Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dissecting Gov. Nyako’s New Cabinet

A commissioner can mar or make an administration in a State. The 1999 constitution of Nigeria envisaged that. Thus, its section 192 stipulates a thorough process of appointing commissioners into the state executive.

It took Governor Nyako nearly four months to form his 27-member cabinet. The opposition described the delay as indication that administration is overwhelmed by politics and patronage, while advocates of leaner government described the cabinet as bloated. However, Governor Nyako said it took him that long to form his cabinet because of his belief in putting a round peg in a round hole. His supporters also said that the size of the cabinet is an attempt to satisfy the complex heterogeneous nature of Adamawa State- in terms of ethnicity, religion, geography and gender. The big question is, has Nyako made the right choices?

First, all eyes would be on Dr. Salihu Bakari, who until his appointment as Commissioner for Local Government was the Chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board. He has performed very well in that position, but his critics said his good performance was because of the sound foundation laid by his predecessor- Dr. Tukur Liman. Despite the accusation by the opposition that Dr. Salihu was appointed commissioner mainly because he is a son in-law to Gov. Nyako, pundits expect him to a be a high-flying commissioner because he is well-read and highly experienced.

Gabriel Hamma-Adama is returning as Commissioner of Education for the second time after serving in the first term of Nyako’s administration. Adamawa State performance in the Senior School Certificate Examinations is still abysmal- thus, Hamma-Adama’s performance in the first term was below average. With his vast experience he can develop a new approach to improve the education sector, especially in the area of matching the impressive growth in infrastructure to improvement in teacher, student and the quality of learning tools. Hamma-Adama has to bring a new sense of clear focus and intense energy to free himself from the position of a under performer. The ‘SMART’ criteria can help him to a large extent. 

One interesting and surprising appointment is that of Ms Lucy Ishiyaku as Commissioners of Agriculture. The opposition termed her appointment as ‘disaster in the making’. Lucy lacks the knowledge and experience to head such a complex sector that remains most integral to the development of the state as it provides more than 70% of employment in the state. In addition, being a commissioner of Agriculture to a Governor who is very vast and experienced in agriculture is a herculean task. To escape from this Catch-22 situation, the new Commissioner has to be an ‘emergency-student’ – seek advice and support from technocrats so as to establish herself as worthy of the her position. And that she is capable of bringing bright ideas that can further transform the sector as well as identify and implement strategies to realize the potentials of the sector. Lucy can prove her critics wrong.

Eng. Umar Atiku is among the few technocrats in the new cabinet. He is expected to continue on the impressive strides in the infrastructure development, especially in the road sector. The Ministry of Works to which he is returning as commissioner done a commendably well in improving the state’s road network. Being a technocrat, one would expect the new commissioner to pay a systematic attention to the linkage between infrastructure and poverty alleviation, i.e. introduce more projects that would require more community participation to ensure that government investments in infrastructure get to the grassroots. Eng. Umar did well during his first tenure.The opposition, however, alleges there is too much romance between him and the firms handling construction works in the state.

The health sector is very essential to sustainable development in any state. Adamawa is predominantly rural and has high maternal mortality rate; low industrial and revenue base and a wide gap in relevant skills needed by health personnel to face the health challenges on ground. A commissioner of health in Adamawa State must have the skills and technical capabilities to introduce policies and programs to improve the health care services and broaden access to basic services. Mrs Lilian Stephen is the new Commissioner of Health. She is neither a medical doctor nor a pharmacist nor a trained health administrator. Is her appointment a case of a round peg in a square hole?

In Governor Nyako’s first term, the Ministry of Finance didn’t witness much activities, as the then Commissioner was unfortunately battling with health challenges. The new Commissioner for Finance is Ibrahim Buba Vokna- a first class career civil servant and a technocrat, who started his career from the post of a clerk and rose to become the Accountant-General of Adamawa. The finance sector is his familiar terrain and experience would be his added advantage. 

Sajo Gella, a professional politician, is the Commissioner for Water Resources. Like Agriculture, the Water Resources Ministry is also very important for a State like Adamawa. A professional politician shouldn’t have been given such a Ministry, so as to avoid a situation where so much pressure and demands are being exerted on the Commissioner. We know that politicians can promise what is not there. 

From the former Gongola State, Adamawa State has never experienced massive opening of new land layouts that reach the low class than during the reign of Abdurrahman Shuaibu, who is returning as the Commissioner of Land and Survey. Abdurrahman’s performance was excellent; his re-appointment was applauded by the majority of the populace, especially the low and middle class who now have a chance of owning land. 

