Nanono, Saleh and their Controversies as Ministers In Agric, Power By Dahiru Lawal
AREWA AGENDA – President Muhammadu Buhari has Wednesday at the Federal Executive Council meeting sacked two ministers from his cabinet.
A presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, confirmed that the affected ministers are the Minister of Agriculture, Sabo Nanono, and his counterpart in the power ministry, Saleh Mamman.
Mr. Adesina addressed State House reporters in Abuja.
According to the Presidency the ministers were sacked after an independent and critical self-review of their performances.
The presidency also noted that the contributions of the two ministers could be considered weak and not in tandem with the goal of his administration.
“These significant review steps have helped to identify and strengthen weak areas, close gaps,” it added.
The sack of the two ministers is coming two years and few days after they were inaugurated by the president in 2019 alongside 41 of their colleagues.
Arewa Agenda looks at some of the controversies that rocked their tenure as ministers.
On August 21, 2019, Sabo Nanono, the now former minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, assumed duty at the ministry of agriculture after a shoddy ratification procedure at the Senate ministerial screening session.
Mr Nanono was asked by the senators to “take a bow and go” because of his affiliation with some lawmakers, under the claim of having wide experience and deep knowledge of the sector even when he studied Business Administration as an undergraduate.
Based on this, many Nigerians were robbed of knowing Mr Nanono’s blueprint for the country’s agricultural sector.
On assumption at the ministry where he addressed reporters at that time, rather than sharing his plans for the sector, Mr Nanono said hunger in Nigeria “cannot be compared to what is obtained in other countries,” and that efforts should be made by the Nigerian government to assist other countries in food supply.
“There is no hunger in Nigeria compared to what I saw in India in 1973. What we need is to get our acts together and develop the sector,” he said.
The N30 Meal:
Arguably, the most wave Nanono made as a minister since his appointment two years ago was his gaffe that a N30 meal could be enough for an adult Nigerian, in response to criticism on the economic hardship during a radio interview.
He said it was wrong to promote the idea that there was hunger in Nigeria, adding that there were only inconveniences being addressed by the Federal Government and relevant stakeholders like the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The minister had contended with tons of criticism following the statement credited to him where he claimed Nigerians can feed on a good meal with N30 particularly in Kano after boosted that the country is food secured.
The AFAN Leadership Tussle:
First, his attempt to force a change in the leadership of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) drew him into a legal battle with the association. With a case on the issue still in court, Nanono continued to recognise a faction of the leadership.
All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), an initiative of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who brought three farmer associations namely FOFAN led by Dr Shettima Mustapha, NFAN led by Admiral Murtala Nyako and PFAN led by late Chief Coker under one umbrella called ALFAN and later AFAN with Admiral Nyako as the Chairman of its Board of Trustees is currently engulfed embroiled in a leadership crisis that has threatened the stability of the body for some times now.
It all started when a member and Chairman of the board Admiral Nyako was said to have inaugurated new officials in his Asokoro residence on the premise that the tenure of the current elected officials led by National President, Kabiru Ibrahim had expired.
The crisis further heightened when the minister, Alhaji Muhammad Sabo Nanono recognized the Nyako-inaugurated splinter group led by Alhaji Umar Farouk, who is from the ministers home state of Kano.
74yr Old Nanono and his 18-year-old wife Rakiya:
Nanono 74 drew the ire of Nigerians when he Married an 18-year-old Rakiya in secret wedding that happened in Jere town of Kaduna State, with few people as witnesses, reported Daily Nigerian.
The young wife, identified as Rakiya, had just left school and settled in the minister’s Tamandu Close residence in Kano.
The newspaper said Nanono’s family kicked against the wedding on account of the 56 year-gap between them.
A Mosque for N30 million:
The Minister yet again incurred another public outrage when a leaked memo dated December 10, 2020, with Ref. No. FMA/PROC/AHS/SIP/2020/7742/1, signed by Musa Musa, the deputy director of procurement in ministry on behalf of the minister, showed that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has approved N30 million for the construction of a mosque. to El-Shukhur Multi-Buz Nig. Ltd.
The ministry said the contract had been approved by the Ministerial Tenders Board.
Amid public outrage, Theodore Ogaziechi, the director of information for the ministry said in a statement that the ministry decided to build the worship centre for livestock farmers displaced by Boko Haram insurgents in Borno State.
