It took President Muhammadu Buhari 54 days after his second term began to send a list of ministerial nominees to the Nigerian Senate for screening. This is a better record than his first term, which began in May 2015. Then Nigerians had to wait six months before the list of ministerial portfolios and offices was announced.
This time around the Senate took just a few days to approve the list, the vast majority of whom served in Buhari’s previous cabinet. Only 14 out of 43 were first-term cabinet members.
The big change was that Buhari elected to expand cabinet positions from 36 to 43. This is likely to mean an expansion of the ministries from the current 23 to accommodate all the appointees.
In Buhari’s first term there were 15 women. That number has more than halved to seven.
In 2015 the excuse for the lengthy delay was that the president needed time to make the selection. This was because he was seeking to appoint individuals untainted by the endemic corruption that has come to typify politics in Nigeria. Back then, Nigerians were open to giving the president a grace period. Several analysts agreed that the blatant corruption seen under Goodluck Jonathan’s administration played a major role in the goodwill towards Buhari.
But it soon became clear that Buhari’s administration would not be radically different. The first cabinet was made up of individuals who were known more for being the president’s political bedfellows than for their technocratic qualifications or achievements. That in itself is not out of the ordinary in almost any political dispensation across the globe. An easily agreeable cabinet makes for swifter and less contentious decision-making.
In Nigeria, however, it is viewed more like compensation for previous political support than selections made on merit.
Buhari’s new cabinet is just like the last. But his supporters are likely to argue that politics, especially in contemporary Nigeria, requires a heavy amount of pragmatism.
What, then, have we learned from Buhari’s appointments?
In my view, the second term cabinet make-up reflects the moribund state of political governance in Nigeria and the tone-deafness of Buhari’s government. Some of the names on the ministerial list are of politicians who have previously been charged with corruption. Others have been associated with corrupt practices while in political office .
And almost all the names on the list are politicians who have served in government in one form or another before – former governors, senators, and political office holders. This raises questions about the sincerity of the president’s pledge in 2015 to select incorruptible people as ministers.
Issues to be considered
There’s a lot that’s wrong with the cabinet.
Firstly, choosing a ministerial cabinet in Nigeria isn’t as simple as just selecting random individuals, even if they are the most qualified candidates. Nigeria has a complex political reality that has to be taken into consideration to fully appreciate the rationale that underlies the way governance looks within the country.
One factor that must be considered is Nigeria’s ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity. To ensure equal representation, the Nigerian Constitution stipulates that each of the country’s 36 states must be represented in the cabinet.
This was necessitated by the ethnic marginalisation that came about after the “forced” amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria by the British, the Biafran Civil War, and several other difficult historical episodes. So, in choosing prospective ministers from each of the 36 states in the country, it could be argued that Buhari is simply following standard political precedent.
It’s also clear that Buhari has again found it prudent to reward political allies with positions. In truth, this is normal practice in most countries. One must ask, then, why the expectations were different where Buhari’s cabinet was concerned. The answer is that he has been a self-declared anti-corruption reformer since his first term. Going against the political grain by choosing merit over kinship might have alienated some of his allies. But it would have gained him goodwill among the Nigerian people.
The gender imbalance of Buhari’s cabinet also serves to advance a common refrain that his government is tone-deaf. The president was criticised during his first term for not appointing enough women ministers. Buhari made a promise to address this during his second term. But the opposite has happened.
This gives the impression of a government that is resistant to progressive ideas and change and makes no pretence about it.
For cynical observers of the current administration, the adverse effect the drawn-out wait for the ministerial list has had on Nigeria’s economy has not been worth it. If anything, it is a reminder of the snailspeed approach that the current administration has adopted in managing the nation’s affairs.
The nation’s security sector is in poor shape; abductions and terror attacks are becoming commonplace. There seems to be no end in sight to the Fulani herdsmen crisis either. The economy is still being supported by foreign loans, and there have been grim prognostications from the likes of the International Monetary Fund. There is a very real risk of recession.
Adding to that, the early criticisms of Buhari’s government for its lack of a coherent fiscal policy still have currency.
