The will to accomplish and a clear definition of what to accomplish constitute the key role of every leadership function. It is given to President Muhammadu Buhari in credit that he is certain to be named when it comes to the roll call of people who have a heart of gold for the Nigerian nation.

And in defining the mission to be accomplished this sphere of his 8-year rule; he has set the Next Level Agenda to take one million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. He isn’t going to be there to lead all the way to 10 years but he has rolled the ball forward to the courts of the men and women he trusted and called for this purpose.

He has built a team of ministers and heads of government parastatals to champion the course at various strategic points. The team affirms that the Next Level project of the President isn’t a unilateral imposition but a product of teamwork crafted from a widely shared vision.

How realisable are the promises?

Are the promises of the Next Level Agenda achievable? The President’s team members’ answer is ‘yes’! They all back up their answers by pointing to various strategies they have designed to make the dream happen.

The President’s team has been reshaped at critical points for his second term in office to make a greater impact than the first. This includes slimming down overloaded ministries, creating new ministries and retaining/dropping some ministers and heads of government institutions.

The aim of it all is to position the team for optimisation of skill and expertise needed for the Next Level mission to be performed.

The poverty killer project is half way through to the President’s second four-year mandate. Top 10 Magazine went afield to track progress on the mission that holds so much in stake for the nation bathed and immersed in poverty.

Who makes the list?

Placing side by side the various tasks assigned and the overall goal of the mission, the President’s large team members were pruned down to the critical 10 handling the key points of project delivery.

Their strategies to carry out their respective tasks together with their actions and results so far were reviewed in the course of this work. The outcome has provided a dependable platform to see whether the set goal can be attained just two years to go.

Among the strategic 10 that made the list are those charting the course of information communication technology development whose duty is to lead Nigeria seamlessly to the digitalized world. Their role is to digitalise the economy to widen the space for innovation and deliver technology-driven jobs.

There are in the team the physical infrastructure developers on whom the hopes for bridging the nation’s decades of infrastructure gap depends. On board also is a technocrat in the agric sector where the biggest job creation and poverty reductionis targeted to happen.

A tax specialist is in the team to show the way in driving non-oil revenue to provide the much needed resources to fuel the engine of the President’s Next Level Agenda. Someone is also placed on duty to secure the other side of oil revenue in the Niger Delta with community development projects.

Prosperity -10 years ahead

In the top 10 team is a man assigned to deal with the challenges of taking innovation to solid minerals and steel development. He is to optimise Nigeria’s mineral value chain,reinforce the economic diversification goal and deliver new jobs.

A woman is part of the President’s top 10, who was assigned the role of a motherly care to the large and rising number of people who are victims of insecurity, natural and man-made disasters that strew the nation’s streets daily.

The editors report some progress found towards the promises of the Next Level Agenda yet mountains to cross to get to the other side that is free of poverty. They found that the nation still has a long and tedious journey ahead from poverty to prosperity.

Godswill Akpabio – Minister of Niger Delta Affairs

Senator Godswill Akpabio, minister of oil-rich Niger Delta Affairs and former governor of Akwa Ibom State, is in charge of the affairs of a region that must produce the money for President Muhammadu Buhari’s Next Level Agenda to kick off and run. And he has given his word of assurance, a declaration or even a bet that the region would deliver what it takes for the presidential agenda to coast to destination.

“I will do my best to help the president to take Nigeria to the next level”, he vowed. He is counting on his wealth of experience in public and private service, his commitment to the task on hand and hard work to make this happen. “With my wealth of experience as a former governor, senator and lawyer, I have a lot to offer Nigerians.

“We are going to work so hard to ensure that the president leaves a legacy to all Nigerians, not just in the area of fighting corruption but we also want Nigerians to remember they once had a president dedicated to putting the country on the right track”, he said.

His readiness to work with the President to take the country to the next level reflects his desire to see Nigeria overcome its present challenges. He is eager to see the government put insecurity behind the nation, stabilise the economy, increase foreign direct investment inflow and get the nation back on the threshold of industrialisation.

