By Tajudeen Kareem
An adroit politician, President Bola Tinubu understands statecraft. Rather than bellyache about the hurdles on his path, he has affirmed his readiness to embrace all assets and liabilities left by his predecessor.
“Yes! I admit and accept the assets and liabilities of my predecessor. It’s part of the definition in my professional background”, said Tinubu while opening a three-day cabinet retreat for ministers, presidential aides, permanent secretaries and top government functionaries in Abuja, last week.
One durable asset left by President Muhammadu Buhari is the Presidential Tracker Unit and Central Delivery Coordinating Unit, CDCU, domiciled at the Cabinet Affairs Office in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, OSGF. That was in fulfilment of a promise by the last administration to “engage with stakeholders to develop a framework to institutionalize the Central Delivery Coordination Unit to ensure that the current efforts are sustained by the next administration come 2023.”
Keeping with that promise, it saw the launch in July 2022 of the Presidential Delivery Tracker and Website developed by the CDCU at the OSGF.
The CDCU was designed for tracking the implementation of policies, programmes and projects of all ministries along the priority areas of the Federal Government. The unit also identifies and resolves issues that create bottlenecks and impediments to the delivery of Presidential Priorities.
To achieve its objectives, the CDCU incorporates a Performance Management System with Dashboards set up in key offices which serve as tools for measuring performance in real-time in the implementation of ministerial deliverables against negotiated targets.
Indeed, the Presidential Delivery Tracker is very germane to the vision of President Tinubu who declared at the recent retreat his “forward-looking determination to embark on a very strong, bold endeavour” to rebuild the country’s economy and keep the promise of a renewed hope.
“We are not looking backwards; we can’t compare and give excuses. This is our country we have to build it; we have to renew the foundation. We have to give hope to the populace, to Nigerians in doubt whether democracy and economic growth will be the pathway to their prosperity.”
President Tinubu then urged his ministers to stand on their toes. He declared: “At the end of this retreat, we are going to sign a bond of understanding between the ministers, the permanent secretaries, and myself.
If you are performing, nothing to fear; if you miss the objective, we’ll review; if there is no performance, you leave us. No one is an island, and the buck stops on my desk.
“I assure you; you have a free hand. You must be intellectually inquisitive to ask how, why, when, and why it must be immediate. You have the responsibility to serve the people.
“I’ve taken a young lady, very dynamic, Hadiza Balla Usman, to head that delivery unit. If you have any complaints about her, see me. If you’re ready to work with her, stay there. Delivery, yes! we must achieve it for the sake of millions of our people.”
However, the president urged cabinet members to be proactive and innovative. “Don’t be afraid to make decisions, but don’t be antagonistic to your supervisor. If they are wrong, debate it.
I stand before you and I’ve claimed on several occasions and I’m saying today again as the president, I can make mistakes, point it to me I would resolve that conflict, that error. Perfection is only that of God Almighty.
But you are there to help me succeed. Success I must achieve by all means necessary,” he declared to a loud applause at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa.
The SGF, Dr George Akume set the tone for the retreat which he said was designed to prepare and sensitize ministers and other participants on the workings and processes of government to ensure that they deliver on the Presidential Priorities of the Renewed Hope Agenda for 2023 – 2027.
“The retreat will also provide an opportunity to deepen the understanding of participants on best practices in conducting government business. More specifically, the retreat will focus on ensuring that all members are abreast of essential government processes relating to procurement, budgeting, anti-corruption drive, Federal Executive Council and the role of ministers and permanent secretaries in managing their ministries; discussing critical enablers for the robust management of relationship with key stakeholders of government; understanding the delivery framework and tracking mechanism of the Federal Government; and addressing any tasks and expectations as the President may highlight and direct,” he outlined.
Akume listed the eight Presidential Priorities earlier unveiled by the President while inaugurating the National Economic Council.
They are Food Security; Ending Poverty; Economic Growth and Job Creation; Access to Capital; Inclusivity: Drawing on all Skills Base; Security, Fairness and Rule of Law; and Anti-corruption Stance.
