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Laolu Akande

Cabinet: Ex-Presidential aide, Akande, urges FG to clarify who handles ‘innovation’ portfolio

By Emmanuel Oloniruha

Abuja, Aug. 26, 2023

Former Presidential Aide, Laolu Akande, has lauded the recent inauguration of the cabinet by President Bola Tinubu.

Akande, Spokesperson to immediate past Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in a statement on Friday in Abuja, also expressed his confidence in the ministers to deliver on their mandates.

Akande, while responding to questions, when he featured on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Friday, however said there was need for some clarifications to avoid duplication of roles in ministries.

He called on the president to, for instance, clarify where “innovation” as a portfolio would be based and to further make public articulation of social welfare that was added to the health ministry.

According to him there has to be clarity in the area of who takes charge of the innovation portfolio which has been duplicated between two ministries.

“If you look at the list of the ministries, there are two important questions the Federal Government has to answer.

“I think the President has to answer this: number one, where is innovation?

“We have the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation and we also have the Minister of Communication, Innovation and Digital Economy, which has to be sorted out.

“Are we going to have a situation where you have innovation here and you have innovation there? Probably this has been sorted out by the two ministers,” he said.

He said that the clarification was important because in the previous administration two ministries assumed that the innovation portfolio was under their purview.

He said that people in both ministries of Science and Technology as well as Communication and Digital Economy also made such assumption.

“So you find out that there were meetings where both of them were contending tough battles. So, I think it is important for the president to clarify, where is innovation?

“Secondly, people have even noticed that the President now has two coordinating ministers: (Minister of Finance) and Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Social Welfare.

“So what is social welfare? Is social welfare what we used to have under Social Development which was in humanitarian affairs but no longer there?

“So, that has been changed from Humanitarian Affairs, Social Welfare and Disaster Management to Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, but social welfare is now taken to health. Now, is social welfare the same thing as social development?

“I understand what the president is trying to do by bringing social welfare in line with health is, while he is trying to advance the microeconomic issue in the economy may be from four to five per cent GDP figure in a positive trajectory, he also wants to keep an eye on how that impacts the people in real-time. Which may be why he brought the idea of social welfare, which is a very commendable thing.

“But it is important for us to clarify. Is that social welfare the same thing as social development?” Laolu asked.

He also spoke on the likelihood of conflicts of interest and possible tension among ministers in the course of carrying out their duties, especially the minister of finance and coordinating minister of the economy, a former commissioner, who has to supervise other ministries with former governors as ministers.

“What we must understand is that the Federal Executive Council is the President’s cult; it is what the president wants in terms of the setting and arrangement that would prevail.

“These ministers are appointed at the pleasure of, and they serve the pleasure of, the president.

“He can hire and fire at any time, that is the reason you can see he made some changes, which are completely within his purview by law.

“He is the one that sets the Key Performance Index (KPIs). He is the one by law to decide what should be done,” Akande said.

He also spoke on a recent controversy on the appointment of the Minister of Art, Culture and Creative Economy, Hannatu Musawa.

Akande expressed his support for the minister, describing her as a “very bright and innovative person” capable of bringing innovative ideas that would take the ministry to greater heights.

“If we are able to overlook some of these issues, she is clearly a very bright and innovative person. There are clearly a lot of expectations that somebody like her might bring, new thinking to the government.

“She comes with quite a formidable profile for the job, and I think that is something good to know,” Akande said.

His comments came on the heels of accusations from the Human Rights Writer’s Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), faulting Musawa, for undertaking the one-year mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme while she is still a member of President Tinubu’s cabinet.

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