Amazons are a nation of all-female warriors in Greek mythology and Classical antiquity reputed to have lived in Scythia. Modern usage of the word Amazon refers to a tall, aggressive, powerful and strong-willed woman who has determination and zeal to prove that what a man can do, she could do better.
The emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan from acting to elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ushered in new faces of cabinet members from different gender, professions and regions. Among them are female ministers that are not only Amazonian, but achievers whose presence so far has impacted positively on the nation’s socio-economic development.
Investigations by the Economic Confidential revealed that the Amazons in Jonathan’s cabinet are strong-willed, powerful and influential, in some cases very controversial female figures whose actions and even inactions could have different meanings.
The Ministers control sensitive and in some cases so-called juicy ministries as they oversee their respective ministries, parastatals and agencies.
Born on June 13, 1954, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala hails from Ogwasiku in Delta State and was reappointed by President Goodluck Jonathan to serve as Finance Minister and coordinate the Economic Team.
Okonjo-Iweala has always had firsts in her major outings, a First Class Graduate, First Female Finance and Foreign Affairs Minister in Nigeria and the first woman to serve as the Managing Director of the World Bank. Controversies sometimes trailed her actions even when such decisions are later found to have positive impact on the nation’s economy, for instance, when she led the Nigeria team that struck a deal with the Paris Club a group of bilateral creditors, to pay a portion of Nigeria’s external debt of $12 billion in return for an $18 billion debt write-off during the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
A reliable source in the Presidency told the Economic Confidential that the return of Okonjo-Iweala is to frontally address the need for the diversification of the economy, creation of job opportunity and increased private sector participation. Since her reappointment by President Jonathan she has been consulting on likely projects that could help to reduce re-current expenditure and concentrate on capital projects.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is not only the Finance Minister; she is Coordinating Minister for the Nigeria’s Economy and heads the rich and strong National Economic Management Team which comprises selected governors, ministers, manufacturers and CBN to tackle serious issues on the economy such as oil subsidy, fuel deregulation, minimum wage, labour strikes, Sovereign Wealth Funds, devalued currency. These are serious issues that require adequate attention from her team.
So far, her utterances are pointers to the economic direction of the government. She has promised to put in place measures to reduce high inflation in the country as the government is currently working towards the implementation of the country’s first Sovereign Wealth Fund, aimed at better managing Nigeria’s oil revenues but which governors are clamouring against.
In her maiden press briefing Okonjo-Iweala confessed that the Nigerian economy, with a debt profile of $39.7bn, was “still in a very good shape.” She disclosed that Nigeria’s debt stood at N5.2trn for domestic debt and $5.3 bn for the external debt.
While assuring the citizens she would reduce domestic borrowing, she pointedly stated that the government might soon secure a $550m foreign loan from the World Bank for Nigeria.
At a World Bank meeting in Washington DC she said: “We have an ambitious programme to create jobs. One of the several priorities is agriculture. We have very detailed plan for investment in agricultural sector. One of the things we did here in Washington was to start negotiating for extra financing from the World Bank. We are in discussion with them to see if they can advance about $500m to support the Agricultural sector and $50m for the environment, because we see agriculture and environmental issues desirous of support.”
She lamented that the country spends over ?
1 trillion to import rice, wheat and sugar annually. The risk she said: “
If the price goes up internationally, we import inflation into the country; that’s where the risk lies.” She assured that government would continue to pursue the agenda of growing local food aggressively to reduce food import. The minister called for the support of the agriculture sector in terms of substituting the consumption of cassava with wheat flour given that abundant wheat was grown in the country.
Born on January 5, 1962, Princess Stella Oduah-Ogiemwonyi the current Minister of Aviation was one of the fund mobilisers for the electioneering campaign of President Goodluck Jonathan where she served as the Director of Administration and Finance for President’s campaign organisation.