Now that he has got an opportunity to have his hands on deck at the national scale, Akpabio promises that there will be a difference in the results of governance. “Nigerians should expect higher performance, commitment to service and dedication to the country,” he declared.

That level of confidence is rare to come by in Nigeria’s otherwise uncertain economic and political scenarios. Akpabio however draws his convictions from a track record of his performance credentials.  “If you look at my record…, they should look at my track record, which is very impressive in terms of dedication to quality service.

 “Therefore, expect a lot of uncommon representation and uncommon performance that will culminate in uncommon achievements,’’ he assured.

As to what he would do in specific terms to help the President to take Nigeria to the next level, the minister said it is simply to shut the doors against fleeing investment capital and to open the doors for capital inflow into the country.

“It is worrisome that many manufacturing companies have left the country. In Kano alone, more than 15 textile companies have left due to issue of decay in infrastructures. We will close the doors of people exiting Nigeria and open doors to make people come in, especially the investors”, he said.

Again, he wants to work with the government to generate reliable statistics that will enable planning. “We must know the number of people coming out of our universities and the numbers of children that are being born in our hospitals, to enable us make proper plans.

“As a minister, I’m ready to work and do my best in any ministry it pleases Mr. President to assign me. Wherever I find myself, I will leave the people better than I meet them,’’ he said.

Specifically for the Niger Delta region, Akpabio has raised the hopes that the President has finally opened the chapter for development with his appointment. He wants the people to see that a region that lays the golden egg but neglected for too long can now hope for priority development projects in the Next Level Agenda of the President.

“I love leaving marks wherever I visit, it is a great privilege on our part being selected to work with you, to see how we can turn around the fortunes of the Niger Delta region”, he said.

Akpabio’s commitment to ensuring effective development in the region is total if anything to ensure the fulfillment of the promises under the President’s Next Level Agenda, especially in the areas of infrastructures and employment creation.

“Being a Niger Delta person, I will ensure that things are better for further and effective development of the region. “So the President is looking forward to commissioning a lot of projects in the Niger Delta region. “I believe the Niger Delta region and its people, they are looking forward to the alleviation of poverty in their lives and transformation of infrastructures,” he said.

The nation needs peace in the Niger Delta region to guaranty the flow of oil earnings to Nigeria’s revenue-starving economy. Akpabio is the President’s man to secure the much needed peace. His strategy to achieve it is to trade development with peace.

He understands that his ministry is an interventionist agency in the Niger Delta and pledges to conduct its affairs to make the needed intervention. “Peace is extremely important there for the benefit of the residents, companies doing businesses there and government at all levels. I won’t engage myself in politically motivated projects that have no bearing on the lives of the people.’’

According to him, peace can only be achieved when the people are satisfied with positive performance. If people do not feel the development impact of government, there will be no peace in the region, he advised.

Rotimi Amaechi – Minister of Transportation

Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transport, has so blended with the government of President Muhammadu Buhari that he threads a path of exceptionality within the corridors of power. Politicians differ widely on how far they know the game but the Rivers State-born two-time minister seems to know all the tricks and tactics. 

The Buhari-led government has moved from ‘Change’ mantra to ‘Next Level Agenda’ and Amaechi has been a key figure in the drive all the way. He is easily seen as the ‘poster minister’ in the stage. But characteristic of a politician who is craving for yet a big role in the future, he passes on all the credit to his boss.

“The credit for achievements rightly goes to the President not only because his attention is on infrastructure but everything we have achieved is his vision,” he said. A defender of the President to the core – home or away, from ‘Change’ to ‘Next Level Agenda’, Amaechi displays a level of loyalty that isn’t quite differentiable from hero worship.

He has a reason for his devotion. “I admire his love for the country”, he said.

The minister has all the way held himself as a team player in government, a right hand disciple of a man he believes in and an aggressive pursuer of an agenda he has helped to craft behind the scene.

