By Emmanuel Uffot
Ahead of the swearing in of the screened 45 ministers that have been assigned portfolios this week, the non- designation of portfolio to the Niger Delta Affairs Ministry has reverberated outburst from leaders and stakeholders from the region.
They have frowned at it and cautioned the Federal Government to reverse such move in the interest of peace.
Arising from an emergency Board of Trustees ( BOT) meeting held on Friday August 18, 2023 shortly after the ministers were assigned portfolios and Niger Delta Affairs Ministry was conspicuously missing, the Pan Niger Delta Forum ( PANDEF) released a seven- point Communique stating their position on the none inclusion of the Niger Delta Affairs Ministry in particular and other appointments as it affects the region and South- South geo- political zone.
The Communique jointly signed by the National Leader of PANDEF Chief Edwin Clark and National Chairman Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien states as follows;
1- That PANDEF expresses great surprise that in the published assignment of ministers to their various cabinet portfolios, there is none designated to the existing Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
2, The body reminds the President that the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs was created specifically to focus on infrastructural development, environment protection and empowerment of youths in the oil- rich Niger Delta region which continues to be greatly impacted by the oil and gas industry and remains the live- wire of the national economy.
3, That the Ministry which was created by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (late) in 2008 and was sustained under his two immediate successors ( Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari) to help the course of the peace in the Niger Delta region. That it called on Mr. President to urgently address the omission.
4, That the body cautions that any misguided step towards scrapping or submerging the Ministry will create an unfavourable environment with adverse consequences.
5, It further cautions the Federal Government to desist from tampering with any institutions which along with the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs have been flagship institutions to ensure peace and development in the Niger Delta region.
6, The body stated that it was hopeful that the Federal Government will be properly advised on this matter, even as it reiterated the commitment of the leadership of PANDEF and the people of the region to enduring the reign of peace and stability in the overall interest of the country.
Apart from the position articulated by the group supposedly on behalf of the region, others have also bared their minds on the vexed issue.
One of them is Alambo Daratoye, a Niger Delta activist. He said considering the fact that the high level of poverty among the people and degradation of the region led to the creation of the Ministry, there was no justification to scrap the Ministry even as successive ministers in the ministry in the past since inception have not leave up to expectations.
He noted that the argument fronted by those against the Ministry that it’s creation was a duplication of the functions Niger Delta Development Commission ( NDDC) was created for, does not hold water Explaining that the Ministry is there to address critical issue and serve as a vehicle to supervise the NDDC just like other ministries supervises agencies under them.
Similarly, Chief Dan Odhomor Deputy President General Isoko Development Union said it is going to be very demolarising to the people of the region if the ministry is scrap. He stressed that it is an irony that the region lay the golden eggs, yet development in the area is not in commensurate with the revenue it gives the nation. He urged the President to reverse it if true that the ministry has being scrapped.
But there are some discerning voices also from the region that differ from the position of PANDEF especially on the current status of the Ministry.
One of them is Ambakederimo, an Elder statesman. He welcomes the scrapping of the Ministry which he said was his long desire. He said he had advocated for that because the Ministry has not add any value to the region since it’s creation, instead had only succeeded in distracting the NDDC. He averred that all staff of the ministry looked onto the Commission ( NDDC) as their cash cow. The ugly development of political pressure from the Ministry according to him, is one of the key reasons for the failure of NDDC to deviate from its core mandate. He noted that NDDC performed well until the advent of the Ministry.
Also sharing in this notion is Professor Sunny Arohefeata. Another lone voice in the wilderness. He said the creation of the Ministry by late President Yar’Adua was greeted with excitement and high hopes, but sadly it turned out to be a failure. The University said it was more disheartening that all the ministers of the Ministry since it’s creation over a decade ago were from the region, yet they had nothing to show for their stewardship of supervising NDDC to play its role of instigating development in the region.
However apart from the pockets of criticisms from the Niger Delta region over the omission of Niger Delta Affairs Ministry from the portfolios allocated so far, with outstanding three yet to be allocated, the configuration of the ministries by President Tinubu in the current dispensation is another area that has dumb founded many who remain at a loss over what informed such deduction.
For instance, President Tinubu has created new Ministries, separates some to be on their own, merged some and renamed some with only few retaining their agelong known status.
Prominent of the brand new Ministries created are Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy and Ministry of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy.
Those separated are, Ministry of Youths and Sports now separated to be autonomous as Ministry of Youths and Ministry of Sports Development. Another is Ministry of Works and Housing which has been separated into Ministry of Works and Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.