One of the most notable aspects of the appointments made by Nyako is his attempt in generational shift- some youths found their way into the cabinet. The one appointment that excited many youths in the state is that of Mustafa Barkindo- the first son of Lamido Muhammad Barkindo. The Prince was appointed commissioner of the newly created Ministry of Mineral Resources. He is expected to bring his experience of the oil and gas sector and the federal civil service into developing the infrastructure and manpower for the new ministry- especially in the introduction of modern technology and partnership with multinational companies for accelerated and sustained exploration of mineral resources.

Felix Tangwami and Aminu Iyawa are also two notable members of the cabinet that would be closely watch by the populace, the former is an astute politician, while the later a professional media practitioner.

On a cursory look at Nyako’s new cabinet, one could say that four factors influenced its formation- politics, patronage, past performance and attempt to suit the socio-cultural diversity of Adamawa State. However, it is one thing to appoint commissioners; and another to let them work. Governor Nyako should give more room for his commissioners in the area of decision making and budget implementation. The Governor should define clear role between the Special Project Unit (SPU) and the Ministries- this would assist in full budget implementation and periodic assessment of his commissioners based on performance. 

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State,, 08036070980

Friday, June 8, 2012

Nigerian Refineries Need a Commonsense Solution

The four state-owned refineries in Nigeria are on their knees. Though refineries in Nigeria should be consistently out-performing the average utilization rates of refineries across the globe, their performance is characterised by very low utilization and incessant downtime. This owes to the fact that they are owned and run by the government of Nigeria and, are caught within the ‘crossfire’ of corruption, persistent attacks on pipelines by oil thieves as well as the slow progress in the full-liberalization of the refining sector of the petroleum industry.

Recently, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) announced that it had commenced discussions with the original builders to carry out a major overhaul of the refineries. NNPC said, Chiyoda would be contracted to handle the rehabilitation of the 110,000 barrel per day Kaduna refinery, Italian firm Saipem would handled the repairs of the 125,000 bpd Warri Refinery, while Japan’s JGC Group, which built the 150,000 bpd New Port Harcourt refinery in 1988, had nominated Tecnimont to take charge of repairs of one of the two refineries in Port Harcourt.

The resolve of the government to heed the age-old suggestion of inviting the original builders to handle the Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of the refineries is a very good and a well-thought out decision. The hope is, the refineries would witness a genuine Turn Around Maintenance (TAM), and not the usual ones they have been witnessing which has not brought any improvement on their ‘health’. The general consensus among experts in the oil and gas industry is that the fastest and cheapest way to get more volumes of refined petroleum products into the growing Nigerian market at lower cost is to rehabilitate these existing refineries. However, the big question is, after rehabilitating the refineries, what’s next?

In addition to the proposed Turn Around Maintenance by the original builders, which should also include optimization of the refineries to achieve a high Nelson Complexity Index - any refinery with a Nelson Complexity Index of 10 or above is considered a complex refinery with potential in value addition and high value products. When that is achieved, a 4-way approach is also needed to position the refineries and tackle the continuing difficulty of establishing private refineries in Nigeria. Before the completion of the Turn Around Maintenance, with the hope it would be sincerely done as promised, government should consider these four well-known commonsense approaches: grant full autonomy to the refineries, but they still remain government-owned; lease the refineries to oil companies/inventors/communities/etc; outright privatization of the refineries with highly attractive incentives, which should be extended to genuine investors willing to establish private refineries.

Being the oldest, Warri Refining & Petrochemical Company Limited can be retained by the government, but should be granted full autonomy to cater for itself- pay its bills and dividend to the government. Kaduna Refining & Petrochemical Company can be leased to any oil company or group of investors with interest in the petroleum products refining. The Port Harcourt Refining Company Limited should be fully privatized. The old complex should be sold to oil producing communities, while the new complex to interested buyers with technical and financial capacity.

This 4-way approach will take care of all the interests and schools of thought on how to revive Nigeria’s state-owned refineries. Nigerians would know which method best suites the running of the refineries. In addition, it will trigger investors’ interests in the refining sector of the Nigeria oil and gas industry.

However, implementation has to be systematic as well as systemic. i. e. experts from various disciplines should sit-down to develop win-win modalities for the approach to be acceptable to all stakeholders, especially ordinary Nigerians.

With the right approach, coupled with the available cheap and easily accessible crude oil; competent manpower and funds, Nigeria’s refineries would operate at near 100 per cent utilization with minimal downtime. Moreover, a speedy and sustainable increase in Nigeria’s refining capacity that achieves Gross Refining Margins (GRMs) that are consistently at par with Asian benchmark of ‘Singapore Complex Margins’ will generate thousands of jobs and boost the potential of the economy. This way, Nigerian refineries can compete with any refinery in the world including the world biggest refinery with Nelson Complexity Index of nearly 14 - the 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) Jamnagar Refinery in India.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State,, 0803607098