One of the greatest achievements of the Buhari government in the area of infrastructures so far has happened under his ministry. He has pursued the development of railway infrastructures with a passion with the overriding purpose of delivering the promises of Buhari’s Next Level Agenda.

“Railway is a social service that will boost the economy. It will create employment. It will enhance manufacturing, logistics, which is transportation power. It will create industries around its corridors”, he said.

Amaechi isn’t out just to show his boss in good light but to show how his administration has been beneficial to the people. He points out how railway development will solve problems for those who do business between the linked cities.

He presses that the beneficial actions and the good intension of government warrants a better appreciation and assessment than is apparent.

Amaechi has been quite active in the ministry of transport where he has been in charge since 2015. He has records of progress to show for his stewardship with the changes he brought about in the transport system.These include the development of the rail sub-sector, improvement of security in Nigerian waterways, seaport reorganisation for efficiency and regulatory improvement in the operations of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

The Abuja-Kaduna rail line and Lagos-Ibadan line are ranked the biggest achievements under his tenure as minister with some progress made in other rail projects underway.

“Now you can go to Kaduna from Abuja regularly and safely by rail; we are almost concluding the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge, and we are also renegotiating with a South African firm under a public-private partnership to rehabilitate the narrow gauge lines.

“There is a lot of improvement in the waters. We contracted 495 million dollars to the Israelis to secure our waters for two years.

“That way, the cost of transporting goods into Nigeria will reduce and the delay time of cargoes at the seaport has started reducing.

“We are partnering with the Ministry of Works to work on the Lagos road that leads to the seaport and that will tackle the traffic gridlock experienced on the axis.

“So far, we are satisfied that we have made our contributions,’’ he said. He attributes any achievements in office to the support and commitment of the President. “The president’s commitment to developing rail infrastructure was the secret behind our success in the ministry of transportation,’’ he said.

He said his challenge on the job is that the projects are capital intensive and the funds are not just there. He said the Lagos-Ibadan rail project was funded with a loan of $1.4 billion.

Other projects of his ministry include the Ibadan-Kano railway, the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri and Lagos to Calabar railway projects, the repositioning of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron in Akwa Ibom and the establishment of the University of Transportation in Daura.

Ali Isa Pantami – Minister of Communication & Digital Economy

Dr. Ali Isa Pantami, is minister of Communications & Digital Economy, where he drives government’s vision of creating a digital economy. It is the plan of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to enhance the performance of the economy under his Next Level Agenda through the use of information communication technology to drive government and commercial activities.

Improvement of processes is expected to enhance output across sectors and industries in the economy and boost Nigeria’s GDP. The multiplier effect of that is targeted to drive new jobs, power household incomes and deliver the key promise of lifting people out of poverty.

Pantami is eager to get this done byensuring a practicalapproach is adopted to usher in e-government through strategic implementation in line with the Next Level Agenda of the President. He expects that moving e-government implementation to the next level will in turn work to move the economy to the next level.

He has in place the e-government master plan and wantsevery hand to be on deck in translating itinto action in order to bring about the expected benefits by way of socio-economic development. His plan is that a lot of the job creation needed to lift Nigerians out of povertywould be digital jobs. “We want to ensure that all the agencies under the ministry play significant roles in the area of e-government implementation”, he said.

The capacity of his ministry to keep Nigeria at same pace of digitisation with the rest of the world was tested and proven during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The surprising rate at with Nigeria adjusted instantly to the e-world speaks of a sector that has made a major transformation in a short period of time. The opportunity to switch over to digital economic activities at the economic lockdown in 2020 paved the way for Nigeria to stem the tide of economic decline and quickly resume growth.

ICT is a rapidly growing industry and the minister wants to plug into it to quicken the rest of the Nigerian economy. The industryhas grown the size of its contribution to GDP, reaching anunprecedented mark of 17.8 percentin the first half of 2020.This is a phenomenal growth within a space of one year.