In the same vein, some ministries have been clothed with new names which even confounds the imagination of stakeholders of those Ministries including workers.
Prominent among these lot is Ministry of Aviation which has now been renamed as, Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development. Another is Ministry of Health now christened Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
Others are, Ministry of Science and Technology now Ministry of Innovation Science and Technology, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development- Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Ministry Communications- Ministry of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Ministry of Environment- Ministry of Environment and Ecological Management and Ministry of Information and Culture now bearing Ministry of Information and National Orientation.
Even Finance Ministry has not been spared the surgery knife of Tinubu in the reconfiguration of Ministries. It is now Ministry of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy. This position was held by Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala during the tenure of Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan. Ministry of Water Resources under Tinubu is now Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation, Ministry of Solid Minerals is now known as Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, Ministry of Mines and Steel has Ministry of Steel and Development as it’s new name while Ministry of Budget and National Planning is now Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning.
Graciously the new president has allowed the known names of some ministries to maintain its status quo. These are, Ministry of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Women Affairs, Federal Capital Territory, Power, Industry, Trade and Investment Ministry, Transportation, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Labour and Employment, Interior Ministry, Police Affairs Ministry and Ministry of Humanitarian and Poverty Alleviation.
Another fall out of the new cabinet is President Tinubu like his predecessor assigning the portfolio of Petroleum Resources to himself and also carving out Gas Resources as an arm of the Ministry.
Even as the new ministers are bracing up for inauguration hopefully this week, uncertainty still hangs over the three nominees whose screening was stepped down by the Senate allegedly on security issues. Prominent among these is former governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai. After his nomination, prior to the screening it was speculated that he is to head a new Ministry of Energy by special agreement with the President. With his screening stepped down, speculations are again rife that he has told the President that he was no longer interested in the ministerial post and would rather want to concentrate on his study abroad.
Also concerning the none designation of a Minister to the Niger Delta Affairs Ministry among the 45 which has been a bone of contention by the Niger Deltans, sources have it that the Ministry has been moved under the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. But with the outburst of the region against any foreseen moves to scrap the ministry and the fear of the consequences of a likely resurgence of militancy in the region, some critical minds believe that government might see reasons to the position of PANDEF and allocate portfolio to the Ministry given the fact that one of the outstanding nominees Stella Okotete is from the region. They reasoned that Tinubu may just have been testing the waters to see how the Niger Delta people will react, so may just give the Ministry to Stella if she is eventually cleared.
However, for some critics who see nothing inspiring about the new cabinet, especially the dearth of known technocrats among the lot, they have lampooned President Tinubu as constituting the largest cabinet (48) since the dawn of the new democratic dispensation in 1999.
According to them, this is in variance with the clamour for cost cutting which has been the bane of Nigeria’s democratic polity. And especially at this time of high inflation and high cost of fuel which has not only further increase cost of living but has impoverised the poor and even middle class more.
New Ministries Created
1, Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy.
2, Ministry of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy
3, Ministry of Gas Resources as an arm of the Petroleum Resources Ministry.
4, Ministry of Tourism.
Ministries That Have Been Separated To Be Autonomous.
1, Ministry of Youth and Sports- Separated into Ministry of Youth and Ministry of Sports Development.
2, Ministry of Works and Housing, separated into- Ministry of Works and Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.
Ministries Whose Names Have Changed.
1, Ministry of Health- Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
2, Ministry of Aviation – Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development.
3, Ministry of Communications – Ministry of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy.
4, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development- Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.
5, Ministry of Environment- Ministry of Environment and Ecological Management.
6, Ministry of Mines and Steel- Ministry of Steel and Development.
7, Ministry of Information and Culture- Ministry of Information and National Orientation.
8, Ministry of Water Resources- Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation.
9, Ministry of Finance- Ministry of Finance and Coordinating Ministry of the Economy.
10, Ministry of Budget and National Planning- Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning.
11, Ministry of Solid Minerals- Ministry of Solid Minerals Development.
Ministries That Have Retained Their Names
1, Ministry of Education
2, Ministry of Defence.
3, Ministry of Women Affairs.
4, Ministry of Labour and Employment.
5, Ministry of Power.
6, Ministry of Federal Capital Territory.( FCT)
7, Ministry of Interior.
8, Ministry Transportation.
9, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.
10, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
11, Ministry of Police Affairs.
Ministry of Petroleum Resources. By
12, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation
13, Attorney General and Ministry of Justice.
NB: A total of 32 substantive Minister and 13 Ministers of State.