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Meet Four of Key Ministers in President Buhari’s Cabinet

Five months after his inauguration, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has sworn thirty-six ministers into his cabinet.  Set out below is an overview of the four appointments that will be of particular interest to foreign investors: Babatunde Fashola (Minister of Power, Works and Housing), Kemi Adeosun (Minister of Finance), Okechukwu Enelamah, (Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment) and President Muhammadu Buhari (Minister of Petroleum).

Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Power, Works and Housing

The former governor of Lagos State, Fashola is well-known and well-regarded in Nigeria as well as abroad.  It is a significant sign of President Buhari’s confidence in Fashola that he has assigned him responsibility for the power sector.  Although Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation, the “scarcity of sufficient and reliable electricity is severely constraining economic growth and development.”

As the Nigerian government continues to privatize its energy sector, it is worth noting that Fashola is a strong proponent of private-public partnership.  When once asked why he staffed his administration with so many individuals from the private sector, Fashola responded, “The public sector as a government exists only for one reason, for the private sector […].  From the unemployed chap to the biggest corporation.  Who better to write the manual of operation, to write the process of implementation for the public sector, than the private sector on whose behalf they exist. If they continue to speak different languages, they won’t function.”

Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Finance

When President Buhari released his list of cabinet nominees last month, analysts correctly presumed that Adeosun would receive the finance portfolio.  Although not as high-profile or experienced at the multilateral level as her predecessor Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Adeosun has private sector experience in accounting and investment banking as well as international degrees in economics and public financial management.  She most recently served as finance commissioner of Ogun and some credit her with turning around the state’s financial situation.  Adeosun’s focus on increased tax enforcement as a revenue enhancing initiative during her tenure suggests that she will readily continue the recent efforts, at the federal level, to step up tax enforcement.

During her Senate confirmation hearing last month, Adeosun supported the foreign exchange restrictions that have been put in place by the Central Bank of Nigeria.  In addition, she does not think that devaluing the naira can be done in isolation: “The exchange rate is not the silver bullet, it’s not the wonder drug. It has to be accompanied with fiscal policies and monetary policies and industrial policies.”

Adeosun supports reduced government spending, particularly on overhead and salaries.  In addition, with respect to infrastructure investment and other development projects, she believes that “each time we spend, more revenue come[s] in.”  These positions fit in perfectly with President Buhari’s plan to reduce current expenditure and prioritize capital projects in his 2016 budget.

Okechukwu Enelamah, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment

Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of African Capital Alliance, Enelamah is a luminary in the African private equity landscape.  His education and professional experience spans three continents and includes an MBA with high distinction from Harvard Business School and stints at Goldman Sachs, Zephyr Capital and South Africa Capital Growth Fund.  His investment and private equity experience will prove instrumental to leading a ministry whose mandate includes attracting investment, boosting industrialization, diversifying the economy, and increasing trade and exports.

In his Senate confirmation hearing, Enelamah identified a number of factors necessary to creating an enabling environment.  These factors include macroeconomic stability, a clear and stable policy vision, signaling investor friendliness, and creating both soft (e.g., security and rule of law) and hard (e.g., power, roads and railways) infrastructure.

President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of Petroleum 

As has been reported for the past few months, President Buhari will serve as the Minister of Petroleum.  Prior to Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999, President Buhari served in various key positions in the oil sector including Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Chairman of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund.  Some analysts believe that President Buhari’s decision to retain the petroleum  portfolio is an indication that he does not trust anyone else with the most important source of government revenue.  Whether or not this is the case, the move is not without precedent.  Former President Olusegun Obasanjo also ran the oil ministry through his two terms in office.

President Buhari has made clear that his priorities will be rooting out corruption as well as tracking down and recovering the “mind-boggling’ sums of money stolen over the years from the oil sector.”  It also is expected that President Buhari will revive the longtime languishing Petroleum Industry Bill.  Newly appointed NNPC Chairman Emmanuel Kachikwu will serve as the junior minister but it is yet unclear how duties will be divided between the two men.

Finally, it is important to note an appointment that has received far less attention than the long-awaited ministerial announcement.  President Buhari has appointed Assistant Commissioner of Police Ibrahim Mustafu Magu to serve as the new acting chief of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the country’s anti-corruption agency.  In light of the recent corruption allegations surrounding the EFCC, rumors abound as to what motivated the change but the administration insists that the outgoing chief left voluntarily.  As head of the Economic Governance Unit in the early days of EFCC, Magu developed a reputation for integrity and no-nonsense.  However, he was redeployed to the police force in the midst of accusations that ultimately turned up no evidence against him.

© 2020 Covington & Burling LLPNational Law Review, Volume V, Number 317

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