Pantami attributed the strongand rising contribution of the ICT to GDP as a direct result of focused and committed effort of the President. According to him, the strategic policy directions of the federal government include the inclusion of digital economy in the mandate of his ministry.

It also encompasses the unveiling and implementation of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy and the National Broadband Plan, amongst others. The minister has recorded reasonable progress in pursuit of these targets.

He said broadband penetration in the country has grown rapidly to the region of 42 percent as at July last year.This, he said,is a remarkable achievement that translates to a percentage increase of almost double digits in less than one year.

Implementation of broadband connectivity for development of a digital economy is a key priority of government assigned to his ministry. The implementation of the New National Broadband Plan (2020-2025) under his ministry is projected to deliver data downloads across Nigeria at increased speed and low cost with effective coverage of not less than 90 percent of the population by 2025.

The ministry, together with its parastatals, has made major regulatory interventions that are shaping up the economy towards the digital world. “The GDP report has shown how critical the ICT sector is to the growth of our country’s digital economy and by extension, the general economy”, Pantami said.

A computer scientist and a technology advocate, Pantamihas used superior technology tofight digital crimes. He has established a security apparatus to trace registered SIM cards used for criminal purpose in a matter of an hour.

In his first one year in office last year, he had established Nigeria’s first Emergency Communication Centre in Katsina State. He has proceeded to establish the centre in all the states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The centres offer a 24-hour manned toll free number 112 with the purpose of enhancing security of lives and property in the country.

Through the various activities of his ministry in deploying technology to bridge the digitisation gap in Nigeria, Pantami has created new jobs and raised hopes that the Next Agenda promises of the President are realisable.

Sabo Nanono – Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

Alh. Sabo Nanono, minister of agriculture and rural development, is a strong arm of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Next Level Agenda. He is a technocrat driving a sector with the potential for the biggest job creation and poverty reduction in Nigeria. He came on board with a renewed vision and vigour to make the nation’s agric sector a big player in job creation and economic prosperity under the government’s Next Level drive.

He is quite confident of what would be the results of his actions in making the President’s promises to Nigerians a reality.  Nigerians will feel the impact of the agricultural sector in a new dimension, he declared as he took over the leadership of the ministry.

He seeks a fundamental approach that will optimise the benefits of agriculture to Nigerians and thereby enable the President achieve his mission of lifting 100 million people out of poverty. Given the large proportion that agriculture occupies in Nigeria’s economic space, Nanono has enormous power and opportunity placed in his hands in determining how far the government’s Next Level Agenda can go.

He quite understands the potential and wants to drive it with the right policy. “Agriculture is the largest employer of labour in Nigeria, if Nigeria gets agricultural policy right, the country may not only feed its citizens but the entire West African countries”, he said.

His task is to get the right policy to drive the potential and to add the third leg of his agricultural transformation tripod – which is action. He has mapped out actions in key fronts – to double effort to produce the best results.

The minister assures that the three legs of his new drive in the sector will be complete to conquer challenges and deliver prosperity to the nation.

“We understand there are challenges but we will see how they could be tackled as it concerns to staff and all stakeholders in the sector,” he said. 

Matching words with action, Nanono has undertaken a review of the nation’s agricultural policy with the purpose of revitalizing existing agricultural policies in order to meet the needs and aspirations of the President in diversifying the economy, using agriculture as a driving force.

He has adopted the value chain approach to reposition the sector through implementing policy instruments for enterprise development across successive stages of the commodity value chains. The strategy is an integrated approach to the development of the crops, livestock and fishery sub sectors.

Nanono has given agricultural research institutes a new attention as the engine of growth in the agric sector. He said his renewed effort in research institutes across the country in order to promote sectoral growth and food security in the country. He wants the institutes to research on improved seeds that will be suitable for Nigeria’s environment.

To improved seed he has added the essence of using technology to boost food production, combat food shortages and climate change. More than money, low technology application is blamed for low agricultural output relative to the large population engaged in the sector. The minister wants to give agricultural technology a boost that will change the reading.