In conclusion, if there is a recurring theme to be picked up from Buhari’s cabinet, it is that things are set to remain the same for the next four years in terms of the political governance, and the administration’s poor management of the Nigerian economy.
The U.S. Commerce Department is expected to extend a reprieve given to Huawei Technologies that permits the Chinese firm to buy supplies from U.S. companies so that it can service existing customers, two sources familiar with the situation said.
The "temporary general license" will be extended for Huawei for 90 days, the sources said.
Commerce initially allowed Huawei to purchase some American-made goods in May shortly after blacklisting the company in a move aimed at minimizing disruption for its customers, many of which operate networks in rural America.
An extension will renew an agreement set to lapse on August 19, continuing the Chinese company's ability to maintain existing telecommunications networks and provide software updates to Huawei handsets.
The situation surrounding the license, which has become a key bargaining chip for the United States in its trade negotiations with China, remains fluid and the decision to continue the Huawei reprieve could change ahead of the Monday deadline, the sources said.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to discuss Huawei in a call this weekend, one of the sources said.
Huawei did not have an immediate comment. China's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.
When the Commerce Department blocked Huawei from buying U.S. goods earlier this year, it was seen as a major escalation in the trade war between the world’s two top economies.
The U.S. government blacklisted Huawei alleging the Chinese company is involved in activities contrary to national security or foreign policy interests.
As an example, the blacklisting order cited a criminal case pending against the company in federal court, over allegations Huawei violated U.S. sanctions against Iran. Huawei has pleaded not guilty in the case.
The order noted that the indictment also accused Huawei of “deceptive and obstructive acts”.
At the same time the United States says Huawei's smartphones and network equipment could be used by China to spy on Americans, allegations the company has repeatedly denied.
The world's largest telecommunications equipment maker is still prohibited from buying American parts and components to manufacture new products without additional special licenses.
Many Huawei suppliers have requested the special licenses to sell to the firm. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters late last month he had received more than 50 applications, and that he expected to receive more.
Out of $70 billion that Huawei spent buying components in 2018, some $11 billion went to U.S. firms including Qualcomm, Intel and Micron Technology.
The Commerce Department late on Friday declined to comment, referring to Ross’s comments to CNBC television earlier this week in which he said the existing licenses were in effect until Monday.
Asked if they would be extended he said: “On Monday I'll be happy to update you.”
Travellers from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and New Zealand will from Thursday no longer require a visa to visit South Africa for holidays, conferencing or business meetings.
Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi made the announcement during his budget speech on Thursday. These countries are four of seven Motsoaledi said would be granted visa-free status.
Motsoaledi said the department would implement visa waivers for Ghana, Cuba, and Sao Tome and Principe after negotiations with these countries had been concluded. He said the department was scheduled to complete these negotiations by the end of this month and the implementation would follow soon thereafter.
"We took this decision (to waive visa requirements) unilaterally but we are engaging these countries to see how they can relax entry requirements for our citizens. I am glad to say that Qatar has already waived visa requirements for South Africans and this will enable our people to attend Qatar's Fifa World Cup 2022 easier," Motsoaledi said.
He said the department was continuously reviewing its operations to contribute toward growing the economy, facilitating the creation of jobs and securing the country's borders.
"Home affairs has an important contribution to make in growing tourism and by extension growing the economy and creating jobs. We are constantly reviewing our operations to ensure that we relax entry requirements without compromising our responsibility towards the safety and security of our citizens," Motsoaledi said.
The country had already waived the visa requirement for 82 of the 193 countries who were members of the UN. Eighteen of the countries enjoying a visa-free status in South Africa were on the continent with all Southern African Development Community countries enjoying this status, except for the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Motsoaledi said those countries enjoying the visa-free status were among the nations accounting for the majority of international tourists to SA from the continent, Europe and the Americas.
Trade tensions between the United States and China have sent a shiver across Southeast Asia, a region that depends heavily on both sides for its economic health, but when it comes to 5G, many countries in the region have shrugged off a U.S. ban on Chinese telecommunications equipment.
Their responses to Washington's on Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co. vary in line with their different levels of economic development, their aims in deploying next-generation 5G networks, and the state of their political relations with the United States and China.
