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Friday, November 10, 2017


    According to President Buhari himself an expanded cabinet is in the offing, in order to take care of many reservations and interests that included need for fresh faces and ideas, take care of interest groups, bring about flexibility and speed of execution of projects and deliver on the promises he made before election of 2015. Already there were cases of disloyalty and double standards on the part of ministers, the recent rise in the number of media leaking of letters confidentially written to the President office has been seen as embarrassing to the office of Mr. President. The entire cabinet is also accused of being out of reality with the happenings in Nigeria and the need to do things fast enough to meet expectations ahead of 2019 election where President Buhari is rumored to be interested in second running. This piece as usual is only concerned with Buhari appointments into his economic team. Shall Buhari sack his entire economic team or reshuffle it by adding new faces with fresh ideas? This is the question on people mind when it come to the team. Some people already saw need for changing the entire team, while others suggested otherwise. Looking at Buhari entire cabinet there is scarcity of business people, not only in role related to business and economy but any role at all. This is normally compared with past cabinets of Obasanjo, Yar'adua and Jonathan. Some analysts are associating the composition of Buhari cabinet with President lack of business experience and past career history. Hence, the President romance with retired security officers, journalists and bureaucrats. Unlike Buhari, Obasanjo has been involved in large scale agro-business venture. His Otta farm has been described as one of the largest commercial agriculture farms in Nigeria. In President Buhari economic management team, its head the Vice president Yemi Osinbajo is a lawyer by profession, likewise Minster of budget Udoma Udoma who is also a lawyer though he has some business and financial experiences, Minister of finance Kemi Adeosun though with first degree in economics was widely seen as less qualified to hold an important ministry like finance looking at her past work history, Minister of trade and investment Okechukwu Enelamah was originally a medical doctor who later earned an MBA from Harvard and ICAN membership. Compare this with past cabinets, former President Obasanjo had produced some thing of US like economic team. His team from finance minister (Mrs Ngozi, Okonjo-Owella) , President economic adviser (Soludo, later made CBN governor), and Director debt office (Mansur Mukhtar), etc., were all top economists with minimum qualification of PhD Economics. It was said that in constituting his economic team Obasanjo was, at one time or the other, advised by World Bank consultants among others. Hence, all the three members listed above were involved with multinational finance corporation such as World Bank, IMF and African development bank, at one time or the other.

         In the United States, Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) is a United States agency in the Executive Office of the President in existence since 1946, it advises the President of the United States on economic policy. Among it functions are provision of an objective empirical research to the White House, and production of the annual economic report of the president. The US tradition of appointing members into the economic team has been characterized by invitation of respected economists, most of them academic economists working in top US universities. In most cases because their assignments involve technical areas of economics, politics was put aside when appointing members. Likewise, only those who are professional economists or in associated areas (but not anyone with no business with data/econometrics) were invited. Normally, the President nominate the chairman of the council while the senate confirm him. The current US president Donald trump who himself came from the business sector appointed a lot businessmen into his economic advisory team. Though, there were criticism on the domination by Billionaires over academics in the Mr. Trump team. Thus, what we have in Nigeria is not an economic team in the sense of what is obtainable in the US. If you look at the performance of the ministers in Buhari economic team, all of them can be described as moving at slow phase unable to accomplished 40% of the tasks at their disposal. They are as well not very creative as expected of people responsible for putting the Nigerian economy in position as one of the most dynamic emerging economies in the world. Ask, for example, the Minister of Trade what is the level of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) coming to Nigeria or what is the position of Nigeria in term of FDI in Africa? The Minister of Finance will tell you that her ministry has made progress with Treasury single account and whistle blowing program, but what happens to her core job of managing fiscal policy in order to ease current tensions in the economy as a result of poor injections by her ministry, not making needed funds available on schedule, where it is most needed or create needed atmosphere for job creation? For the minister of Budget up to now his ministry is yet to achieve 70% budget implementation. Though, in fairness to them they have found themselves in the general climate of sluggishness and cautious approach of new government that took over from an opposition party that was widely seen as corrupt. The recessionary business climate did not favour them. Unlike Obasanjo or Jonathan ministers who found themselves awashed with cash from booming crude oil export. Thus in introducing changes to his economic team, Buhari shall look at weaknesses of the existing team and try to deal with them as appropriate. Mr President shall also listen to people complaints about the inadequacy of his team by complementing it with competent people from academic, business and diaspora. Let have an economic team that is worth the name.