Outstanding Payment for 700,000 Youth Enumerators:
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is yet to pay the entitlements of over 700,000 youths engaged for a nationwide farmer/farm enumeration exercise under the National Agriculture Assets Survey
The survey, tagged Agriculture for Food and Jobs Plan, AFJP, was initially a 10-day exercise intended to gather data of farmers and their farmlands across the 36 states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
The exercise, which began in June, was extended to July to be able cover more grounds.
According to the engagement letter signed by the Programme Manager, AFJP Farmer Enumeration Exercise, Diekola Alabi, and obtained by Arewa Agenda, a sum of N500 was to be paid to the enumerators for each VALIDATED farmer/farm captured.
The amount would be paid in two tranches, “N250 for each submitted farmer/farm data at the end of every week and a balance of N250 in 30 days after validating the authenticity of the information submitted,” the engagement letter stated.
Minister, perm secs fight dirty over N11bn transaction, mismanagement:
A scandal involving the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, Permanent Secretaries Abdulkadir Mu’azu and Mohammed Bello had rocked the ministry in May last year.
The three top Federal Government functionaries including the minister and two permanent secretaries washed their dirty lining in public over consistent abandonment of priority projects, diversion and mismanagement of funds meant to improve the fortunes of the sector.
The minister was also accused of awarding contracts to two shadowy companies worth several billions to buy grains at a time the market was extremely volatile, triggering a price hike.
Award of Shadowy Contracts
Nanono was also accused of spending over N1 billion to renovate the ministry’s old headquarters when the building the ministry bought for over N7 billion was abandoned in Central Business District, Abuja
ICPC N16bn probe
Under his watch, the ministry came under investigation for alleged misappropriation of N16 billion by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
The minister had openly attacked the Central Bank of Nigeria’s policy on Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, canvassing for it to be moved to the Ministry of Agriculture.
For over two years, the minister has been talking about importing tractors under a bilateral arrangement with the Brazilian government for mechanisation but that did not happen. He has not also been able to drive the president’s pronouncement of recruiting over 50,000 agric extension workers.
Farmers from the South-South have also accused the minister of neglecting their region in agric policies and programmes.
Agricultural sector and the GDP:
According to PTCIJ, despite the investment in the sector before and during Mr Nanono’s reign at the ministry, available data shows that agriculture has grown at the weakest rate under the Buhari administration than any other government since the return of democracy in 1999.
An analysis of the country’s gross domestic products by Statisense, a data analysis platform, showed that the sector grew at an average of 15 per cent in the past five years of the government.
When compared with past administrations, the sector grew by 133 per cent under the Obasanjo administration; 19.1 per cent under President Musa Yar’adua’s short tenure and 22.2 per cent under Mr. Jonathan’s government.
Sale Mamman, the erstwhile Minister of Power, courted many controversies shortly after he assumed office in August 2019.
First of such was the sacking of the former Managing Director of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), Mrs Damilola Ogunbiyi, over internal issues in December 2019.
The federal government later reversed the sack to resignation.
More internal crises among the power sector agencies culminated in the removal of the Managing Director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Mr Usman Gur Mohammed in May 2020. That move was frowned at by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha and generated ripples from labour unions in the power sector.
The erstwhile MD of Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading PLC (NBET), Dr Marilyn Amobi, also had a headlong encounter with the former minister until she was removed in June 2020.
There was also the removal of Prof. James Momoh, Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), in November 2020 after attaining 70 years, earlier than his tenure ending 2022.
Another major crisis during the minister’s reign was the case of missing appointment letters for members of the board of TCN after their appointments in January 2021.
The appointed board members, it was learnt, were to be given their appointment letters from the SGF’s office before they could be inaugurated but sources said while the letters left the SGF office, the board members could not get the letters from the ministry till date.
Under the minister, although power system collapses reduced, there were cases of power tariff hike controversies forcing the government to dialogue with the organised labour and consequently reversing the tariff hike in some instances, an analysis by Daily Trust further shows.
Lawal is Managing Editor ArewaAgenda
Arewa Agenda is a Publication of Young writers/journalist from Northern Nigeria towards Peaceful Coexistence and National Development through positive narratives