When, on Wednesday, September 1, 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari suddenly woke up from his reticence to relieve two of his ministers, Alhaji Mohammed Sabo Nanono, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, and Alhaji Mamman Saleh of the Ministry of Power, of their appointments, many Nigerians were shocked on what could have forced the President’s hands to reshuffle his cabinet.
What could have made Buhari do the needful after a lot of Nigerians had cried out over the non-performance of many of his trusted ministers and aides?
While announcing the dismissal of the Ministers, Special Assistant to Buhari on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, had said, quoting his principal:
“As we are all aware, change is the only factor that is constant in every human endeavour and as this administration approaches its critical phase in the second term, I have found it essential to reinvigorate this cabinet in a manner that will deepen its capacity to consolidate legacy achievements.
“In due course, substantive nominations will be made to fill the consequential vacancies in accordance with the requirements of the constitution. I have personally met with the departing members to thank them for their contributions to discussions in cabinet and the invaluable services rendered to the nation.
“Today, effectively marks their last participation in the Federal Executive Council deliberations and I wish them the best in all future endeavours. I wish to reiterate once more, that this process shall be continuous.”
Most Nigerians had snickered and chuckled at the cabinet reshufflement which, to them, was just merely tossing out two unwanted Ministers and immediately, but expectedly, replacing them with two wanted serving members of the cabinet whom Buhari disingenuously drew from existing ministries.
Nanono was replaced by the Minister of Environment, Alhaji Mohammed Mahmoud Abubakar, who was poached from the Environment Ministry, while Alhaji Abubakar Aliyu, the erstwhile Minister of State, Works and Housing, was moved in to replace the Power Minister.
But how did Nanono and Mamman fall from grace and got to the ignominious position of being sacked by a man who trusted his men so much that despite cries from almost every quarter, had continued to keep faith with them?
Before their sack from the high echelon of power, the two ex-Ministers had been enmeshed in a lot of scandalous tomfooleries that it was quite amazing that they had been retained for as long as they were.
Nanono, particularly, had plunged himself into several acts of shameful acts and the longer he stayed in power, the more many thought he was one of the anointed men who were untouchable in the Buhari cabinet.
Those who know the relationship that existed between Nanono and Buhari describe him as one of the closest political strategists to the President and was part of the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), merger talks with the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and other parties that led to the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Nanono, according to privileged sources, was an insider in government and one of the most trusted members of the President’s inner caucus, who felt there was nothing he did that would make the President wield the big stick on him; but he must have calculated wrongly as he ended up being shown the way out, due, in many parts, to his ineffectiveness, incompetence and gross ineptitude.
Nanono had fumbled from one scandal to the other, including initiating many inconvenient programmes, which ended up on his table rather than in actual action. Some of the ineffectual packages he came up with which were not only unproductive and sterile, were the mechanization hubs in 650 local governments to support the farming communities, the approval of a loan facility of $1.2 billion by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), ostensibly to finance the mechanization of agriculture in the country, and the introduction of subsidy for farm inputs.
Apart from those blunders, the rising food prices nationwide, most especially in the North, was another setback for the administration which the President was said not to be happy about. At a stage, the food price crisis was becoming unbearable for the poor in the North and the backlash on the Buhari administration had caused much discomfort for the President.
Insiders also attributed his sack to the fact that age was also a factor in slowing him down to do his job as there was no discernible synergy between him and his team. He was also alleged to be sliding towards politics more than his primary assignment.
Outside his gross incompetence and ineffectiveness, the erstwhile Agric Minister was also involved in a series of scandals which, in the end, turned out to be his albatross.
Nanono’s known blunders
1. The N30 per meal comment
In October, 2019, Nanono got Nigerians laughing when he said food was so cheap in Nigeria that with a mere N30, one can get a full meal in Kano State where he comes from.
At a press conference in Abuja to mark the 2019 World Food Day on October 16, 2019, Nanono had said:
“I think we are producing enough now to feed ourselves and I think there is no hunger but if you say inconveniences, I would agree.
“When people talk about hunger, I laugh because they do not know what hunger is. If you go to other countries, you will see what hunger is.
“In Kano, for instance, you can eat N30 worth of food and be satisfied. So, we should be thankful that we can feed ourselves and we have relatively cheap food in this country.
“I can come to Kano and show you where to buy a N30 meal and be satisfied. People do not know the meaning of hunger. But they are trying wish disaster upon themselves by claiming that we are experiencing hunger. Real hunger means someone spending 10 days without anything to eat.”
2. Enforcing leadership change at AFAN
Nanono got into the black books of Nigerian farmers when he attempted to force a change in the leadership of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) which drew him into a legal battle with the association.
Even with a case pending in court, Nanono was said to have continued to recognise a faction of the leadership of the farmer’s union.
The crisis in the AFAN reportedly arose when a member and Chairman of the board, Admiral Murtala Nyako, was said to have single-handedly inaugurated new officials in his Asokoro, Abuja, residence on the premise that the tenure of the elected officials led by National President, Kabiru Ibrahim, had expired.
The crisis was further heightened when Nanono recognized the Nyako-inaugurated splinter group led by Alhaji Umar Farouk, who is from the minister’s home state of Kano.
3. N30 million for the construction of a mosque
The erstwhile Minister also got himself embroiled in a messy scandal when he allegedly awarded a N30 million contract for the construction of a Mosque which many considered was unjustifiable.
A leaked memo had indicted Nanono, showing that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development had approved the sum for the construction of a Mosque for herdsmen displaced by Boko Haram insurgents in Ngarannam/Mafa Local Government Area of Borno State.
What angered many Nigerians on the Mosque construction was the fact that farmers who should naturally be Nanono’s primary constituency, had been displaced by armed herdsmen in many parts of the country, particularly in Kaduna, Plateau and Benue States, without any intervention by the Ministry.
