Nigerian female ministers and the task ahead



Mary Amodu profiles the female ministers in President Mohammedu Buhari’s administration and the tasks ahead

About two months after taking the oath of office for his second term, President Muhammadu Buhari released the much-awaited list of ministers who will assist him to deliver his electoral promises compressed into a campaign theme and matra known as ‘Next Level.’

Subsequently, the retired Army-General included names of seven women among 43-man committee who were later cleared by the legislative chambers and were assigned portfolios on Wednesday August 21 at a well-attended event (inauguration), which held at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

The positions assigned for the seven women include: Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development; Ministry of Finance, Budget and Planning; Ministry of Federal Capital Territory (State); Transportation Ministry (State); Ministry of Environment (State); Ministry of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development; Ministry of Trade and Investment (State).

Those who were appointed to man the ministries respectively are: Mrs Dame Pauline Tallen, Hajia Ahmed Shamsuna Zainab, Hajia Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, Mrs Rukayat Gbemisola Saraki, Barr. Sharon Ikeazor, Hajia Sadiya Farouk and Amb. Maryam Katagum.

Before Buhari assigned the portfolios to the confirmed ministers, mixed reactions from various women advocate groups had trailed appointments of the ‘few’ seven, which according to them is very low compared to their expectations during President’s campaign.

Lucidly, the appointed women capture 16.3%, and even it is 15.9% when Buhari as Petroleum minister is joined as against 35% the President’s campaign committee promised before 2019 general elections.

LEADERSHIP recalls that Buhari’s campaign organisation while seeking support of Nigerian women, in a document titled ‘Next Level Roadmap,’ had said, “To achieve 35 per cent in female appointments, more youth appointment on boards, special mentoring programme in governance with young graduates working with ministers and other senior government appointees.”

It would be recalled that the Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Women Trust Fund, Mufuliat Fijabi, had in an interview expressed disappointment over the number of women on the list, saying it was preferable to have had at least 35 per cent representation of women.

She said, “So far, we’ve seen a few names of women on the list and we’re not very happy, because the number of women is not what we expected from the President. We would have preferred a situation whereby at least 35 per cent of the list is made up of women. We like the fact that he still considered women, but we are not happy with the number. So, we hope that there will still be room for him to ensure that we have a minimum of 35 per cent.

“Sincerely, Nigeria, as we speak today, is not practising what we would describe as inclusive democracy because of the almost absence of women.” Asked if Buhari had broken his promise to make women 35 per cent of his appointments, she said, “Yes, I would say so. Although he hasn’t given reasons why he did that, in my opinion, he didn’t fulfill his promise. He has only appointed a few women, which we thank him for; but he hasn’t fulfilled his promise to the Nigerian people.”

However, what is now on the lip of many Nigerians, particularly Women in politics advocates, since the appointed ‘few’ have been given portfolios, is how they would justify the confidence reposed in them by delivering excellently in their various ministries in line with the campaign promises of ‘Next Level’ agenda considering enormous challenges that ravaged those ministries in the last four years.

If highlights below is critically looked into, navigating the ‘deep oceans’ in the various ministries will be easier for the actors involved.

Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development


This important ministry which is being manned by Mrs Pauline Dame Tallen is embedded with many challenges.

Some women leaders under the aegis of the FMWASD claim that they have made impact in Nigeria, such may not have been significant.
Under the ministry’s watch, rape cases have been on the rise without much concerted efforts from it to tackle the menace.

More often than not, the ministry has relinquished its responsibilities to NGOs, as it lacks the political will to fully addressing the challenges of women, which several challenges, including health, education, business, politics among others.

There is still an opportunity for FMWASD to review its strategies and consider how to accelerate the 2030 agenda, building momentum for the effective implementation of SDG N0.5, which is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

It should be looking in the direction of using integrated and innovative approaches and new solutions that disrupt “the usual” to advance gender equality and empowerment of women, particularly in the areas of social protection, participation in decision making, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure. 

