it prevent the country from falling off the cliff, it was the best decision.

In a contrary view, David Adonri, a financial expert and stockbroker, said the appointment amounted to “crying after the head has been chopped off”.

He described the appointment as extremely irrational, wondering the difference Salami’s coming would make.
   
“The President had put together some of the best as members of PEAC headed by the same Salami. If he did not listen to the Council, I doubt if he will listen to him in his new capacity. At best, I think the new appointment is window-dressing; he would not have needed this appointment if he listened to them.”
   
Adonri also pointed out that Salami’s economic thoughts are at variance with the economic philosophy of the President and his team, He wondered how the marriage would work with the appointee holding an opposing view to his boss.
   
Salami, before his previous appointment as Chair of PAEC, had warned that the border closure, which marked the beginning of the current food price crisis, was not a sustainable strategy, urging the country to pragmatically reduce the cost of production to be internationally competitive.  
   
Last year, he noted that external imbalances were a major threat to macroeconomic stability.

MEANWHILE, some economists have defined areas that the Federal Government should prioritise to speed up economic growth and development in the new year. Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom, Akpan Ekpo, advised the Federal Government to aggressively implement the national development plan 2021-2025 to speed up economic growth and development in the New Year.

“For 2022, the government should aggressively begin to implement the national development plan 2021-2025; within that context, fix electricity supply and win back the confidence of the Nigerian people.

“If there is power supply for even 18 hours a day, micro and small enterprises would be enhanced and the economy would grow and generate employment. The era of jobless growth should be over.

“Another matter is that of insecurity. Government should do its best to restore peace so as to attract investors; peace would enable farmers to return to their farms,” Ekpo said.

Professor Ndubisi Nwokoma, Director, Centre for Economic Policy Analysis and Research (CEPAR) University of Lagos, urged the Federal Government to address some underlying factors that might impede economic growth and development in the New Year.

“Fiscal sustainability may persist given the persisting public debt burden and revenue challenges, which may be slightly ameliorated by the proposed increased taxation in 2022.

“Poverty may also persist in the economy with the proposed increased taxation and fuel subsidy removal, thus reducing both real and disposable incomes of the average Nigerian.

“Economic growth may be moderate in the region of two per cent driven largely by developments in the oil sector with marginal contributions from the non-oil sector,” he said.

Nwokoma, however, said there would be improvement in commodity prices, particularly crude oil and there would be gradual global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and improvements in livelihoods.

He urged the government to address the persistent state of insecurity, saying that its effects on agricultural production were enormous.