President Buhari and Nanono are counted as a great combination in integrity and selfless leadership with about the best chance ever in transforming lives and redirecting the course of the nation towards economic development. The President’s detraction from corrupt and selfish rule in Nigeria provides a fertile ground for acclaimed technocrats like Nanono to join hands to uplift the nation.

Nanono holds a Bachelor’s Degree in business administration from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and a Master’s Degree in public policy and administration from University of Wisconsin, Madison USA. He attended an advanced management course at Harvard Business School, Boston Massachusetts and is also a fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of Nigeria.

The Kano-born agric minister is a top raking human resource manager and a scholar who has demonstrated high administrative skills across many walks of life. He has been a university lecturer, a civil servant and a banker, who rose to the position of chief executive officer of the defunct African International Bank. He is a farmer, a community leader and a politician.

He has a great commitment to see the Next Level Agenda Promises of the President become a mission accomplished. His desire is to help the President bring about a new standard in governance that will take Nigeria and its people to the next level of human, economic and infrastructural development.

Muhammad Bello Abubakar – Managing Director/CEO, Galaxy Backbone Ltd (GBB)

Professor Muhammad Bello Abubakar has held forth as managing director/CEO, Galaxy Backbone Ltd (GBB) since the beginning of 2020. So far, he has pursued his mandate with great milestones attained in new capacity building for the organisation.

This is towards the realisation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s objective of creating a digital economy as part of his next level agenda. He has introduced comprehensive plans and actions to support all stakeholders to actualize performance targets through ICT infrastructures and services.

His leadership ability to create new dynamics for the organisation was tested as soon as he assumed office in January. The emergence of coronavirus pandemic and the consequent economic lockdown challenged the attainment of government objectives. A new and unprecedented demand was placed on the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy to develop digital platforms for keeping the economy up and running.

As government activities leaned heavily on ICT during the lockdown in order to reduce physical interactions that could spread coronavirus, one of the value propositions of Galaxy Backbone was born of innovation in time of necessity.

GBB rose up to the challenge of the time with the support of the ministry by launching virtual interaction platforms that enabled communication and collaboration in government from the federal executive level to intra-MDA functions. Connectivity was provided at the residences of key government functionaries, which provided seamless government operations, meetings and decisions for the effective management of the pandemic.

By knowledge and experience, Abubakar is generally endorsed as the man whom the shoes fit perfectly at Galaxy Backbone. The Gombe State-born professor of petroleum geosciences is an alumnus of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi where he obtained B. Tech in applied geology and M.Sc. and Ph.D. in sedimentology/petroleum geology.

He also holds German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and is a recipient of several awards among which is National University Commission’s best Ph.D. thesis award in physical sciences from all Nigerian universities.

Abubakar’s deep academic knowledge is further enriched by over two decades of working experience spanning the academia, oil and gas exploration research, development and innovation institutions. He is a strategic thinker with strong leadership and management skills topped by an impressive exposure to global best practices in the field of energy.

Prior to his appointment to head GBB, he was executive director and principal start-up for the establishment and development of the National Centre for Petroleum Research and Development of the Energy Commission of Nigeria.

There, he spearheaded a cross-cutting edge research that developed the conceptual exploration model deployed in the successful oil and gas exploration in the frontier basin of the northeast Nigeria. He was also a research consultant to NNPC on oil and gas exploration.

Bringing his deep knowledge and experience to Galaxy Backbone, Abubakar moved decisively to articulate and communicate the position where he plans to place the organisation in the next five years. He soon rolled out a strategic business plan underpinned by six strategic pillars, which are government priorities, data sovereignty, financial sustainability, customer satisfaction, operational excellence and improved capabilities.

He set clear goals for the next five years and mapped out activities to be undertaken to achieve the goals. The goals and the roadmap are tailored towards supporting the key policies of the federal government under the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.

Enhancing operational efficiency was his key consideration in view of which he reviewed the organization structure of GBB to sharpen its value delivery channels to all stakeholders across the value chain from engagement and planning to implementation and support.