What has made it difficult for countries to ignore Huawei is not only its edge in the development of 5G but also the fact that it has in recent years cultivated strong and close business ties with many countries in Southeast Asia.
"It has to be acknowledged that Huawei is a very established telecommunications player with strong brand equity and substantial ties to the Southeast Asia region," said Mansur Khamitov, an assistant professor at the Nanyang Business School, part of Singapore's state-run Nanyang Technological University.
"When a dominant company like this which has grown into a technology giant attempts to penetrate a certain market, it is typically very hard for key business, government, and consumer stakeholders to resist such efforts, particularly if we talk about developing countries," he said.
"This is likely what's happening with several Southeast Asian countries still choosing Huawei in spite of the U.S. warning of cybersecurity concerns and staying away from Huawei," he said.
The Philippines' Globe Telecom Inc. last month launched Southeast Asia's first commercial 5G fixed wireless internet service in the Philippines to provide high-speed home broadband to more households by using Huawei's equipment.
Its relationship with Huawei harks back to 2011 when it roped in the telecom giant as its technology partner for the implementation of a US$700 million network modernization program. In 2015, Globe signed a five-year contract with Huawei for the planning and design of a wireless broadband network, as well as the creation of a wireless innovation center.
In Malaysia, for example, Huawei was appointed an adviser to the government in developing the local talent pool for the info-communication technology (ICT) sector. In 2016, it opened an ICT innovation hub and center of excellence to accelerate digital economy transformation in the country.
Despite Western countries' warnings about cybersecurity risks, the Huawei booth to promote its technology for safe cities at the Interpol conference in Singapore recently attracted a steady stream of Southeast Asian delegations.
"Their technology is nice. Technology comes first, they have intelligent cameras," said Daniel Dela Cruz, a consultant for the security and command center in the provincial government of Pangasinan in the Philippines.
"Our concern is disaster management and crime prevention. International concerns like the trade war between the United States and China are not really our concern," he said.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad recently expressed cynicism about U.S. cybersecurity concerns over Huawei and has voiced support for the Chinese company.
On the other hand, Singapore, which has a close relationship with the United States but also burgeoning business ties with China, is eager to balance both sides.
"Many developing countries are more reliant on Huawei, and Singapore is probably less reliant on Huawei than other countries," said Sachin Mittal, an analyst at DBS Group Research.
According to Huawei officials, among the countries that have commercially launched 5G networks, two-thirds of them used Huawei to help construct their systems. As of the end of June this year, Huawei has gained 50 5G commercial contracts and shipped more than 150,000 base stations.
"Right now globally Huawei has the most advanced 5G equipment, being 12 months ahead, followed by Ericsson," said a Singapore official familiar with Singapore's 5G plans who declined to be identified.
Singapore is now in the process of defining and selecting its 5G system and the accompanying equipment as it plans to roll out 5G by next year. The situation is "really tricky at the moment" for Huawei due to the close U.S.-Singapore relations, the official said, adding he believes that "Singapore does not want to choose sides."
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in June this year stressed the importance of trust when it comes to 5G, saying, "I need to have trust in order to use the system, and if I suspect that you will abuse my trust to compromise my systems, I will not be able to do business with you."
Another factor is ensuring there is vendor diversity.
"The telcos will talk to whichever vendors they want to. We are open to vendors from different countries to install their 5G equipment. As a government, we believe that there should be more than one vendor across Singapore," said the Singapore official.
Khamitov believes the company's efforts to reassure key stakeholders about their concerns will be a key factor.
At present, Singapore's plan for 5G is quite different from other countries in Southeast Asia.
While bigger countries use 5G for so-called last-mile coverage, to link up more far-flung locations, in Singapore, high-speed broadband is already well connected to homes and offices in the small island state while the mobile telecommunications rates are also fairly competitive.
As a result, Singapore sees 5G more as the backbone for the development of a world-class digital infrastructure for its envisioned digital economy in the future. It also aims to be a global hub for innovation in 5G applications and services and exporting such innovations.
"What we hope to see is people will use 5G to develop interesting applications to give us a bit of competitive edge worldwide," said the Singapore official.
Credit: The Mainichi