President Bola Tinubu has set a new record in Nigeria’s 24 years of uninterrupted democratic government with his ministerial nominees numbering 47.
This surpasses the previous record of 42 ministers appointed by his predecessor, President Muhammadu Buhari, in 2019.
If the ministerial nominees are confirmed by the Senate, Tinubu will have the largest cabinet of any president in the country since 1999.
“This is not a ministerial list but a compensation list,” said Temitope Musowo, research fellow, Partnership for African Social and Governance Research/Carnegie Corporation of New York.
In a list made up of politicians, including former governors, and technocrats, Tinubu had initially nominated 28 people to be cleared by the Senate to be ministers. On Wednesday, he sent another list of 19 ministerial nominees to the Senate.
In comparison, his predecessor, Buhari, picked 36 ministers in his first term, and 42 in his second term.
President Goodluck Jonathan had 33 nominees in 2011, including nine from the late Umar Yar’Adua administration.
In 2007, Umar Yar’Adua constituted a 39-member cabinet, which included 32 men and seven women.
President Olusegun Obasanjo initially selected 42 ministers in 1999 but later reduced the number to 27 and then increased it to 40 before leaving office in 2007.
Economists questioned why the federal government continues to fund its bloated ministerial structure when the country is among the top 10 countries in the world with the highest inflation rates based on 2021 figures, according to a survey by the World Bank.
“Fuel subsidies had to go for Nigeria’s economy to survive. Having done it, what’s the sacrifice for our political elite? The cost of governance is too high,” Kingsley Moghalu, founder and president of IGET and a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, tweeted.
Lekan Ademola, a Lagos-based asset manager, said Nigeria is certainly living above its means with the rising recurrent expenditure.
“Nigeria has ignored its revenue challenge by going on a recurrent expenditure spree. Yet, this has not impacted the economy, which has been stuck in a low growth path despite higher cost of governance,” Ademola said.
According to the 1999 constitution, Section 14 (3), the president shall appoint at least one minister from each state, who shall be an indigene of such state.
Section 147, subsection (2) states: “Any appointment to the office of Minister of the Government of the Federation shall, if the nomination of any person to such office is confirmed by the Senate, be made by the President.”
“If it translates to performance, then it is good but if it is the other way round, we should not repeat the mistake of the past administration,” Musowo said.
Abiodun Adeniyi, senior lecturer of Baze University, Abuja, in his assessment of the current economic situation in the country, said Tinubu’s administration “must be concerned about cutting the cost of governance and must work towards result-oriented appointments.”
“He should not just try to please people but should engage those who can do the job with minimum supervision,” he added.
Data obtained from official documents showed the government increased its non-debt recurrent expenditure from N2.4 trillion in 2011 to N8.27 trillion in 2023. The National Bureau of Statistics said last year 113 million Nigerians were living in multidimensional poverty.
The huge financial burden of the country’s recurrent expenditure is fuelling confusion among economists and business leaders who are at a loss as to why a cash-strapped government is losing billions of dollars to violation of public contract laws.
For instance, Agora Policy, an Abuja-based think tank, said the country is losing at least $10 billion annually due to a lack of transparency and accountability in public contracts procurement.
It said in a report that Nigeria’s current public procurement practices established a significant correlation between weak public procurement procedures and corruption and its associated consequences such as poverty, infrastructural deficits and underdevelopment.
“The assessment put the government’s revenue loss to underhanded transactions at 60 percent, averaging US$10 billion annually,” the report said.
Agora Policy identified inflation of contract costs, absence of procurement plans, poor project prioritisation, poor budgeting processes, lack of competition and manipulations of procurements in Nigeria’s contract award processes.
The report noted that some civil servants at the state and, in some cases, federal offices, have themselves become the very face of the corruption they are appointed to help fix with public financial management.
“In many instances, these civil servants source multiple bid proposals from favoured contractors and award jobs to them for some negotiated returns,” it said.
It added that some civil servants even award contracts to their personal companies registered specifically to make money in violation of regulations against conflict of interests.
To change the narrative, Tinubu’s Advisory Council listed the implementation of civil service reform, including the adoption of the Oronsaye report, as critical to achieving the president’s ambitious desire to boost Nigeria’s economy to $1 trillion within the next eight years.