Padded Budget: Buhari angry with Fashola, Amaechi, Adeosun
• Shops for finance, national planning ministers
• To appoint more ministers of state into super ministries
By DICKSON OMONODE
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari is beginning to have a second thought on his ministerial appointments. Reasons: The President was revealed to have recently expressed disappointment over the performance of some of the ministers since the inauguration of the Federal Executive Council. This is more so with the perturbing negative economic indicators that appear to have become intractable since the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-controlled federal government.
The President, National Daily gathered, is displeased with certain ministers over the controversial padding of the 2016 budget. Some of these ministers include Mr. Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Power, Works and Housing; Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transport; Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Finance.
President Buhari was disclosed to have commenced search for new Minister of Finance, Minister of National Planning, among others.
As power generation slides down from 5000 megawatts to 2800 megawatts in less than five months, Power Minister Babatunde Fashola has equally dropped in his popularity rating with his boss President Muhammadu Buhari.
Accordingly, the president, who promised Nigerians he would bump up electricity supply to 6000 megawatts in the first year of his administration, may have begun shopping for Fashola’s replacement.
Sources within Aso Rock told National Daily that President Buhari is losing faith in his “super ministers” laden with multiple portfolios.
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“The president is considering a cabinet reshuffle in which Fashola, Kemi Adeosun, Finance Minister and Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi will either be reshuffled or more ministers of state appointed,” the source told National Daily.
Fashola, until now, had been the most prominent fixture in President Buhari’s cabinet.
The Lagos former governor had an overwhelming public endorsement which endeared him to Buhari looking for tested hands to berth the change he promised Nigerians in the lead-up to the 2015 general elections.
For his performance as a two-term governor, whom opposition, however, described as elitist, Fashola came highly recommended by the likes of Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka and many others who have Buhari’s ears.
Fashola, Soyinka noted, diagnoses the problem, and then, goes at it like a skilled mechanic, looking at the pieces. “The ones which work, he puts back, and those that don’t work, he sets out to eliminate or transform them,” the literature professor said. “And he does it ruthlessly because he is not a politician.”
Maybe Fashola is true to form. Since he took his oath of office on May 29, 2015, the power minister has set out to diagnose the problem with electricity generation in the most populous black nation on the planet.
And he has been able to identify a total of 142 projects of which 45 are at a 50-percent level of completion while about 22 can be completed within a year. Besides that, he has forged a 13-prong agenda comprising continuous public engagement on tariff collection, debts, power generation, maintenance, ancillary services, dispatch orders and discipline.
Other aspects of his plan include gas requirement and constraints, transmission constraints, 33KV load off take, imbalances-locations of excess, overload safety, service quality, new captive, and embedded generation, franchising.
In his paper works still, the minister has located a ready pool of resources the N14 trillion pension fund from which the government can draw to finance power, roads, and housing.
But the power problem confronting Nigerians seems to have defied bullet-point explanation and textbook casing. According to Prof. Chinedu Nebo, former power minister, Nigeria needs 160,000 megawatts to power its development plans like the Vision 20: 2020. The maximum Nigeria has reached now, four years into the Vision, is 6000 megawatts,
Worse still, the over 170 million Nigerians have been pushing the continent’s second largest economy on 2800 megawatts for days now. And President Buhari appears not be sold on Fashola’s excuse that vandals are to blame for the on-going power crisis.
The presidency, National Daily learnt, has admitted stacking up three ministries for Fashola alone was done in error. “And President Buhari is almost convinced Fashola’s much-touted superlative performance is a media hype,” the source said.
Of course the opposition has predicted the minister’s failure as soon as he was appointed. “There is nothing super about Fashola,” Taofik Gani, State Publicity Secretary of the Lagos PDP, said last year. “Most of the projects that Fashola took credit for were done by concessionaires and private companies.”
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Even at that, many analysts believe there is a political angle to Fashola’s popularity slump. Some northern leaders were said to have advised President Buhari that concentrating three key ministries in the hand of one man is not in the national interest.
Fashola’s career has been on the up, too, since he left office as governor. He was said to have pulled the string in Buhari’s choice of cabinet ministerslargely because he was about the closest to Aso Villa amongst the president’s south western allies. And Fashola has been enjoying all that to the chagrin of the APC founder and financier Bola Tinubu who weaned the ex-governor politically.
Many agree it’s not in doubt Tinubu has been looking for every opportunity to knock his godson, Fahola, off the pedestal. Circumstances could have made now the best time for the godfather to do that.
Amongst the ministers Buhari may kick out of his cabinet, Fashola ranks the most popular by reason of his portfolios, the budget N433.4 billion he controls, and experience. The finance minister was an ex-finance commissioner having her first attempt at managing a federal budget running into about N6.08 trillion. Amaechi, many believe, is more of a power politician than a transport minister.
What might have made millions of Nigerians eyeball Fashola alone (which is a problem critics foresaw) is that more is expected from him. He’s managing three ministries comprising no fewer than 17 agencies and departments at a time Nigeria is cash-strapped, and his boss is in a hurry to deliver the goods.
The lingering power crisis, then, might just be a sign super minister Fashola is cringing under the load of demands from Buhari and Nigerians.