In line with the objectives of the Buhari-led government to promote digital economy, Abubakar has introduced functional units and departments for accelerated realisation of the objectives. He has come up with a number of initiatives to drive value improvement, recharge operating agility, rationalise costs and improve the quality of services.

The initiatives cut across redressing of technical and financial operations, human resources and capability development tactics – all in the determination to reposition GBB for greater service to the government and the nation. On execution also are many initiatives aimed at promoting collaboration and partnership with all stakeholders, including public institutions, MDAs’ customers, suppliers and channel partners. Three areas identified for this purpose are cyber security, cloud computing and e-connect.

He has set the organization to pursue high-level short, medium and long-term objectives under his leadership. The highlights include increasing the revenue-base of the organization, especially from non-mandate sources to ensure self-sustainability in two years.

All MDAs are expected to be brought onboard the services of the organisation in four years. Transversal applications and automated government processes are to be developed for majority of MDAs to support attainment of their mandates over the same period.

Under the plan, GBB’s infrastructure for the whole country is expected to be developed in five years and the plan is that the organisation should be a competitor to all ICT providers primarily in Nigeria and in Africa especially West Africa in five years.

In just a year and a few months of Abubakar’s leadership of GBB, he has a number of historic achievements to show in new capacity building that has set the organisation on a new pedestal to deliver on mandate, support the attainment of the objectives of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP) and Nigerian eGovernment Masterplan amongst others. He has sought innovative approaches to technical resources acquisition the most significant of which is the review of procurement process for service capacity. Bandwidth capacity requirements of the organization have been aggregated and redesigned to ensure effective utilization of technical resources. This has provided significant cost savings and improved quality of services via better network traffic management.

Umar Garba Danbatta – Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission [NCC]

Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, executive vice chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission [NCC], is the digital right hand man of President Muhammadu Buhari, creating the platform for his Next Level Agenda.  Riding on the mandate to connect Nigeria and create an information rich society, he has demonstrated strong capacity to provide the necessary digital impetus to the actualization of the economic diversification of the President.

The President needs strong technology backing in changing the course of the economy from oil and gas dependence and he can count on Danbatta as a key member of his team to provide this support. He has been a top team player of the President since his first term in office during which the commission positioned telecoms as baseline enabler for the realisation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan 2017-2020 of the government.

NCC initiated major initiatives, programmes and regulatory interventions with which it deepened access to telecommunications services – voice and data in Nigeria. These efforts exerted stimulatory impacts on key economic sectors such as healthcare, education, agriculture, finance, transportation, commerce, governance, among others.

NCC’s provision of increased digital access to individuals, organisations and governments has helped to advance the pace of government’s economic agenda considerably. This is evidenced by the massive growth in the telecoms sector that Danbatta’s leadership has recorded over the past few years.

There is an unprecedented growth in subscribers’ base with the number of active mobile voice subscribers rising to over 189 million. A milestone has been attained in telecoms sector’s contribution to GDP at over 14 percent. Nigeria’s teledensity has increased to 99.16 percent while internet subscribers have increased from 128,365,704 to 136,203,231 under Danbatta’s watch.

Also, broadband penetration has increased from 38.49 percent to 39.90 percent on 3G and 4G networks. These developments have led to significant revenue inflow to government and attracted a lot of foreign direct investments into the telecom sector.

The high growth achieved in the telecoms sector has made life and work easier and better for Nigerians, powered job creation and produced data for planning and security management. These have direct bearing in enabling the President deliver his promise to Nigerians under the Next Level Agenda.

The President’s Next Level Agenda focuses essentially on improving security, accelerating economic growth and reducing poverty. It also involves taking the fight against corruption and corrupt practices to a finishing level. The target is to consolidate on the gains of his first-term economic transformation agenda and advancing the cause further.

Danbatta is ably behind the President to bring the lofty aspirations of his new agenda to reality. He is committed to ensuring that the telecoms sector becomes a veritable platform for economic and social development of Nigeria, particularly the diversification of the nation’s traditional economy.

