Cabinet size nears 70 as Tinubu ignores calls for lean govt
• Sends 19 new ministerial nominees to Senate • Alake seeks stiffer regulations for social media
• With 47 nominees, Tinubu sets new record for highest number of Ministers since 1999
• Bosun Tijani: Young founder of Nigeria’s biggest tech hub makes fresh list
• 20 SAs, SSAs to have cabinet status • Despite present sufferings, Tinubu’s policy approval rating is 2x Buhari’s
Despite persistent calls for a drastic reduction in the cost of governance amid dwindling revenue and burgeoning debt profile, President Bola Tinubu yesterday forwarded a fresh list of 19 ministerial nominees to the Senate for confirmation, taking the number of nominees to an unprecedented 47.
This is in addition to the earlier list of 20 Senior Special Assistants (SSAs), Special Assistants (SAs) and Personal Assistants (PAs) appointed by the President.
Recall that The Guardian had exclusively reported three weeks ago that barring last minute change, the cabinet will be as bloated as that of former President Muhammadu Buhari, but with major realignments in portfolios.
Though a 42-member cabinet was being expected because each state is constitutionally mandated to have a representative and as it was done by the last administration, an inclusion of six more Ministers representing each of the six geological zones, the shape of the new cabinet, as gathered, will also include the 20 Special Advisers, as SAs were expected to contribute to discussions at the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings.
But against current realities, especially rising hardship occasioned by the removal of petrol subsidy among other policies introduced by the new administration, President Tinubu yesterday unveiled the second batch of his Ministers, ballooning the yet-to-be inaugurated FEC to a near 70-member Cabinet.
This is shattering and surpassing all known records. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo began the fourth republic with 27 Ministers between 1999-2003 and in his second term (2003-2007), he had 30 Ministers. The late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (2007-2010) inaugurated 39 Ministers, introducing the Minister of State nomenclature to accommodate all states of the federation and the Federal Cabinet Territory (FCT) in his cabinet.
Former President Jonathan (2011-2015) reduced his cabinet to 33 but a year to his re-election, in 2014, he reshuffled his cabinet and injected some politicians in what he termed ‘injury time addition’ to shore up his chances of winning the 2015 election. This took up the numbers of Ministers back to 37.
Former President Muhammadu Buhari (2015-2023) introduced the extra bonus of six geopolitical zones nominees to his cabinet to take the tally to 42.
But while President Tinubu, though urged to reduce his cabinet, was expected to still maintain the 42-man cabinet framework, no one anticipated it would be an expanded cabinet, principally made up of former governors and politicians who were being compensated for the roles they played in the February 25 presidential election.
Only on Tuesday, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) had advised the Federal Government to cut the cost of governance to demonstrate that the leaders also share in the suffering and sacrifice of the people. President of LCCI, Dr. Michael Olawale-Cole, gave the charge in a statement on President Tinubu’s address on the state of the nation.
Olawale-Cole said the perks available to public office holders are so enormous that it is difficult for the average Nigerian to understand why they suffer so much and those in leadership are unaffected.
The LCCI President urged Tinubu to do the needful, as citizens expect further announcements on the measure to cut the cost of governance.
“As we commend the government’s courage in enacting a series of policies, we trust that the government would be courageous enough to cut the cost of governance. This will demonstrate to Nigerians that the leaders share in the suffering and sacrifice of the people,” he stated.
Also, at the onset of the administration, there had been much talk about resuscitating the famous Oronsaye Report, officially known as the Report on the Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies, submitted to the Federal Government in 2012.
The Stephen Oronsaye report was commissioned by the Goodluck Jonathan administration in response to concerns about the size and cost of the Nigerian public sector.
The recommendations of the committee included abolition of 38 agencies, merger of 52 agencies, reversion of 14 agencies to departments in various ministries, and rationalisation of staff strength in the civil service.
The report argued that implementing these recommendations would save the government N1.3 trillion yearly. It also argued that the proposals would improve efficiency and reduce waste in the public sector.
The Oronsaye report promotes efficiency and reducing waste in the public sector as well as advocacy for the removal of such extra-budgetary allocations like security votes, and cutting down allowances of lawmakers, among others, should be labour union’s conditions for subsidy removal if their agitations were truly in the public interest.
It was therefore an anticlimax when the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, delivered the list to the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, yesterday, while the Senate was in the Committee of the Whole, considering the remaining six ministerial nominees.
The immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives submitted the second list with the second batch of ministerial nominees to Akpabio, at exactly 3:17p.m. After unveiling the additional nominees of the President, the Senate President said the Senate would reconvene on Friday to commence screening of the new ministers-designate.
Among the nominees in the second batch are former Osun State governor, Adegboyega Oyetola; former Kebbi State governor, Atiku Bagudu; former Zamfara State governor, Bello Matawalle; former Yobe State governor, Ibrahim Geidam; former Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong; a former senator from Bayelsa State, Heineken Lokpobiri and Shuiabu Abubakar Audu.
Others are Ahmed Tijjani, Bosun Tijjani, Maryam Shetti, Ishak Salako, Tunji Alausa, Tanko Sununu, Lola Adejo, Tahir Mamman, Aliyu Sabi, Alkali Ahmed, Uba Maigari and Zephaniah Jissalo.
A spark of excitement in the latest list is the inclusion of co-founder and CEO of Nigeria’s biggest tech hub, Co-Creation Hub, Bosun Tijani. Tijani, aged 46, initiated Meta CEO, Mark Zuckerberg’s first-time visit and received him in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole in August 2016.
