While Nigeria currently does not have substantive ministers assisting President Muhammadu Buhari to run the government, state affairs must continue. Our correspondents examine the people who perform these tasks pending the appointment of substantive ministers
For no fewer than 38 days, the country’s Federal Executive Council which was dissolved by former President Goodluck Jonathan on the eve of his departure has yet to reconvene.
This is due to the delay of President Muhammadu Buhari, who came to power on May 29 having defeated Jonathan in the March 28 presidential election, in appointing a new cabinet.
The council which consists of the President (as chairman), Vice President, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, ministers, special advisers to the President, Head of Civil Service of the Federation and the National Security Adviser is the highest decision-making body in the country.
With the expiration of the tenure of the Jonathan-led FEC and the current interregnum especially as regards the appointment of new ministers, the ship of state cannot tolerate a vacuum.
Hence, as directed by Jonathan at the very twilight of his administration when the FEC was formally dissolved, permanent secretaries in each of the federal ministry have since taken over the day-to-day running of the affairs of their individual departments which by extension means helping President Buhari to run the country.
Buhari and his vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, are the only members of the FEC that are currently in office. Nigeria’s federal ministries include agriculture and natural resources, aviation, information and communications, defence and environment.
Others are education and youth development, environment, federal capital territory, finance and economic development, foreign affairs, health and social services, industries, culture, tourism and national orientation, internal affairs, justice, labour and productivity, petroleum resources, power and steel, science and technology, solid minerals development, special duties, transport, water resources and rural development, women affairs and social development works and housing and youth and sport.
Holding the fort until the appointment of substantive ministers are these permanent secretaries.
Ministry of Defence
Mr. Aliyu Ismaila is the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Defence. The ministry is reputed to be one of the most if not the most powerful in the land. Ismaila is a 1980 graduate of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He joined the Federal Civil Service in 2006 as an Assistant Director in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
He rose to become a director in charge of the Department of Home Finance in the Federal Ministry of Finance in 2012. He was the Permanent Secretary, Office of the Government of the Federation in 2012 and later Permanent Secretary Ministry of Police Affairs the same year.
In 2013, Ismaila was moved to the Ministry of Defence as the Permanent Secretary, a position he has held to date.
Ismaila is from Numan, in Numan Local Government Area of Adamawa State.
Ministry of Health
Mr. Linus Awute, the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health, hails from Agba-Ndele of Emuoha Local Government Area of Rivers State. Since the end of the last administration of President Jonathan, he has been at the helm of affairs steering the ship of governance in the health ministry.
Among other functions, Awute was the one who doused panic and urged the public to remain calm following another outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in Liberia. He specifically urged Nigerians to remain vigilant and adhere to hygienic and other preventive measures to guard against the deadly disease.
Also during an event to mark the 2015 World Sickle Cell Day, Awute, on behalf of the health ministry, said the government would not ban marriage between carriers of the sickle cell disease in the country.
Ministry of Petroleum Resources
Another government department watchers tag as sensitive and “powerful” is the Ministry of Petroleum Resources where Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke held sway until the end of the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
The Permanent Secretary calling the shots in the ministry now is Mr. Taiye Haruna.
Early last month, Haruna invited all stakeholders in the petroleum sector to the ministry to discuss ways of resolving the prolonged fuel scarcity across the country, particularly in Abuja.
After the meeting, the Federal Government and petrol marketers agreed to put an end to Nigeria’s fuel scarcity problems within one week.
The meeting, which was at the instance of Haruna, was well attended by stakeholders as it had top officials from the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria, Pipelines and Product Marketing Company, and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
Others were heads from the Department of Petroleum Resources, Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, Petroleum Equalisation Fund and the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
Ministry of Environment
At the Federal Ministry of Environment, the Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Nana Mede, is in charge.
To exercise her authority, Mede, in June this year, stated that the Federal Government might terminate the N9.2bn clean cooking stove contract as a result of the failure of the contractor to deliver the product as stipulated in the terms of agreement.
The government, in the contract, was expected to procure 750,000 units of clean cooking stoves and 18,000 wonder bags following the approval of the National Clean Cooking Scheme by the Federal Executive Council led by former President Goodluck Jonathan in November 2014.
A sum of N9.2bn was approved for the items meant to be distributed to rural women.
However, the procurement and distribution of the stoves had not been successful as a result of the contractor’s inability to meet the agreed delivery deadlines reached with the Federal Ministry of Environment.
