Worries over oil sector as Buhari returns as minister
• Fashola retains Works, Housing, loses Power Ministry to Mamman
• Aregbesola, Akpabio, Keyamo get Interior, N’Delta Ministries
• PDP faults alleged degrading of cabinet as aides to Abba Kyari
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday disclosed he would retain his position as Minister of Petroleum Resources, working alongside former Bayelsa State Governor Timipre Sylva who will serve as the Minister of State.
At a ceremony in Aso Rock where he assigned portfolios to the 43 minister-delegates earlier cleared by the Senate, the president also announced the creation of five new ministries: Police Affairs, Special Duties/International Affairs, Power, Aviation, and Humanitarian/Disaster Management.
But his retention of the powerful petroleum office and the composition of his entire cabinet has elicited mixed reactions from members of the public and stakeholders especially in the oil sector, with some fearing the next four years might offer little grounds for optimism.
The director, Centre for Petroleum, Energy Economics and Law (CPEEL), University of Ibadan, Prof. Adeola Adenikinju, warned that power brokers could frustrate Sylva’s operations.
“This reduces the ability of the latter to embark on independent policies and actions. If stakeholders start doubting the power of the minister of state, it will undermine his authority and effectiveness in midwifing reforms.
“We can also have a situation where a powerful Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) might bypass the minister of state, bringing about a diminution of his authority to superintend the ministry and the NNPC,” Adenikinju said.
There were indications that a show of power between former Minister of State Ibe Kachikwu and former NNPC Group Managing Director Maikanti Baru affected the sector negatively. Nevertheless, Adenikinju noted that retaining the seat could allow for institutional memory and make the sector’s issues command attention at the highest level.
Former President of the Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE), Abiodun Adesanya, said: “A lot of things urgently need to be done. We have not had a licensing round since 2007. There must also be clear-cut policies. Some of the policies have to be revisited especially the gas commercialisation programme. The bureaucratic process it takes to see the president has to change for the oil and gas and other priority sectors.
The president must also appoint a director for DPR. Petroleum products also need to be available to avoid the challenges we had in the past.”
The chairman of Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria (PETAN), Bank Anthony Okoroafor, said there was the need to restore confidence in the oil and gas sector. “With the National Assembly cooperating with the presidency, we hope that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) will be signed to improve the fortunes of the industry,” he said.
A former president, Nigerian Association for Energy Economics (NAEE), Prof. Wunmi Iledare, noted that the inability of the president to address the petroleum industry reform, which started about 20 years ago, remains a critical concern. He said the president and the minister of state must let professionals head the upstream, midstream and downstream sectors of the industry.
“The ministry is not the regulator. He must concentrate on policy development and analysis. The minister must not get involved in the day to day running of the NNPC. It must be allowed to function as a purely commercial business with less agency role,” he said.
On his part, the Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Muda Yusuf, said: “The delay in the signing of the PIB into law is not helping matters. We suggest that the government intensifies efforts at attracting private investments in refineries, coupled with ensuring that the ongoing Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) and repair of the four refineries intended to put them back on stream to operate at their installed capacity is expeditiously completed.”
Some analysts also faulted the separation of aviation from the transport ministry, saying it contradicts the plan for multimodal transport development.
The Secretary-General of Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI,) John Ojikutu, recalled that the two ministries used to be independent of each other until former President Olusegun Obasanjo merged aviation with transport just as he did information and communication.
“When former President Goodluck Jonathan came, he split aviation to two, even when he was planning intermodal transportation system. For economic reason, Buhari rationalised his cabinet and recombined the ministry. It appears now that cash is no more our problems. But it is still irrational to separate the ministry when the government has intermodal transportation in its development plan,” Ojikutu said.
Intermodal transportation is the global practice where all transportation infrastructure is integrated with one policy and managed under one ministry.
In its reaction, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) described the cabinet as a poor parade of recycled foot-travellers, many of whom failed Nigerians in governance assignments in the past.
The party, in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said by assembling a team of persons indicted for corruption and treasury looting, Buhari has demonstrated he has nothing to offer to the nation but the perpetuation of incompetence, failure and ineffectiveness.
The PDP said it was not surprised that the president had no clear-cut blueprint to rescue the nation from the economic, security and social quagmires, which his administration allegedly plunged the nation into.
“Mr. President has severally demonstrated a lack of required capacity to lead a nation as complex as Nigeria especially at this trying times. At a ceremony where Nigerians had expected the forceful articulation of a progressive policy thrust, Mr. President bored the nation with an empty and directionless script that only evoked more despondency in our nation,” the party said.
Buhari during the swearing-in had stated: “I must emphasise the importance of communication and harmony within our government. You must work in harmony with your fellow ministers. Communication, vertical and horizontal, can only be ignored at a price.
“As I said yesterday (Tuesday), in terms of coordinating communication, kindly ensure that all submissions for my attention or meeting requests be channelled through the Chief of Staff, while all Federal Executive Council matters be coordinated through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, in order to speed up the process of decision-making.”
The PDP, however invited Nigerians to note the president’s “contemptible approach to governance and disregard to ministerial portfolios as portrayed in the recent degrading of ministers to clerical aides of Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari. Such demotion of ministers is completely unacceptable, counter-productive and reduces governance to a domestic affair.”
The party said it felt the pains and anguish of Nigerians, who by now would have been enjoying the benefits of the much-desired economic recovery blueprint articulated by its candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
“Nigerians will recall that in Atiku’s blueprint, proactive strategic policies and plans were laid out for rapid interventions in critical sectors of our national lives to address the security, economic and social problems caused by the Buhari administration and return our nation to her pride of place.”
It urged Nigerians not to lose hope but continue with determination to retrieve Atiku Abubakar’s allegedly stolen presidential mandate at the court.
In other reactions, the spokesman of Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said Nigerians should not expect much improvement in governance in the next four years.
He accused Buhari of favouring people from his ethnic background with juicy ministries, even as he alleged that some ministers who performed poorly were returned to the same ministries.
Odumakin’s view was however countered by the president of Yoruba Ronu, Mr. Akin Malaolu, who said Buhari deserved commendation for the appointments. “Looking at how the president put key people in strategic portfolios shows that the country will likely move forward, depending on the sincerity, determination and commitment of the ministers in their new endeavours.
“For instance, the appointments of human rights activist, Mr. Festus Keyamo, as Minister of State for Niger Delta, former Governor of Bayelsa State Mr. Timipre Silva as Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, and former Governor of Akwa Ibom State Godswill Akpabio as Minister of Niger Delta were strategic to addressing youth restiveness in the Niger Delta zone.”
Fouad Oki, a factional chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), said the president must have considered the fact that the above- named persons wield a lot of influence in the zone and that Niger Delta still remains the country’s cash cow.
“You cannot take away the fact that Akpabio commands a lot a influence, not only in his zone, but across the country, just like Keyamo and Sylva. Their role is to interface between the government and the people in the area for the sake of peace, development and increased revenue generation for the country.”
Oki also applauded the government for retaining Zainab Ahmed as Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning. According to him, what the president must have put into consideration is not necessarily competence but sending the right signal to foreign investors who seem to have studied her style. He said the same factor must have informed the retention of Central Bank Governor Mr. Godwin Emefiele not long ago.
The new ministers and their portfolios are: Dr. Ikechukwu Ogah (State, Mines and Steel); Mohammed Musa Bello (FCT); Godswill Akpabio (Niger Delta); Chris Ngige (Labour and Employment); Sharon Ikeazor (State, Environment); Adamu Adamu (Education); Maryam Katagum (State, Industry); Timipre Sylva (State,