President Muhammadu Buhari’s plan to combine the role of a petroleum minister with being the President of the country is going to have adverse effects on the economy and governance, several experts said on Friday. Though Buhari once served as petroleum minister and has vowed to halt corruption in the oil sector, keeping the portfolio of a petroleum minister for himself will divert attention from his presidential duties at a time when Nigeria needs to revive its economy and end the Boko Haram insurgency, the experts further stated.
They expressed concern that appointing himself as petroleum minister might make the ex-military ruler wield too much power. A professor of African Studies at the University of Michigan, the United States, who specialises in oil and natural resource politics, Omolade Adunbi, told the International Business Times that being petroleum minister would take away the President’s gaze from other areas of the economy and governance. He said:
“He’s going to be dividing his time between looking at the petroleum sector and governing the nation, which I think is not the appropriate thing to do when the economy is in deep crisis. Buhari is not a petroleum engineer. He is not a technocrat. He is not a specialist on oil. So people can still successfully [steal] without him knowing. That’s why it’s important for him to appoint someone who knows the economics of oil as well as the politics to manage the industry and move it from where it is right now to where it can be an agent for growth.”
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, had on Wednesday confirmed that President Buhari submitted the names of ministerial nominees for his new cabinet for approval, a day after Buhari announced that he would keep the oil portfolio for himself. Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, has an economy which is heavily dependent on crude oil, but has been at risk due to massive and chronic oil thefts and recently, falling crude oil prices. The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics had in August said the annual economic growth in the second quarter plunged to 2.35 per cent from 6.54 per cent in 2014.
Hence, a research fellow in energy economics at the University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom, who was once an energy consultant to the Federal Government, Sola Kasim, suggested that the President, even though he had been adjudged as a man of integrity, should leave the job for someone else who is an expert in the sector, while he focuses on administration.
“To be brutally honest, I do not recollect Buhari being an effective petroleum minister. A very honest one, though. I venture to postulate that Buhari is the cleanest, least corruptible, petroleum minister Nigeria ever had,” he said.
Also, a director of governance programmes at the Natural Resource Governance Institute, a policy think tank in New York, Alexandra Gillies, said, “Being the President, he doesn’t have the time. It worries me from the scale of things that need to be done.
“If you don’t delegate, you’re not going to be able to make progress on all of those urgent fronts. From a governance standpoint, it’s not ideal. You need that [petroleum] minister to balance it out.”