Princess Stella Oduah-Ogiemwonyi a daughter of Igwe D.O. Oduah of Akili-Ozizor Community obtained her Bachelors and Masters Degree (in Accounting and Business Administration respectively) from the United States before she joined the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). She left the NNPC to establish the Sea Petroleum & Gas Company Limited (SPG), an independent marketer of petroleum products in Nigeria. She is married to the former Minister for Works, Engr. Chris.
When she came on-board as the Aviation Minister, she admitted that the state of Aviation Infrastructure, particularly the Airport Terminals, Runways, Control Towers, cooling systems and Conveyor Belts were
in terrible condition. The sacking of top chief executive officers of some parastatals under her ministry, without genuine reasons actually brought her to the limelight; this decision has led to relative stability in the air transport business.
She has continued to reiterate that the focus of her ministry is to make air travel the preferred and safest means of transportation, increase the growth of tourism industry and drive socio-economic growth in Nigeria. To achieve the stated vision, the ministry after due consultation with industry stakeholders came out with short, medium and long term strategic initiatives which include E-Modeling of 11 airports before the end of the year and to provide airfield lightning, navigational aids, meteorological instruments and other safety measures in all the airports in line with ICAO standards as well as strengthen the Accident Investigation Infrastructure.
Apart from deploying few state of the art security measures in some selected airports, Mrs. Stella has also developed E-Governance platform through a website that could provide links to the sites of major airlines to provide information on investment opportunities in the industry. The same platform would enable the Ministry to have management oversight on all Ongoing Projects and other activities.
Realizing the benefit of global networking, she has mandated all airlines to join the IATA platform to increase transparency in the revenue collection process and enable inter-airline ticket endorsement. Her intervention on the cost of aviation fuel to reduce operational cost of airline operators in an effort to reduce ticket prices has been very effective in checking excessive air fares on passengers.
Some of the notable development within the short period of her appointment was the completion of the new control tower, commencement and installation of equipments at Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano. There is also runway resurfacing at airports in Calabar, Ibadan, Maiduguri and Sokoto just as installation of low level windshear alert system (LLWAS) was made at Lagos Airports and Doppler weather radar system installed in Abuja.
Most of the country’s airports are undergoing power and water improvement projects including construction of new boreholes and water hydrants for the runway at Lagos, Jos, Abuja, Owerri and Kano. Like other ministries paying special attention to Bayelsa State, the Minister has awarded contracts for consultancy services for the Bayelsa Airport project under State airport developments.
Mrs. Deziani Alison-Madueke
Mrs. Deziani Alison-Madueke, is reputed to be one of the die-hard supporters of the aspiration of Goodluck Jonathan to become acting and later elected President of Nigeria. She is not only the first female to be appointed Petroleum Minister; she is the first woman to head an OPEC country delegation to the annual OPEC Meeting. Though she naturally looks quite and simple in her public composure and eloquent in public presentation, nevertheless Economic Confidential gathered that she is as tough as an iron lady who could move a mountain. Chief executive officers of parastatals under her supervision know that she means business whenever they are summoned before her. The Economic Confidential had previously reported how former GMD NNPC, late Shehu Ladan was sacked before the last electioneering in the country. Because of her loyalty to the President, she easily gets approvals for memos and other requests from the Federal Executive Council.
Born on December 6, 1960, Alison-Madueke holds a Bachelor degree in Architecture from Howard University, Washington DC, and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Cambridge. Before her appointment by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as Minister of Transport in 2007 and later Minister of Mines and Steel Development, she was External Affairs Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria Limited.
As the Petroleum Minister, Mrs. Alison-Madueke has ensured that that nation’s crude oil production has been consistently maintained above the budgeted production level of 2.3 million barrels per day which is attributed to the amnesty programme that allows for the renewal of production activities in wells hitherto shut as a result of the Niger Delta crisis. Her Ministry in conjunction with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) are concluding arrangement for contract award for advanced seismic data acquisition and processing where the seven in-land basins in the North including Bida, Gongola, Sokoto, Anambra, Dahomey, Chad and Benue are billed to benefit from the programme.