Therefore, for Nigeria to attain gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls i.e. SDG 5, which is at the centre of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, Tallen needs to use her wealth of experience to address the barriers to advancing women human rights particularly in education and politics.

The new Minister is also expected to continue to push for girl-child education because it is a strategic intervention for empowering them.

For those who might have not met Mrs Tallen, she is a Nigerian politician, born on 8th January 1959, with a sociology degree from University of Jos in 1982.
Tallen political career started in 1976, when she was the clerical officer at Shendam local government council, then later ministry of local government affairs.

In 2011, she joined Labour Party (Nigeria), then contested in the gubernatorial election of the state. By 1994, she was made a councillor in Plateau State. She was made commissioner in the state by the military government between 1994 and 1999.
In 1999, she was appointed Minister of state for science and technology, becoming the first woman to be appointed as a minister in that capacity by former president, Olusegun Obasanjo.

In 2007, she became the deputy governor of Plateau State and the first woman to be a deputy governor in northern Nigeria. She is a board member of National Agency for Control of Aids(NACA)
Before 2015 general elections, she decamped from PDP to APC, a move she believed angered some people in her state. However, she described the move as a calling from God, with no regrets. 

In 2015, she rejected an ambassadorial nomination by President Buhari, citing federal character and zoning in her state as reasons. Dame Pauline Tallen was recently appointed the minister of women affairs and social development.

Tallen, an astute politician and experience administrator is expected to change the narrative in the next four years.

She will supervise a ministry with the lowest of funds and which has suffered due to low budgetary allocation that has crippled its activities. However, with the little given to it, not much progress has been recorded; it is almost non-existent.

Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning

The biggest task ahead of the new manager of Nigeria’s finance house, Mrs Ahmed Shamauna Zainab is how to revive the country’s economy and propel growth. 

The Finance, Budget and National Planning Ministry is buffeted by sundry challenges, including late budget preparation/passage, poor implementation of fiscal plans, huge revenue shortfalls and the attendant delay in budget releases to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), the flagship medium-term economic blueprint of the federal government, which Ahmed helped to midwife while she was the Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, has failed to meet virtually all its specific timelines.

Now that the ERGP will fall under her supervision, it will be in the economic interest of the country to see what could be done to meet the oustanding targets within the remaining one year of the life of the blueprint.

With efforts being made to return to the December to January budget cycle, the onus is on the ministry to make such a target possible. 

Also, the issue of increasing debt accumulation, the fallout of a disproportionate ratio of revenue and expenditure should be tackled.

With her wealth of knowledge and experience in finance, Ahmed is in a good position to revive the economy and propel Nigeria towards growth.

Zainab Ahmed, born on 16th of June 1960, in Kaduna State is a Nigerian accountant. She had her secondary school education at Queen Amina College, Kaduna, and later proceeded to have her A’Level in Zaria. She got her first degree in Accounting from Ahmadu Bello University in 1981, after which she proceeded to Olabisi Onabanjo University for her MBA.

Ahmed’s MBA was obtained in August 2004 from the Ogun State University, Ago Iwoye; while her BSc Accounting (1981) was from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. Upon graduation, Ahmed was employed in 1982 as an Accountant II in the Main Accounts of Ministry of Finance in Kaduna State and was promoted to Accountant I in March 1984, but resigned in 1985 to join NITEL. 

Zainab Shamsuna was the immediate past executive secretary and national coordinator of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).
She was also a member of the last two NEITI boards, having worked in the NEITI and global EITI. Ahmed has served the Nigerian public in various high ranking positions, including as managing director of the Kaduna State of Nigeria’s investment company, and also the Chief Finance Officer of the Nigeria mobile telecommunications company.

Upon the resignation of the erstwhile Minister of Finance Kemi Adeosun on September 14, 2018, Ahmed was appointed as Finance Minister in September 2018. As Nigeria’s Finance Minister, Zainab bags new degree from PMB School of governance on Wednesday, May 22, 2019. Zainab was reappointed and sworn in as the Minister of Finance on the 21st of August 2019 by the President.