To this effect, NCC has launched the New National Broadband Plan (2020-2025), which it said, would deliver data downloads across Nigeria at a minimum speed of 25mbps in urban areas and 10mbps in rural areas. Effective coverage of at least 90 percent of the population is expected by 2025 at a price of not more than N390 per 1GB of data.

The new plan encompasses the implementation of broadband connectivity, deployment of 4G across the country and development and implementation of a digital economy. This already addresses 3 of the 8 priorities that government assigned to the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the parastatals under its purview, according to the minister Dr. Isa Ali Pantami.

Danbatta has positioned NCC’s InfraCo project as a vehicle to propel the attainment of the Next Level Agenda through accelerated increase in digital access across the nation. He understands that telecommunications has become an essential factor for measuring the level of socio-economic and political developments globally and he would not let Nigeria  to be left behind the rest of the world.

The InfraCo project is a telecoms infrastructure development hunt. “Without pervasive infrastructure, the dream of rollout of 5G services will remain what it is, just a dream. As such, Nigeria has put in place the InfraCo project for this purpose”, Danbatta said.

The InfraCo project has public private partnership component and has succeeded in meeting a lot of identified clusters of access gaps in the country and thus reduced substantially the number of people living in the un-served and underserved areas.

His unrelenting effort in the development of telecoms infrastructure is therefore tailored to realising the President’s critical infrastructure development targets of roads, rail, power, and the internet under the Next Level Agenda.

The unprecedented growth recorded in the telecoms sector with a multiplier effect on other sectors of the economy has been the result of NCC’s sound regulatory intervention. Liberalisation of the sector ushered in different players leveraging different technologies to offer services. This opened the channels of e-commerce, e-banking, e-agriculture, e-healthy, e-transportation, e-education and more.

Danbatta is poised to do more in driving the next digital revolution to power the President’s Next Level Agenda. NCC has come up with a number of frameworks, regulations and guidelines designed to shape an enabling environment for future of telecommunications growth in Nigeria.

The strategy is to drive the digital frontier of broadband penetration to accelerate the transformation of Nigeria into a truly knowledge and digital economy. NCC’S boss is progressively creating an environment that will enable operators to deploy the newest technologies that can offer Nigerians improved service experience with greater efficiency.

Danbatta has in words and actions underscored the need for effective telecoms infrastructure without which the 5G technology cannot be deployed in Nigeria. The commission has therefore focused on the development of robust broadband infrastructure to support digitisation of the Nigerian economy and consequently the actualization of the President’s Next Level Agenda.

Danbatta has long begun a telecoms investment drive in order to accelerate the delivery of Next Level Agenda promises. In spite of the huge investment that have flowed into the sector in recent years a lot more is still needed to power the economy to the next level.

It takes a lot of capital-intensive infrastructure development for the telecoms sector to play its role as an enabler for other sectors of the economy. The infrastructure gap is precisely what Danbatta is doggedly striving to meet. To this extent, he has pressed for the various challenges inhibiting investment into the country’s telecoms sector to be addressed.

Danbatta has a firm promise to the President and to the nation and that is that the enabling environment to attract the needed investment to ensure efficiency of existing technologies and expand 5G deployment for consistent digital impetus to the realisation of the Next Level Agenda of the President will not fail.

Olamilekan Adegbite – Minister of Mines and Steel Development

Arch. Olamilekan Adegbite, minister of Mines and Steel Development, is in charge of a ministry where the hopes for actualizing the Next Level Agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari are high. Ajaokuta Steel Company alone, the biggest and the most ambitious of Nigeria’s several steel projects, has the potential to provide hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs to the country’s teeming youth with consequent drop in the crime rate.

A thriving steel industry in Nigeria is sure to stem the estimated $4.5 billion and rising annual import bill for steel products. By domesticating steep production, the increased value added to be generated by the burgeoning real estate and construction industries can be expected to give a great mileage to the President’s plan of moving 100 million Nigerians out of poverty.