Already, the Senate has screened the 28 nominees in the first batch. Those screened yesterday were Dele Alake, Lateef Fagbemi, Muhammad Idris, Ali Pate and Doris Uzoka.
The Senate had on Tuesday screened nine nominees. Those screened on Tuesday were ex-governors Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna) and Dave Umahi (Ebonyi); Wale Edun, Uche Nnaji, Stella Okotete, Adebayo Adelabu, Ekperikpe Ekpo, Hannatu Musawa, and Musa Dangiwa.
The nominees who opened the screening on Monday were former governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike; Abubakar Kyari from Borno State; Nkiruka Onyejeocha (Abia State); Bello Muhammad (Sokoto State); Sani Abubakar Danladi (Taraba State); and Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa State).
Others were Joseph Utsev (Benue State), Olubunmi Tunji Ojo (Ondo State), Betta Edu (Cross River State), Uju Kennedy Ohaneye (Anambra State), Abubakar Momoh (Edo State), John Enoh (Cross River State), Iman Suleiman Ibrahim (Nasarawa State), and Yusuf Maitama Tuggar (Bauchi State).
Despite the anguish and frustration over impacts of some of the new administration’s policies, a newly introduced Stears Approval Rating (SAR) released yesterday revealed that President Tinubu’s policies have received twice as many approvals from respondents compared to those of the previous administration.
The intelligence firm, Stears, conducted a statistically significant, state-wide poll to understand public sentiment in the wake of a storm of policy reforms implemented by the current administration. The inaugural Stears Approval Rating sampled 519 respondents across Lagos’ 20 local government areas.
The SAR is built from responses to 25 questions about socioeconomic policies, living conditions, institutional trust and voter status. Interviews were conducted in English, Pidgin English, and Yoruba, and lasted an average of 10 minutes.
“After Stears’ proprietary estimation model correctly predicted the outcome of the 2023 presidential elections, we wanted to continue to build on the application of data in governance and beyond. Particularly, we’re excited about how the SAR captures subtle fluctuations in consumer sentiment,” Tokunbo Afikuyomi, economist at Stears explained.
Senior Governance Analyst, Joachim MacEbong, said: “The Stears survey offers a valuable glimpse into the concerns of Nigerians, and it is clear that urgent action is needed to ease the cost burdens on citizens. Our poll showed that 42 per cent of Lagosians are pessimistic while 32 per cent said they were optimistic about the country’s direction.”
When asked what they think of the social and economic policies of both the current administration and the past Buhari administration, only 12 per cent approve of the previous administration’s policies, while 50 per cent disapprove. For the current administration, 27 per cent approve, with 33 per cent disapproval. The 50 per cent disapproval of the previous administration’s policies indicates its policy missteps.
The removal of the petrol subsidy, which saw Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) go from ₦185/litre to ₦490/litre in Lagos overnight, is less popular. 58 per cent disapprove, with only 32 per cent approving of the decision. Stears completed data collection before the increase from ₦490/litre to ₦568/litre.
Based on the data collected for the Stears Approval Rating, Stears built three indices: The Approval Rating Index spotlights the public’s approval of implemented and potential future policies; Stears Confidence Score gauges trust in institutions, which is essential for mobilising citizens, and finally, the Consumer Expectations Index is used to track how optimistic consumers are about the future, indicative of their future spending.
Stears used responses to questions about future expectations and Nigeria’s direction to construct the Consumer Expectations Index. Most (59 per cent) feel worse off than they did a year ago. The silver lining is that 71 per cent of respondents think they will be doing better in a year.
Meanwhile, the Special Adviser to the President on Special Duties, Communications and Strategies, who was also nominated as ministerial nominee, Dele Alake, has indicated that while he is an advocate of freedom of the press, he will not support absolute freedom without responsibility.
This was just as the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, and the Senate Leader, Opeyemi Bamidele, shielded him from responding to some sensitive and critical questions by some senators.
Alake who appeared before the Senate on Wednesday in continuation of the ongoing screening of President Bola Tinubu’s nominees categorically stated that under his watch as Information Minister, if so appointed, Nigerian press will be regulated to avoid abuse and dis-stability.
He told the senators that he would ensure that the government strengthens the rule of law and adequately regulates the media.
Alake said that even though social media has advantages, its downside has become highly detrimental to a decent society like Nigeria.
He said regulations must be strengthened and tested to ensure that social media is not used in a manner that threatens the internal security of Nigeria.
His words: “The downside of social media is that it is detrimental to a good and decent society. What I would support is the strengthening of regulations. There are laws that guide our conduct in every area of human endeavour, but the application of these laws has been shut.
“Even victims of libel, aspersions, defamation and all kinds of negative things in the media, hesitate to also apply the law against the culprits. I will recommend the strengthening of our regulations and the applications of those laws. The laws must be tested so we can know the proficiency of those regulations.
“I will support anything that comes from this hallowed chamber that promotes that course of action. If there are laws, bills, and motions in line with this, please be sure of our full cooperation.”
Acknowledging that misapplication of social media could be detrimental to society, Alake said he would encourage the government to strictly apply laws regulating both the mainstream and social media.
He also said sanity can be achieved with a re- orientation of social values, ensuring executive obedience to legislative oversight, strict adherence to the rule of law, and separation of powers.
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