On the record gas supply for power generation and industrial use has been sustained with supply outstripping demand both in the Western and Eastern axis. The minister recently disclosed that Contracts for the critical pipeline infrastructure for gas supply to Alaoji, Olorunsongo have been awarded with projects’ completion in 2012. Upon completion, this would lead to the availability of additional gas to generate extra 2000MW of electricity.
There has generally been increased investor confidence in the Gas Revolution with additional gas utilization projects being pursued. These include: 2.75 metric tonnes per annum Dangote Fertilizer plant in Edo State; 2.4metric tonnes per annum Brass Fertilizer plant in Bayelsa State; 1.34 metric tonnes per annum Indorama Fertilizer and 1.2MTPA methanol plants at Eleme, Rivers State and 450, 000 tonnes per annum methanol plant at Onne, Rivers State.
Products Supply has been sustained nationwide through a combination of offshore processing, SWAP arrangements and increased domestic refining. Her ministry has seen the re-streaming of Kaduna Refinery and sustained operation of Warri Refinery while the issue of kerosene availability has been tackled through NNPC direct distribution programme.
The integrity of key product pipeline infrastructure (Kaduna-Kano, Kaduna-Gusau, Kaduna-Suleja) has been re-established. The impact of this is that more products are now available in inland depots, which will enable faster intervention when necessary.
Security contracts awarded to even ex-militants for the protection of a major crude oil supply pipeline (Escravos-Warri) has improved capacity utilization of Warri Refinery which has achieved over 70% production.
The detailed feasibility studies for the three Greenfield Refineries to be sited in Lagos, Kogi and Bayelsa have been c
oncluded with preliminary report reviewed. Meanwhile the Nigerian Content Act which has been signed by the President would guarantee that a huge chunk of the estimated $20 billion annual industry spend domicile in the country for the benefit of Nigerians and indigenous Nigerian Companies and Service Providers.
The most interesting development is the absorption of over 5000 engineers, geologists, welders and other skill sets into the industry and formed the basis of a national skill database through the development of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Employment and Training Strategy.
At a press briefing recently she claimed that: “what we have done in the oil and gas industry is unprecedented in the history of this country. No one can reel out in details what we have done in terms of creating jobs for our youths. It is left for them to fit into this initiative.”
Prof. Ruqqayat Ahmed
Always in her Islamic costume; the Hijab,
Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufai, the Minister of Education from Jigawa State was born on February 19, 1959. She holds Bachelor’s and Masters degrees in History from prestigious Bayero University Kano before obtaining Ph.D in Education from West Virginia University. She has an inspiring public service career of over 28 years as a lecturer and an administrator. She has several publications to her credit and is a multiple award winner.
A member of many professional bodies and a resource person at several conferences both within and outside Nigeria, Prof. Rufai is known to be actively involved in community service. She is a two-time Commissioner in Jigawa State from where she is appointed Minister.
Her reappointment was attributed to the way and manner she carried along other stakeholders, especially parastatals under her supervision. The same cooperation, she is extending to the new Minister of State for Education, Chief (Barr.) Ezenwo Nyesom Wike whom she gives free hand to play prominent role on their mandate in the educational sector.
The Professsor has so far inaugurated Task Teams to fashion out a Four-Year Strategic Plan to address the challenges facing the Education Sector and to reposition it to be able to produce individuals with the skills and competences that would drive the socio-economic sector of the economy and to make Nigeria globally competitive.
The Economic Confidential gathered that the Ministry of Education through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund had commenced the construction of 58 schools for the Almajiris, while the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, is constructing 51 of such schools. The Government has also set in motion modalities to ensure that all nine newly established Federal Universities start academic programmes within the 2011/2012 session. The new universities are situated in Bayelsa, Ekiti, Jigawa, Katsina, Taraba, Gombe, Nassarawa, Kogi and Ebonyi States.