Explaining why the distribution had not commenced despite the fact that the stoves were launched by the immediate past Vice-President, Namadi Sambo, the permanent secretary stated that N1.3bn out of the N5bn released to the ministry was given to the contractor to deliver the first set of stoves and wonder bags.
Ministry of Power
Godknows Igali is the Permanent Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Power. Over time, he had received investors in the sector on behalf of the ministry.
Igali also oversees the activities at the ministry, directing staff on various issues that must be done to ensure smooth operations at the ministry.
Indeed, details on the fluctuations in power generation across the country are made available to him as he often says authoritatively the actual amount of electricity generated in Nigeria.
Ministry of Tourism
Mrs. Nkechi Ejele, was a permanent secretary in the Bureau of Public Service Reforms before her redeployment to the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation in 2013. Not much has been done in the tourism sector since this year. Ejele is said to be a strong factor in the tourism ministry and is popularly known as “Iron Lady.”
Ministry of Finance
The Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Finance is Mrs. Anastasia Daniel-Nwoabia. She is not one of the top government officials that was visible under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Born on January 25, 1960, Daniel-Nwoabia hails from the Shendam Local Government Area of Plateau State. Daniel-Nwaobia is a graduate of Mass Communication/Political Science from Bayero University Kano and a master’s degree holder of International Relations and Strategic Studies from University of Jos in 1985. Her working career spanned both the public and private sectors.
Her sojourn into the mainstream, Federal Civil Service started in 2000 when she was absorbed and regularised as an Assistant Director, and posted to the former Federal Ministry of Commerce.
Daniel-Nwoabia was appointed a Permanent Secretary representing the North Central Zone with effect from November 14, 2011.
Until July 23, 2013 when she was deployed to the Federal Ministry of Finance, she had served as Permanent Secretary, Economic Affairs Office, Office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation and Ministry of Interior.
Within the last one month, she has been managing the ministry in the absence of a substantive minister.
Last week, Daniel-Nwoabia presided over the monthly Federation Accounts Allocation Committee meeting is usually presided over by the Minister of State.
This is the first time the meeting is being chaired by a permanent secretary within the last five years.
Ministry of Interior
Mr. Abubakar Magaji is the Permanent Secretary in charge of the Ministry of Interior. He was appointed permanent secretary by former President Goodluck Jonathan in November 2013 following the retirement of his predecessor from Zamfara State.
Magaji, an engineer, was Permanent Secretary, Economic Matters, at the Office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation before he was redeployed to the Ministry of Interior.
Little is known about Magaji’s academic qualification and bio-data. When contacted, the spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, Mr. Ade Yusuf, declined to provide information on the permanent secretary’s educational background.
Ministry of Justice
Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Justice is Mr Abdullahi Yola, and he was born on April 18, 1957.
He had held his current office in acting capacity before his substantive appointment on August 18, 2008.
Yola, trained as a lawyer at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, obtained his Law degree in 1982. He attended the Nigerian Law School and was called to the Bar in 1983.
He also obtained his Masters in Law (LLM) at the Edinburgh University, United Kingdom in 1988
Between 1978 and 1999, Yola served in the Kano State civil service. He later joined the Federal Ministry of Justice where he served in various capacities, including Director, Special Duties; Director, Solicitors; and Director, Legal, Drafting.
Yola, a member of the Nigerian Bar Association, and a recipient of a national honour – Officer of the Order of the Niger – served as the Acting Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary until he was substantively appointed to the office on August 18, 2008.
He is currently the administrative head of the ministry in the absence of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Amb. Bulus Lolo is the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was among the six permanent secretaries appointed by former President Jonathan in October, 2014.
He was appointed to represent the North-West zone in the civil service and was posted to the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, (Career Management Office) in November, 2014.
He was redeployed to the MFA in May, 2015 following the suspension of the erstwhile permanent secretary, Danjuma Sheni, for allegedly recalling Nigeria’s envoy to South Africa over the wave of xenophobic attacks in the country.
Before his appointment Lolo was former Nigeria’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, Permanent Representative to the African Union and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
Ministry of Information
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information is Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan.
She was born on August 13, 1964 in Kaduna State although her state of origin is, Kogi State in the North-Central geopolitical zone.
She attended the University of Ibadan where she graduated in 1987. She also attended the University of Ilorin 1997 and the University of Lagos, 2009. Degrees obtained by Yemi-Esan include Bachelor of Dental Surgery and Masters in Public and International Administration.