With the merging of ministries of finance and budget and national planning by President Muhammadu Buhari, Zainab Ahmed who’s returning as for a second tenure is not new to challenges facing the ministry and what is expected of her to do in order to achieve the mandate of the ministry.

Ministry of Federal Capital Territory (FCT)

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) administration is constrained by many challenges, which are undermining its ability to deliver on its critical mandate it was established for, 40 years ago.
However, the immediate past Women’s leader of All Progressives Congress, Hajia Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, the Minister of State of FCT will be working with Mohammed Musa Bello, who is returning as FCT Minister.

One of the key challenges is insufficient funding, which hampers and frustrates the efforts to provide key infrastructure for those living in the nation’s capital and its suburbs.

Between 2015 and 2018, out of the total N634 billion budget proposals to fund about 313 projects, only N354 billion was appropriated, while N162 billion was actually released for the same number of projects.
Also, the Abuja master plan has been abused resulting in environmental development disarray, slums and housing inadequacy. 

Abuja will grow into a model city if the Abuja urban actors would coordinate and properly execute the master plan and the development laws, integrated into a coordinated programme that would take advantage of urban development principles that would create the much-needed environment for the inhabitants.

Aliyu is expected ensure the digitalisation of urban transport and make Abuja like many urban cities in the world, restore CCTV projects and moribund traffic lights to reduce the height of insecurity, amongst others and with her wealth of knowledge in urban and regional planning, she should be able to  ensure the security of the entire territory and make it more responsive in terms of service delivery by the agencies of the FCTA.

For those who don’t know Aliyu before, she was born 12th June, 1970. She’s a Nigerian politician who hails from the popular confluence State in Nigeria. The newly inaugurated minister graduated in 1995 with Bachelor of Science degree (B.Sc) Urban and Regional Planning, after which she went to Nasarawa State University, Keffi, and obtained her Masters degree in Public Administration.

Hajia Aliyu was conferred with honorary Doctorate Degree in Public Administration by the Commonwealth University, London and also earned a certificate in Leadership Skills from the Abbey College, London. 

In 2004, Aliyu was appointed special adviser on Women affairs, Youth and Social Development to the chairman of the Gwagwalada area council, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, Nigeria.

In 2007, she ran for political office to represent Kwali/Abaji federal constituency in the Nigeria National Assembly (NASS) but her bid was unsuccessful, later a year in 2008.

She was the National Woman Leader of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) later All Progressive Congress (APC) after the party and other political parties merged (2014 – 2018).

Ministry of Trade, Industry and Investment

One of the major concerns of this ministry is to improve Nigeria’s business environment in order to enhance Ease of Doing Business and attract foreign investments.

In the era whereby made-in-Nigeria goods are constantly encountering problems accessing international markets, there are high expectations on the part of the minister to make exports more standardised and competitive among other things.

However, Amb. Mariam Katagum will be working closely with the newly appointed honourable minister, Mr Richard Adeniyi Adebayo to implement policies relating to industrialization of the economy, development of small and medium scale enterprises and promotion of exports and foreign direct investment and expansion of trade.

The Bauchi-born technocrat is expected to use her wealth of knowledge and experience in administration, planning and social development policy, to ensure that the Industry, Trade and Investment Ministry which is critical to the realisation of the country’s economic potentials, especially in the areas of industrialisation and boosting the investment prospects of the country as well as enhancing both domestic, regional and global trade is achieved.

Katagum must also ensure that the various trade agreements the country has had with various countries are domesticated, ensuring that Nigeria maximises its opportunities from the AfCTA, which it recently endorsed. 

Mrs Katagum was born in November 1954 at Azare, Nigeria. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts in English and a graduate certificate in Education at Ahmadu Bello university, Zaria in 1976. She holds Masters in Administration and Planning at the University of Lagos, as well as a certificate in social development policy, planning and practice at the University College, London in 1999.

She started her professional career with her National Youth Service, at the water board, Jos. She was a senior education officer at the Federal Government College Azare.