The priorities were further unbundled as reforming the Economy to deliver Sustained Inclusive Growth; Strengthen National Security for Peace and Prosperity; Boost Agriculture to Achieve Food Security; Unlock Energy and Natural Resources for Sustainable Development; Enhance Infrastructure and Transportation as Enablers of Growth; focusing on Education, Health and Social Investment as Essential Pillars of Development; Accelerate Industrialization through Digital Economy, Manufacturing and Innovative Technology; and Improve Governance for Effective Service Delivery.
Akume said before the retreat, the CDCU in the Cabinet Affairs Office in collaboration with the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Policy Coordination, held extensive bilateral engagements with all the 35 ministries and the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation to develop the Ministerial Deliverables that will facilitate the actualisation of the Eight Priority Areas of the Tinubu administration.
“These bilateral engagements were followed by robust technical sessions between the Ministries and the CDCU team with support from our Development/Technical Partners that included the Foreign Commonwealth Development Office, Messrs KPMG Nigeria, Messrs McKinsey and Company Nigeria, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change amongst others,” said Akume.
He also disclosed that Ministerial Deliverables were strategically crafted to address the Priorities and Focus Areas of the Administration from 2023 to 2027. These Ministerial Deliverables were derived from the Renewed Hope Manifesto, the Report of the Presidential Advisory Council, the National Development Plan (2021 – 2025), and Sectoral Plans including Policies, Programmes and projects of Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
“The engagements also afforded the ministers the opportunity to make very useful inputs into the crafting of the deliverables and their indicators for effective measurements and assessments”, said the SGF.
Akume noted that there will always be cross-cutting activities, programs and policies. “This demands that collaboration and a common vision should always guide our actions and decisions. This retreat, therefore, will afford us the opportunity to share in the President’s vision, his dream and to fine-tune our strategies for a prosperous Nigeria,” he told participants.
The retreat was structured into four main segments, namely the administrative processes for the delivery of government policies, plans and projects; managing relationships with key stakeholders such as the legislature, parastatals, the media and citizens; technical presentations focusing on the ‘Renewed Hope Agenda’; accelerators for inclusive and resilient economic growth; and understanding the delivery mechanism for the Renewed Hope Agenda and lastly, panel sessions along the focus areas on how to deliver on the Priority Areas.
Recommendations from the Retreat
Akume highlighted the key points agreed upon by cabinet members at the retreat. Top on the card is that the government should raise the approval threshold for public procurement and encourage open bidding for transparency.
With the shift in FEC days from Wednesday to Monday, cabinet members are now required to submit memos ahead of time by Wednesday for analysis with permanent secretaries before the Monday meeting. Moreso, ministers presenting memoranda at FEC will now be accompanied by their permanent secretaries to hasten information flow.
Participants also agreed to align the budget for the MDAs with the President’s vision, strategic goals, and relevant key performance indicators even as they voted to review the efficiency of previous intervention programmes of the government.
The retreat emphasised the need to improve the judicial process by allowing promoted judges to complete pending cases in their new positions; accelerate prosecution of individuals, including lawmakers, who do not complete contracts awarded to them.
On trade and commerce, participants voted for reform of tariff structure to enable trade while still supporting domestic production; promote more equity financing rather than debt financing for fiscal operations; and set up a steering committee to review the issues around the national single window.
National security for peace and prosperity also engaged the attention of participants who suggested deeper engagement with governors to strengthen security at local government levels while addressing issues of autonomy and governance. Moreso, they emphasised collaboration and a collective approach at the state level to address security challenges.
The ministers agreed that agriculture must get a priority to achieve food security by utilising technology and reducing post-harvest losses, driving investments in storage and value addition while efforts to check coastal erosion were also discussed.
Members voted to develop a 10-year plan to increase power generation capacity in line with the country’s needs; set up a super grid in line with the nation’s generation targets and create semi-autonomous regional grids; and overhaul the structure and coverage of the distribution companies.
The steel sector also got a mention; a plan for a roadmap and revival of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant and other power projects across the country.
The cabinet agreed to drive investments in the upstream petroleum sector, with clear targets while making provisions for sanctions for non-performance and inefficiencies.
The high point of the retreat was the signing of the Ministerial Performance Bond by ministers and permanent secretaries. The Bond spelt out the Ministerial Deliverables and Key Performance Indicators. Each of the KPIs contain the baseline data and targets for the next four years. The performance of each ministry will be assessed quarterly beginning from the end of the first quarter of 2024.