The training and re-training of teachers has received a major boost as the Government has committed N9.2billion to this programme through the National Teachers Institute and UBEC.
The ministry is working towards promoting school debating culture amongst Nigerian students to encourage them to research into critical areas of national development. The programme of the President’s School Debate would be incorporated into the national Bring Back the Book Programme which will be well funded and monitored to achieve the desired results.
The sum of N5.5 billion has also been provided through Education Trust Fund to fast-track the take-off of the Life and Human Sciences, University of the African Union, to be hosted by the University of Ibadan.
She made scholarship offer attractive to deserving students by increasing the allowances for postgraduates and undergraduates in Nigeria to one hundred and fifty thousand naira, and one hundred thousand naira.
The present administration has instituted the tertiary institutions staff development programme where more than 4,500 academic staff have benefited with 1,109 studying overseas. The sum of N562 million has been released as counterpart funds for international bilateral scholarships awarded to Nigerian students by foreign countries.
Though the Ministry is yet to resolve the incessant strikes by the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities, ASUU, Professor Rufai has initiated moves to amend the relevant law on the issue of raising the retirement age of professors to 70 years in line with its agreement with ASUU.
The Economic Confidential further learnt that the minister is working towards the conversion of Kaduna Polytechnic and Yaba College of Technology to universities so that they would increase access to tertiary education.
Hajiya Zainab Maina
Hajiya Zainab Maina’s 100 days in office as the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development of the Federal Republic of Nigeria were quite impressive when she listed some of the highlight during a Press Conference in Abuja. She was among the few ministers whose presentation was adjudged coherent, logical and visible. She was born on 7 August 1948, in Adamawa state and obtained a Diploma in Administration and Higher National Diploma in Catering and Hotel Management from Kaduna Polytechnic. She also obtained a certificate in Institution Building Activities from the Centre for Development & Population, Washington DC, USA.
Hajia Maina apart from holding several board appointments including Chairman, National Council for Nomadic Education and Garki Microfinance Bank, she was once the National President – National Council for Women Societies (NCWS) before heading into active politics where she holds sway as part of the think-tank and Member, PDP Elders Committee and of Board of Trustees. Before her appointment as Women affairs Minister she was Executive Director, Women Affairs of the Jonathan/Sambo Presidential Campaign (2010).
Though Ministry of Women Affairs is largely a programme development organ of the government, it has few capital projects in terms of construction or infrastructural facilities. Since her appointment as Minister, most of her activities ar
e in the area of advocacy, sensitization, public enlightenment and the need to meet Nigeria’s commitments on International Conventions, Treaties and Protocols.
She has admitted during her 100 days in office that her tenure in Office so far as Minister were devoted to Agenda setting; giving policy directions; establishing contacts; mapping out policy, programmes, and projects implementation strategies, and getting all Officers and staff to understand her areas of focus as well as management/leadership styles.
Nevertheless, she had undertaken several advocacy visits and sensitization programmes and was able to collaborate with various agencies on Women Empowerment and capacity building. The collaborations include that with ExxonMobil, Centre for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA) in the Global Women in Management (GWIM), Nigerian Bar Association and the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA).
There were also other collaborations with Nigerian Capital Development Fund for the take-off of a National Grassroots Revolving Loan Fund as part of efforts to reduce poverty and unemployment in the country; and with Global Integrated Services Limited to mobilize resources to implement the provisions of the UN African Decade for Persons with Disabilities.
The ministry has also launched Database for Vulnerable Children in Nigeria which was supported by some Development Partners for effective national response to challenges facing Vulnerable Children in the country. She has initiated action to establish partnership with the Polish Government on International Cooperation and Cultural Exchange for the empowerment of the Nigerian Women and providing succour to displaced Nigerian Families, families in distress; Persons with Disabilities and Other Vulnerable Groups in Nigeria.