She was posted to the Nigerian National Commission for UNESCO from 1985 to 2000, where she rose to the position of sector secretary in the social and human sciences sector.

In 2001 she became the secretary general of the Nigerian National commission for UNESCO, in 2006 was given additional responsibility of supervising the National and international partnerships division of the Federal Ministry of Education.

During this time, she worked closely with the other agencies such as UNICEF, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), World Bank. She was nominated to serve in the Federal Executive Council by President Muhammadu Buhari on 23rd July 2009. And in 2019 she was appointed Minister of State for Industry, Trade and investment by the President Buhari.

Ministry of Environment

Despite having so many special initiatives to make the environment more human friendly to live in, the Ministry of Environment has turned out to be one of few federal ministries whose impact Nigerians hardly feel.

With such programmes as the Ogoni Cleanup, to remediate hydrocarbon-impacted sites in Ogoniland, Rivers State; the Green Bonds, which is fixed income securities issued to finance projects; the Great Green Wall Programme, conceived to address land degradation and desertification as well as boost food security and support communities to adapt to climate change in the Sahel-Sahara region of Africa, the ministry’s activities ought to have been more impactful that it is presently.

One critical area where the ministry will make such an impact is to come up with a firm policy document to deal with issues of global warming that have negatively affected the environment.

There are also ecological problems such as erosion and desertification bedeviling the Southern and Northern parts of the country that urgently require the ministry’s attention.

The ministry also needs to come up with an effective action plan to tackle flooding that has led to the death of many and loss of assets valued at millions of naira.

Therefore, the newly-appointed Minister of State for Environment, Barr. Sharon Ikeazor is expected to use her vast experience and knowledge in the field of project management to work with the Honourable minister, Dr Muhammed Mahmoud.

Though, the duo are expected to involve in a robust collaborative efforts make the ministry more relevant to Nigerians, take the ministry to an enviable ‘Next Level’ as championed by the Buhari administration, they have to gird their loins to make the environment friendlier to live in.

Barr. Sharon Ikeazor, a learned silk was born into the family of Chief Chimezie Ikeazor, SAN of Obosi, Anambra State, the founder of the legal aid for the poor scheme in Nigeria. She graduated with an LLB Hons in 1984 and was called to the Nigerians bar in 1985.

She has 27 years post graduation experience as a solicitor and advocate and a vast knowledge and experience in the field of business development for foreign multinational companies, project management, banking administration, national and international government liaison.

In her career, she worked with international oil companies, international consulting and engineering firms and rose to become the senior vice president of an international consulting firm.

In 2011, she joined politics and contested and won the post of the national women leader of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) which later merged to become (APC). In 2016, she was appointed as the executive secretary of Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) and also recently appointed as minister of State for environment by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Ministry of Transportation

Despite the fact that many physical jobs have been done in this sector in the last four years, the newly inaugurated ministers still have a lot of things to do. The new ministers’ hardest task on the maritime sector would be infrastructure. All access roads to all the nation’s ports are deplorable. Most guilty are the Eastern Ports, which are mainly redundant as a result of poor access.

Meanwhile, unlike in the last four years when former Rivers State governor, Hon.  Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi worked alone in this sector, a Kwara-born brilliant woman, Mrs Rukayat Gbemisola Saraki has been put beside him to complete his efforts and get thing back.

Saraki working with Amaechi may also need to activate the ministry to push for the quick dispensation of all outstanding bills relating to the sector still hanging at the National Assembly.
Six bills, among them; the Nigerian Railway Corporation Act 1954 Amendment Bill, the Nigerian Transportation Commission Bill, the Nigerian Shippers Council and Nigeria Ports Authority Amendment Bill among others must not be allowed to die with the eighth National Assembly.

In all, the overall expectation for Saraki is to achieve the mandate of the ministry which is to build a secure world class transportation system that facilitates Nigeria’s socio economic developmental needs and enhances the quality of public life.

For those who don’t know, Mrs Gbemisola Saraki attended the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics.

