President Muhammadu Buhari, Thursday, asked Nigerians to be patient with his four-month search for a government to tackle the country’s worst economic crisis for decades, in the wake of his submission of a list of his cabinet members to the Senate, late Wednesday.
Foreign investors and Nigerian firms have criticized Buhari, a 72-year old former military ruler, for waiting until late September to nominate cabinet members when Africa’s largest economy is taking a hammering from a plunge in oil revenues.
Companies have laid off thousands of staff because the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has limited access to dollars for imports to prevent a currency collapse, filling a vacuum in the absence of a finance minister. Many public servants have not been paid for months as oil revenues make up 70 percent of government income.
“Impatience is not a virtue,” Buhari, who took office on May 29, said in a televised speech on Independence Day. “The first set of names for ministerial nominees has been sent to the Senate. Subsequent lists will be forwarded in due course.”
It would be recalled that Buhari, had told foreign interests at the just-concluded United Nations General Assembly, in New York, United States, Tuesday, that he would keep the key oil ministry, though he gave no names or time frame after promising earlier Africa’s most populous nation would have a government in place by September 30. “Careful and deliberate decisions after consultations get far better results,” he said.
Buhari has vowed to clean up politics in a country where only a hyper-rich elite has benefited from its massive energy wealth. Around half of the 170 million Nigerians live in poverty, according to the World Bank.
However, some anti-graft measures have backfired as liquidity on the interbank market dried up after banks were ordered to move government revenue to a single account at the central bank.
In his brief Independence Day speech, Buhari mainly repeated his election pledge to bring change to Nigeria without offering an action plan to tackle the economic crisis.
He reiterated he was restructuring the mismanaged oil firm NNPC and conducting audits of key state institutions such as the central bank, customs and tax authorities as part of the anti-graft campaign.
“Prudent housekeeping is needed now more than ever in view of the sharp decline in world market oil prices,” he said. “It is a challenge we have to face squarely.”
When Buhari seized power in 1983 he deployed soldiers with whips to ensure orderly queues at bus stops before getting ousted by another general 18 months later without achieving much.
Now he told his countrymen: “We must change our unruly behaviour in schools, hospitals, market places, motor parks, on the roads, in homes and offices.”
Senate President Bukola Saraki will read the cabinet list, which was currently sealed in an envelope, to the upper house of parliament on Tuesday, the Senate said in a statement.