A product of the Federal Government College, Ilorin, (1979), Yemi-Esan attended Bishop Smith Primary School Ilorin for her basic education.
Ministry of Communications Technology
Dr. Tunji Olaopa is the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communications Technology. He is respected in the service and industry not only for his expertise but also for his height and size.
At the recent Commonwealth Broadband Forum 2015 that held at the Nicon Luxury Hotel Abuja from 16-17 June 2015, it was the lot of Olaopa as the highest ranking government official to announce to the audience the appointment of a Nigerian, Mr. Shola Taylor, as the next Secretary General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation.
Olaopa is one of the few public servants that have presence in the cyberspace through a personal website – www.tunjiolaopa.com .
He is also the author of several books some of which are Managing Complex Reforms, Public Service Reforms in Africa, Innovation and Best Practised Public Sector, The Joy of Learning, and Public Administration and Service Reforms.
Olaopa was born on December 20, 1959 at Awe, Afijio Local Government Area of Oyo State. He attended Demonstration School, Sango-Ota (1972); Awe High School, Awe, (1977). He had his Higher School Certificate at Olivet Baptist High School, Oyo, (1980); Bachelors of Science degree in 1984 and Masters of Science (1987) degree at the University of Ibadan (Political Science). His Doctor of Philosophy degree in Public Administration came from the Commonwealth Open University in the United Kingdom in 2006.
Ministry of Science and Technology
Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita took over as the Permanent Secretary in the Science and Technology on April 16, 2014.
Before she was re-deployed, she held sway at the Ministry of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs. In the absence of a minister, Oyo-Ita runs one of the largest ministries in the federal public service. As the permanent secretary in the ministry, she also chairs the board of the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion.
Oyo-Ita was born in Adiabo in Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State on April 20, 1964. She attended Queen’s College Yaba, Lagos from 1974 to 1979.
She holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the Nasarawa State University, Keffi. She also attended the University of Lagos where she got a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting in 1984.
Before her appointment as Permanent Secretary, she had served as Director of Finance and Accounts at the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.
A Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, Oyo-Ita is married. She has three sons.
In some departments, however, there are officials who to an extent called the shots in their agencies while they had ministers running the respective ministries that they are in.
For instance, at Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, the Chairman, Dr. Sam Amadi is still in charge as he has been churning out regulations and guidelines that had seen to the seeming stability in electricity tariffs for some months now.
At the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the Group Managing Director, Joseph Dawha, has been struggling to ensure stability in the supply of petroleum products across the country, particularly fuel.
But some Nigerians have expressed displeasure over the situation where ministries are overseen by other people rather than the substantive ministers meant to supervise them while others see it as a necessity.
Notable among the set of Nigerians who see the development as a necessity is Second Republic governor of old Kaduna State, Balarabe Musa.
The former governor and leader of the Northern Elements Progressive Union in a telephone interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, expressed disapproval of any insinuation that permanent secretaries could not handle the demands of managing the ministries.
Citing his experience as head of a state government, Musa noted that he had also worked directly with permanent secretaries because, according to him, the state House of Assembly refused to approve his commissioners.
He further explained that the constitution regarded everyone else as an assistant to the president or governor.
“Why can’t the permanent secretaries run the ministries? The president and the governor are the chief executives of the Federal Government and the state, respectively. Every other party is an assistant to the president or the governor. In essence, the president and governors can work without ministers or commissioners. But that is not what is desirable. There should be ministers and commissioners, so governance can be easy. But if it becomes impossible, the permanent secretaries are up to the task.
“In my case, for instance, I did not have commissioners but I had the responsibility to run the affairs of the state with or without the commissioners and that is what I did. It is not what I wanted; it is not what the constitution intended, but the power struggle made it so. Therefore, if the President today can’t have ministers for whatever reason, he can work directly with the permanent secretaries and other public institutions,” Musa said
But the Executive Director of SERAP, Mr. Adetokunbo Mumuni, in a separate interview with one of our correspondents, argued that it was important to appoint ministers as quickly as possible because it could affect the country economically and in other fundamental ways.
He said, “Most people who want to take vital, long-term economic decisions may not be able to take them now because they don’t yet know the direction of the government in terms of key ministries. In terms of economic planning, aviation, budget, stakeholders would have to commit themselves to exercising patience in spending huge sums of money in the interest of the economy.”
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