She worked for the Societe Generale Bank (Nigeria) as Head of Money Markets and later as Head of Domiciliary Accounts. From 1994 to 1999 she was Executive Director of Ashmount Insurance Brokers, Lagos. 

She was elected as a member of the House of Representatives in 1999 under the umbrella of the All People’s Party (APP). She ran under the umbrella of the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) for the senate in 2003 and won the seat, representing the Central Senatorial District of Kwara State. She re-contested in 2007 and won again, serving as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for eight years. 2003-2011. 

At the Senate, Gbemisola Saraki chaired several high profile committees, including, the Senate Committee on National Planning, Poverty Alleviation and Economic Affairs and the Senate Committee on Corruption. 

Gbemisola Saraki defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015. In February 2016, Saraki was appointed by President Muhammed Buhari as the Pro Chancellor and Chairperson of the Federal University Otuoke, Baylesa.

She has since engaged in numerous charity and humanitarian projects for Kwarans. Her humanitarian stance is rated as the biggest among elites in Kwara State.

She’s presently the Minister of State Transportation appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari on August 21, 2019. As Minister of State Transportation, Saraki will be expected to work closely with the minister Rotimi Amaechi to continue the strides of the Amaechi leadership.

Saraki will continue with reforms aimed at birthing for Nigeria a shipping line that would return the nation’s lost glory as the leading and biggest economy in the sub-region and in the African continent.

Ministry of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development

This newly created ministry, as its name implies, is expected to coordinate the national action for the protection and assistance of refugees, asylum seekers, returnees, stateless persons internally displaced persons (IDPs) and migrants.

The person appointed to be manning this ministry, Mrs Sadiya Umar Farouq who hails from Zurmi Local Government of Zamfara State will be expected to be working hand in hand with National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), having had the knowledge and experience needed to integrate the best projects, policies to achieve its mandate.

Mrs Farouq is expected to run a clean slate administration considering bad reports in the past concerning the mandate of this ministry where majority of relief materials meant for IDPs were diverted. By doing this, Madam Farouq will surely navigate the ‘deep ocean’.

The Zamfara-born technocrat was educated at the Federal Government Girls College Gusau, Zamfara State and Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Kaduna State graduating with a Bsc. in Business Administration (Actuarial Science) in 1998, before proceeding to earn her Master’s degree in International Affairs and Diplomacy in 2008 and also her Masters in Business Administration (MBA) in 2011 from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Kaduna State.

Between 1999 – 2000, Farouq, under the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Scheme served with the Nigeria National Assembly. She served under the Senate Committee on Aviation and worked with the Senate Committee on Appropriation.

She worked as Operations Manager at Pinnacle Travels and Tours Ltd (a Nigerian travel agency) between 2001 – 2003 before joining the National Assembly Service Commission as an Administrative Officer II in 2003 where she rose to the Position of Principal Administrative Officer before leaving the commission in 2010 to pursue her political ambitions.

She became the National treasurer of the CPC, from 2011 – 2013, and then Interim National Treasurer of the APC from 2013-2014 before her appointment as Member, All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council where she served in the directorates of election planning and monitoring, field operations, and fund raising, in preparation for the 2015 general elections which the APC won.

Sadiya was appointed the Honourable Federal Commissioner (HFC) of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) on September 26, 2016. Since her assumption in Office, Sadiya has developed a Strategic Roadmap of Action that will reposition the Commission as the lead government agency responsible for coordination, protection and assistance of Persons of Concern (PoC).

The Strategic Roadmap of the Commission focuses on total provision of durable solution to PoC, by implementing standardized procedures for utilizing Research, Data Gathering & Planning for Resettling, Rehabilitating, Reintegrating and Readmitting PoCs. 

In August 2019, she was appointed minister of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development, a newly created ministry by President Buhari. As a champion of humanitarianism, Farouq will definitely work well in achieving the mandate and challenges that will come with the creation of this  new ministry. Having worked as the commissioner of NCFRMI, whose mandate.