Written by Michael Eboh
…Analysts react on size, mandate
The composition and in auguration of Nigeria’seconomy management team by President Goodluck Jonathan, has raised an important question on the the ability of the individuals that make up the team to deliver on the electoral promises and economic agenda of the present administration.
Another important question to be considered is the size and composition of the team, and if anything meaningful can be achieved with such gathering of different minds, ideologies and intellects.
Already, concerns have been raised by economic analysts on the size of the team and the decision of the president to appoint cabinet members instead of experts from outside the government as practiced in other economies, such as the United States of America, where only five persons were named as members of the country’s economic team
These individuals appointed by Jonathan, are not new to Nigerians, they have been at the helms of affairs in Nigeria and in institutions across the globe for a number of years and at differnet times.
These individuals have played a number of roles in the economic history of Nigeria and the impact remains to be seen.
The President had named 22 individuals, including himself and the Vice President, Mohammed Namadi Sambo as Chairman and Vice Chairman respectively of the Economic Management Team, to help coordinate policies at both the federal and state levels.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Finance Minister, is expected to act as coordinator of the team.
Speaking on the inauguration, Jonathan said that it is aware that the states have their own economies but if there is no proper coordination in the management of the economy, between the Federal Government and the states, the country can not move forward.
With the setting up of the team, the stage has been set for the assessment of the present administration in terms of delivery of promises made to Nigerians during the electioneering processes.
It has also provided a platform for Nigerians to have a glimpse of the direction of the government or lack of it in terms of economic development and nation building.
However, he stopped short of mentioning the mandate and agenda of the economic team. It is no longer news that the Nigerian economy is on a continuous downward plunge and on the verge of a crisis situation, especially with the prevalence of corruption, epileptic power situation, declining foreign reserve, instability in the banking and financial sector, high prices of commodities, insecurity, declining value of the countries’ currency, dilapidated roads and transportation system, increasing inflation, declining industrial capacity, and unemployment to mention just a few.
Nigerians expect a new sense of direction, not a lack of direction and repeat or recycling of old ideas that have helped in no small measure in ensuring the continuous stagnancy and retrogression of the economy.
It is also imperative to look at some of the personalities that make up the team, vis-à-vis their roles, thinking and ideologies of Nigeria’s development and transformation.
In this regard, a number of individuals in the team come to mind. Barth Nnaji, a Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has on different occasion been a Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Power and Chairman, Presidential taskforce on Power and presently Minister for Power. In his days as Special Adviser, during the early days of Jonathan’s presidency, till date, his presence has had no significant impact for the country, especially in the area of power.
It remains to be seen how he intends addressing the country’s epileptic power situation, especially as the country’s power generating capacity have continually been on a downward trend, dropping from about 4,000 mega watts to about 2,000 mega watts.
This has helped in no small measure in crippling the economy, as more businesses fold up on a daily basis, leading to a skyrocketing of the country’s unemployment situation.
Another member of the team that readily attracts attention is Mallam Sanusi Lamido, Governor of the country’s apex bank. His policies and activities in the banking sector have seen the government taking over the management of eight banks, and recently nationalizing three of them.
This led to a massive retrenchment exercise, in not only the affected banks, but in other banks which were forced to adopt stricter and tighter cash and management policies.
The same can be attributed to a number of individuals in the team, as they have failed to contribute meaningfully in driving the economy of the country to a meaningful level of national development since their appointment, as evidenced in the stagnation currently witnessed in the economy.
Reacting to the setting up of the economic management team, an analyst, Mr. Opeyemi Agbaje, Chief Executive, Resources and Trust Limited said, “I think as an economic ‘management’ team, this 24-person team is rather large. It may end up functioning more as a national economic “consultative” forum.
“Given the large size, I would expect them to create a working sub-committee chaired by Okonjo-Iweala and including Aganga, Shamsudeen, DMO, BPE, Atedo Peterside, Chief Economic Adviser and Special Adviser, Programmes and Monitoring.”
However, Agbaje said further, “The members are suitable and Okonjo-Iweala as coordinator is excellent. I support Nnaji’s power strategy which offers effective and sustainable solutions; the petroleum minister needs to focus on getting the PIB passed; and indeed the NEMT has to review the effects of Sanusi’s policies on employment, financial sector stability and growth; and private sector access to credit.”
In his own view, Mr. David Adonri, Chief Executive Officer, Lambeth Trust and Investment Company Limited said, “Members of the new economic management team have been carefully selected. It is composed of people with sound intellectual and performance pedigrees. I am confident that as people of high caliber, they will bring their distinctive competences into carrying out the team’s assignment to transform the Nigerian economy within the next four years.
“The major challenges that confronts the economy they must tackle are centered around corruption, insecurity and deficit of engineering infrastructure. For the economic management team to generate productive employment and increase wealth creating capacity, after defeating corruption and insecurity, the comatose heavy industrial sector comprising of Metallic, Power and energy industries, destroyed by state ownership must be restored to good health through private finance.
“The team must critically examine government’s fiscal indiscipline exemplified by increasing deficit finance of consumption which continues to pose serious threat to monetary stability of the economy. Finally, the team must stop the current practice of subsidizing consumption and commence the process of subsidizing production as done in industrialized economies.”
Also speaking, another analyst, Mr. Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye,said, “The danger of what Jonathan has put together as the economic team is that it is too wieldy. The President is heading it himself. It reflects a difference without distinction. There are no clear criteria for the selection of its members, and thus it confuses everybody.
“Those unlucky Ministers who did not make this ‘A List’ would be left confused and wondering whether their work would have any relevance for Nigeria’s economic development. Could it be that this is just an opportunity for certain Ministers to have special and enhanced access to the President and Vice President.
“In Obasanjo’s era, he used the composition of the economic team to favor the privileged Ministers and officials, which was how the Minister of Abuja and the Head of EFCC made the list then. Now, Jonathan is showing his own favorites, which could be why the current Minister of Abuja and the current Head of EFCC lost their seats in the team.”
Speaking further, he said, “Alternatively, we may be witnessing a nasty consequence of the quota system, under which Ministers are to be selected from every state in Nigeria regardless of their individual merits.
“The President seems to have been forced to have two cabinets. The first cabinet is the one he was forced to create based on quota system. Let’s call that the shadow cabinet (sorry for the well-founded British concept). Then there is the real cabinet, comprised of people that the President believes are capable of performing.
“Similarly, Obasanjo’s economic team had El Rufai and Ribadu as members, while Jonathan’s does not have Farida Waziri in the Team. The President sets this group of Ministers aside as the real cabinet, but calls them the Team. He does not even wish to hide the fact that the Team would be working with him closely. Hence he heads this alternative cabinet directly.
“If this was the thinking of the President, why not just call the spade a spade. Or one must be forced to admit that the system cannot work without massive deception and gaming. The President should really return to the drawing table or simply explain to Nigerians what this is all about.”