Eighty days into the administration, President Bola Tinubu is yet to constitute a cabinet that will actualise his Renewed Hope agenda and deal with many of the social and economic challenges facing the country, despite the Senate’s fast-tracked screening of his 48-man ministerial nominees that was concluded last week Monday.

After a blistering start since his inauguration on May 29, many had anticipated that the momentum would be sustained, especially with the injection of fresh, forward-looking, young Nigerians to drive the president’s vision, but it turned out to be an anti-climax after a long wait for the unveiling of the Renewed Hope ministers by the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio.

Tinubu, since he assumed office, has implemented two major policies: fuel subsidy removal and the unification of foreign exchange markets. These policies have heightened economic pressure on the masses due to high cost of living, triggered by the two policies.

However, the unveiling of the president’s men – a 48-member list, which is the largest cabinet assembled so far in the Fourth Republic – did little to raise the hopes of many citizens. While it came on the last day allowed by the Constitution, which is 60 days, the roll call has been described by pundits like a football team going for a continental championship without its first 11. Short on technocrats and high on career politicians, it is a cabinet with less strikers and more benchers.

But as the president delays in setting up the cabinet, the nation, especially the economy, appears to be drifting and in urgent need of an anchor. In the last 10 weeks of the Tinubu presidency, there has been some opaqueness and confusion in the policy direction of the administration in critical areas like the economy, foreign affairs, health, and education. This is because the Ministers serve a crucial role by implementing the administration’s policies as it concerns the various ministries, impacting the economy and society.

Indications had earlier emerged that the 45 screened ministerial nominees will likely resume work today since the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting holds every Wednesday, but sources close to the Presidential Villa said the schedules of the President this week did not include the swearing in of Ministers.

However, a source hinted that the President may eventually inaugurate his cabinet on Monday, August 21, barely three months after running the administration solo.

It was gathered that the offices of the Chief of Staff and Secretary to the Government of Federation are finalising arrangements for the cabinet inauguration next week, which will be followed by a Ministerial retreat where the Ministers will be inducted and made to sign a service charter to commit to faithful implementation of the Renewed Hope Agenda of the administration.

Meanwhile, immediate past national vice chairman (North-west) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Salihu Mohammed Lukman, had expressed disappointment with President Tinubu’s choice of ministers, saying he has crashed the hope of Nigerians. Apart from the crop of persons picked as ministers, Lukman also listed what he described as disturbing signals in the prime of the Tinubu administration.

In an open letter to the president on Monday titled: “Disturbing Signals”, the APC chieftain outlined the signals to include the current exchange rate (dollar to naira), fuel pump price, management of policy process and his choice of ministers among others.

The former Director General of the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF) specifically stated: “The third disturbing signal is the quality of your appointees. Sincerely, Your Excellency, throughout the 2023 electoral campaigns, one of the strong campaign points was that you know how to find talents.

“When it took you more than eight weeks to nominate your Ministers, the belief was that you are taking your time to identify indisputably proficient people. With due respect to all those you nominated, many party members and extension Nigerians were disappointed. It is clear to any discerning mind that political consideration eclipsed any other factor, no argument about talent can be sustained. As it is, both as party members and as Nigerians, our expectation from your government has crashed.

“This leads us to the fourth disturbing signal, which is about the management of policy process. When in your inaugural address you declared that petroleum subsidy is gone, it gave many of us the confidence that you have assumed office ready to take all the hard decisions and initiate measures for accelerated national development. Of course, no one expect that process of accelerated development will produce immediate results. But many of us expect that the details of initiatives will be clear and will not be reduced to propaganda. ”

Also speaking on the delay in constituting his cabinet, a former student activist, public commentator and an advocate of culture change in Nigeria, Nosa Osaikhuiwu, said not constituting the cabinet early to arrest some of the drifting problems in the polity may not be much different from the experience of the last administration when former President Muhammadu Buhari had to wait six months before appointing his ministers.

“We all say the result of that pussyfooting. The economy went into recession twice in the life of that administration. We have seen some semblance of sanity in the security sector because of the immediate appointment of a National Security Adviser and the change of guards among top security hierarchy, with new service chiefs. Same should have immediately followed to the cabinet to stabilize the polity especially after the fallout of the subsidy removal. Allowing for these delays in allocating portfolios may come to ruin the nation and its citizens in the long run,” he said.

But the senator representing the Edo North Senatorial District, Adams Oshiomhole, yesterday said the Tinubu administration inherited a terrible economic situation. The former National Chairman of the ruling APC, in an interaction with newsmen shortly after meeting with the Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima, said some of the decisions taken by the current administration are the first step towards revamping the economy.

He added that President Tinubu and his deputy had shown courage and determination to stop the corruption of the subsidy regime and in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), while appealing to Nigerians to be patient.

A former senatorial aspirant in Benue State, Iorfa Thomas, is optimistic that once the ministers assume duty after they have been assigned their various portfolios, the current economic situation will be reduced.

He said: “If the portfolios are assigned based on expertise and not just to favour some group of persons, then we should be expecting changes in the current situation. I am optimistic that the party nominated those that have the capacity to handle the various ministries. So, if they all assume their various offices and start working, there will be changes.”

A chieftain of the Labour Party and the chief spokesperson for the Obi/Datti Presidential Campaign Organization, Dr Yunusa Salisu Tanko, noted that there was nothing good about the ministerial nomination. According to him, “what do you expect from an administration that rigged its way to power? The entire administration is faulty, and this is why we are challenging it.

“Our case in court should tell Nigerians that we don’t even trust the government in the first place. If the government is bad and we are challenging it, then is it the ministers that you think will be good?”

In a related development, BudgIT, a civic-tech organization advocating for transparency and accountability in Nigeria’s public finance, has called for an immediate release of a transparency and accountability plan to ensure President Tinubu’s promises are fulfilled following the President’s July 31st national broadcast concerning the nation’s current economic crisis.

According to a statement signed by Nancy Odimegwu, Communications Associate at BudgIT, on July 31, while addressing the nation, President Tinubu, among other key issues, said a budget of N75 billion will be allocated from July 2023 to March 2024 to support 75 promising manufacturing enterprises with N1 billion credit each at nine per cent interest for up to 60 months for long-term loans and 12 months for working capital. He also added that there are plans to stabilize staple food prices by releasing 200,000 metric tonnes of grains and 225,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer and inputs to farmers.

While stressing that N125 billion will be invested in MSMEs, with N50 billion designated for a Conditional Grant to 1 million nano businesses and N75 billion for 100,000 MSMEs and start-ups, President Tinubu noted that the plan also includes the introduction of affordable CNG-fueled buses through an N100 billion investment, and collaboration with labour unions to establish a new national minimum wage.

BudgIT noted that these promises indicate a significant effort to navigate the complexities of the economic crisis from the fuel subsidy removal and mitigate the impact on the Nigerian populace; however, their successful execution is contingent upon transparent planning and accountability mechanisms, but said it requires an immediate and effective action plan.

“In line with our mission toward transparency and accountability, we implore that fulfilling President Tinubu’s promises calls for a united front and a clear roadmap.

Based on this, we request a comprehensive register and accountability plan detailing the distribution of 200,000 metric tonnes of grains, 225,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer, and seedlings to ensure these resources are fairly and equitably distributed. A transparent method for qualifying beneficiaries must be established and made public to prevent the resources from ending in politically connected individuals’ hands.”

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