4. Award of contracts to shadowy companies
The Minister was also accused of awarding contracts to two shadowy companies worth several billions of naira to buy grains at a time the market was extremely volatile, triggering a price hike.
Nanono was also alleged to have spent over N1 billion to renovate the Ministry’s old headquarters when the building the Ministry bought for over N7 billion was abandoned in the Central Business District, in Abuja
5. ICPC N16bn probe
Under Nanono’s watch, the Ministry came under investigation for alleged misappropriation of N16 billion by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
The Minister had also, openly attacked the Central Bank of Nigeria’s policy on Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, canvassing for it to be moved to the Ministry of Agriculture.
6. Phantom Brazilian bilateral agreement and tractor purchase
For over two years, Nanono had continued to regale Nigerians with a phantom bilateral agreement between Nigeria and Brazil for the mechanization of the agricultural sector in the country as well as the importation of tractors from the South American country.
Apart from these infractions, farmers in the South-South parts of the country had also accused the Minister of neglecting their region in agricultural policies and programmes, which were geared towards favouring the North.
7. Non-payment for 700,000 Agric youth enumerators
Nanono also plunged the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development into yet another controversy with the non-payment of the entitlements of over 700,000 youths engaged for a nationwide farmer/farm enumeration exercise under the National Agriculture Assets Survey.
The survey, tagged ‘Agriculture for Food and Jobs Plan,’ was initially a 10-day exercise intended to gather data of farmers and their farmlands across the 36 states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. But at the end of the exercise, the youths engaged were either not paid or short-changed, which was another sore point in his management of the Ministry.
The South-South farmers were furious that Nanono did not have any strong policy on tree crops and that since he taking office, the Ministry had not been able to drive any successful programme of the Buhari administration as most of the programmes were domiciled with other agencies of government outside the ministry.
Nanono also bungled the National Fertilizer Quality Control Act 2019 which would have been a vital component of the agricultural policy of the Buhari regime in its bid to reposition the Nigeria fertilizer industry and the agro-economy from oil and gas to agri-business.
Nanono was also the champion of the vexatious RUGA project where he reportedly awarded the construction and rehabilitation of facilities in the grazing reserves in Borno, Gombe, Niger, Nasarawa and other parts of the core North, to kick start the RUGA project under the National Livestock Transformation Programme, to cronies and shady companies.
Alhaji Sale Mamman
Erstwhile Minister of Power, Alhaji Sale Mamman, did not fare any better either, as he also courted loads of controversies which began shortly after he assumed office in August, 2019. He got himself enmeshed in scandals which, ultimately, paved the way for his eventual dismissal.
The first of such scandals that involved the Taraba State-born Mamman, was the sacking of the former Managing Director of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), Mrs Damilola Ogunbiyi, over internal issues in December, 2019, which was later reversed by the Federal Government to a resignation.
More internal crises were to follow the tumultuous period Mamman held sway at the Power Ministry, with the regular collapse of the National Grid, which did nothing to raise his profile in the eyes of Nigerians.
The power play in the power sector agencies culminated in the controversial removal of the Managing Director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Usman Gur Mohammed, in May, 2020, a move that irked the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, and generated ripples from labour unions in the power sector.
The erstwhile MD of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading PLC (NBET), Dr Marilyn Amobi, also had a headlong encounter with the former Minister which led to her dismissal in June, 2020.
There was also the unceremonious removal of Prof. James Momoh, the Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), in November, 2020, after attaining 70 years, earlier than the end of his tenure which would have been 2022.
Another major crisis during Mamman’s reign was the case of missing appointment letters for members of the board of TCN after their appointments in January 2021.
It was gathered that the appointed board members were to be given their appointment letters from the SGF’s office before they could be inaugurated, but how the said letters left the SGF office and could not be served on the board members, remain a mystery till date.
Under Mamman as the Power Minister, the controversies surrounding the power tariff hikes did not also do him any good, forcing the government to dialogue endlessly with the organised labour and consequently, reversing the tariff hike in some instances.
At his inauguration, Mamman had assured the nation of the country attaining 11,000MW by 2022, before moving up to 25,000MW, but in spite of the fact that he said the power generation targets would be in phases, there was nothing to show that the nation will attain its goal with him in charge of the Ministry.
Mamman was also accused of not having adequate knowledge of the running of the Ministry and especially, not catching up with the July, 2019, agreement between the Federal Government and German energy company, Siemens, for the implementation of a roadmap to resolve the challenges in the power sector and possible expansion.
Reports had also indicted Mamman on alleged overbearing control over agencies under his Ministry, as well as his poor knowledge of the sector that could not help him in addressing some issues on the Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Project.
Another accusation that must have hastened his removal was the allegation of interference in the internal affairs of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), which led to the deployment of some directors, especially the then Director of Procurement, Bulus Maiyaki, even though the REA is under the supervision of the Minister of State for Power, Goddy Jeddy Agba, who was allegedly sidelined by the substantive Minister while deploying Maiyaki to another agency.
The man Sale Mamman
Alhaji Saleh Mamman was born on January 2, 1958. From Taraba State, he holds a higher National Diploma in Electrical Electronics from Kaduna Polytechnic, where he graduated in 1988. He also holds an MBA in Business Administration from Bayero University, Kano, graduating in 2015.
Saleh started his career in 1981 as a teacher in Technical School, Mubi, Adamawa State. In 1992, he transferred his service to the newly created Taraba State. He was promoted to the rank of Assistant Director in the Ministry of Works in Taraba State and retired in 2002.
He was one of Buhari’s staunchest supporters and one of the key insiders of the President’s kitchen cabinet and was highly recommended for the appointment in 2019.
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