Barring unforeseen circumstances, President Bola Tinubu’s cabinet will be inaugurated today, Monday, 21 August 2023. With expectations high across the country weighed down by a turbulent economy, The Nigerian Observer solicited views of major stakeholders with respect to the baseline for the incoming cabinet. What is indisputable from our findings is that Nigerians are not ready for business as usual any longer.
The developments in the country in the last three months, and what Nigerians expect going forward, manifested greatly in the opinions we gathered.
Smarting from years of unfulfilled promises by elected public officials that have resulted in high levels of poverty in the country, Nigerians now expect the ministers that will be inaugurated today to have Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), serving as the basis for assessing them on an annual basis.
It should be recalled that the reforms implemented by President Tinubu since May 29, such as the removal of subsidy on petrol and foreign exchange unification, caused a spike in the price of a litre of petrol which currently sells for about N650, while the naira/dollar rate fluctuates around N860. Consequently, the cost of living has considerably gone up, pushing more Nigerians into poverty.
A few days ago, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced that headline and food inflation rates rose for the seventh straight month in July 2023 to 24.08 percent and 26.98 percent, respectively, indicating the gravity of the economic problems facing the country.
In order to alleviate the rising food inflation, President Tinubu declared a state of emergency on food security, an announcement which was greeted with scepticism by industry stakeholders.
Amid these worrisome realities, Nigerians are looking to the new cabinet to work with President Tinubu to quickly bail them out of the present socio-economic travails. For this to happen, they reckon that there has to be a marking scheme for the ministers.
A public commentator, Temi Taylor, said President Tinubu should set the baseline achievements or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for his cabinet members that will show whether each one of them is fit or not.
“Please hand your ministers their KPIs on the day of inauguration. This will drive performance and make everyone understand his roles. KPIs must be appraised every six months and whoever does not meet up with his/her deliverables should be sacked. I pray they all succeed,” Taylor said, while responding to a message on Tinubu’s official Twitter handle.
In the agricultural sector, stakeholders said the President should address the issue of insecurity, multiple road levies by the federal, state and local government officials, as well as the exorbitant fees imposed on imported agricultural equipment.
Dr Graham Hefer, Managing Director of Okomu Oil Plc, one of Nigeria’s leading agro-allied firms based in Edo State, itemized the baseline achievements for the Minister of Agriculture.
According to him, the Agric Minister should “remove multiple federal and state taxes, insecurity that prohibits farmers from entering their fields as they are scared of being kidnapped and murdered, facilitate the removal of barriers on roads where local, state and federal governments use touts to extort taxes and delay the efficient movement of agricultural products to their markets, causing many to spoil”.
“He should rein in Customs who charge exorbitant fees for the importation of agricultural equipment that should be coming in duty free, but is not the case; remove haulage fees and ‘grading’ taxes on agricultural products that just increase the cost to end users; get Customs to clamp down on illegal imports of products that are dumped into Nigeria like olein, which is banned, but is allowed in by Customs as crude palm olein, a product that does not exist,” he said.
In addition, Dr Hefer urged the Federal Government not to be involved in the selling of agro-allied products such as fertilisers and seeds. Instead, the Federal Government should be a facilitator that removes barriers to investments into the nation’s agricultural sector.
Another stakeholder who preferred anonymity said the amount of new investment inflows into the agricultural sector would form the basis of his assessment of the incoming administration as, according to him, the top priority now to the Federal Government is to bring down the cost of food items, and this will be impossible without huge investments mobilization into the nation’s agric sector.
“The President should mobilise public and private investments into the agricultural sector. With intensive farming, food will be abundant in the country and this will reduce the high food inflation rate in the country,” the person said.
“New investments into agriculture will not make the desired impact if rural infrastructures, especially roads, are not upgraded as both are complementary,” he added.
On his part, a university don, Remi Alatise, listed the fulfilment of the Federal Government’s pledge to deploy CNG-powered buses as one of the baseline achievements for the incoming Minister of Transportation.
As a response to the surge in transport costs arising from the removal of petrol subsidy, the Federal Government announced it would roll out 3,000 CNG-powered buses which should ameliorate the exorbitant fares currently being charged by transporters in the country.
“The FG talked about an increase in minimum wages. That is not the way out. It would only worsen the situation. For instance, not all the states of the federation can afford it for their workers. How about informal employers? How about the unemployed and underemployed that have large numbers, who pay their wages?” Alatise asked.
“Government should make it seamless to convert petrol engines to gas engines and make food cheap. Maybe you have not observed that people have parked their cars at home. They can’t simply afford the maintenance any longer. Do you think that these people are happy? What if gas is also smuggled to the neighbouring countries?
“Government should bring joy to our faces; greatest happiness to the greater number of people. Government should not make us cry. Take us out of poverty, please!” he said.