By Chima Christian

Finance Minister

A handful of journalists besieged Prof. Isaac Adewole, then Nigeria’s Minister of Health, in January 2017. They wanted to get his reaction to the developing story that the import duty of commodities like anti-malaria drugs had been hiked.

The journalists were interested in the Honourable Minister’s justification of the policy, knowing that malaria is a major problem in Nigeria and that the country, unfortunately, depends on imported drugs.

Hardly had they finished questioning the minister did he clap back, accusing the journalists of being “purveyors of fake news.” The journalists, and the whole country, learnt at that instance that the minister was hearing the news for the first time and did not believe it to be true. Of course, the news was true.

In my January 4, 2017 reaction to that embarrassment, I did say that the absence of inter-ministerial and inter-agency consultations was becoming a norm in President Muhammadu Buhari’s government. I wondered why a “whole” Minister of Health was not involved in the formulation of a policy that will have direct consequences on the ministry he spearheads.

Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed’s revelation that the input of her ministry was not sought in the approved plan to redesign higher denominations of the Naira only adds to this lack of policy coordination.

Announcing the redesign of selected Naira notes, CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele clearly stated that the CBN sought and obtained the approval of the president to pursue the policy direction.

While the argument about the independence of the CBN and whether it is right to not consult the ministry of finance rages. I have a slightly different question — whose views did President Buhari seek before he approved Gov. Emefiele’s policy proposal?

So the president didn’t consider it wise to seek the views of his Minister of Finance before granting such consequential approval? He did not ask her ministry to advise on the impact of the proposed policy. And to come up with a cushion plan, should he decide to approve it in the overriding public interest.

Despite this pronounced failure in policy coordination and the merits of the Finance Minister’s claim, she was being disrespectful of the president in her premeditated outburst.

Ahmed is neither a Twitter influencer nor a member of the attentive public. As a serving minister, she has a platform to privately register her policy objections to the president and her colleagues.

Ignoring such protocols and embarking on legislative activism only brings disrepute to the approving authority – this time the president. By repudiating the policy, Ahmed openly called President Buhari’s judgement into serious question. Nigerians must however thank her for reminding us that the fish always rot from the head.

I don’t have enough information as yet to arrive at an informed conclusion on the Naira redesign. What I can reliably conclude is that the Federal Government’s lack of policy coordination has attendant consequences.

Well, Nigerians are already counting on the certain rotation of the earth around the sun before this administration is taken care of by nature. Even at that, Nigerians must remain eternally vigilant and resist any attempt to change the government through unconstitutional means this close to the general elections.

The night keeps getting darker in Abuja and indeed in other parts of this country. Yet, Africa’s morning will come.

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