Time is of essence and Adegbite knows it quite well. “We need to guide our loins and achieve in such a short time”, he said. He assures the President and the nation that he will deliver on his mandate. “This, I am sure that this ministry will contribute its own to that”, he promised.

Achieving economic diversification as a means of lifting people out of poverty has become more pressing than ever before. The mines and steel development ministry under Adegbite’s leadership has taken up the challenge.

Supported by a competent personality as his deputy, Dr. Uche Sampson Ogah, the Minister of State, Mines and Steel Development, they have introduced measures to optimize Nigeria’s mineral value chain. They have taken steps to develop a gold ecosystem in the country, designed to make the nation a hub of precious metals in the West African sub region.

They have put in place a framework to catalyze the development of the upstream, midstream and downstream sub-sectors of the gold sector. The intervention has opened up exploration and production of gold in Nigeria with the take-off of the Segilola Gold project in Osun State.

The project, which will process 650,000 tons of ore with a target production of approximately 80,000 ounces per year from 2021, is expected to create thousands of direct and indirect jobs.

Adegbite is offering incentives for investors willing to invest in the sector in his aggressive push to diversify the nation’s economy. In the mid-stream, gold refining companies have been licensed to procure gold from the Segilola Gold project and small-scale miners and refine in Nigeria to London bullion standard.

The plan is for some of the gold to be traded on the bullion trading platform where the Central Bank of Nigeria and local and international investors will be the off-takers. The ministry, under the leadership of Adegbite, has created several buying centers in the downstream to complete the gold ecosystem.

The minister assures that “this initiative will bring about efficiency and transparency to physical trading and transactions of mineral commodities, resulting in accurate mineral data aggregation and reporting.”

According to him, “buying centers with minimum guaranteed price thresholds also ensures that artisanal miners receive the right pricing for their goods relative to illegal off-takers, thus breaking the status quo of illegal mining and increasing the royalty revenue accrual to the federal government. At present, there are over 400 licensed mineral buying centres nationwide involved in the purchase of precious and metallic minerals such as gold, lead zinc, tin, columbite etc.”

Training for capacity building in the gold sector is part of the package through which the ministry will bring in renowned gemstone makers to teach Nigerians how to make gemstones and jewelries to international standard. This is expected to spur a huge cottage industry in gemstone production, create jobs and save the country lots of foreign exchange spent on jewelries imports.

This is Adegbite’s initiative to make Nigeria an exporter of jewelries and gemstones – transforming the industry from foreign exchange consumer to foreign exchange earner for the country. In July last year, the first batch of artisanal-mined gold bars to be purchased by the Central Bank of Nigeria was unveiled.

This is a milestone attained by Nigeria in processing and refining artisanal-mined gold according to the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) standard required for the use of gold as a reserve instrument by a central bank. This has opened an alternative window for building the nation’s external reserve.

Adegbite said the milestone demonstrates President Buhari’s commitment to diversify Nigeria’s economy and foreign reserve. The synergy between Adegbite and Ogah has produced outstanding result of achievements in the ministry of mine and steel development within the short time of their stewardship thereby selected by our editorial team into the top 10 game changers of President Buhari’s next Level Agenda.

Babatunde Fashola – Minister of Works and Housing

Mr. Babatunde Fashola, minister of the key portfolio of Works and Housing, plays the role of enhancing growth through infrastructure development – which constitutes one of the central planks of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Next Level Agenda.

He has clearly outlined the infrastructure commitments of the government and he has set the wheel of development rolling forward. “This will be a decade of infrastructure renewal and expansion”, he declared.

A two-time minister with a specified 8 years on the saddle, he will be in charge for most of the decade of infrastructural transformation. His infrastructure development package was framed to catch up with lost years in infrastructure development.

He said infrastructure development has lagged well behind the rapid growths in population and businesses since the 1970s. Making up for the deficit is now required to bring about the enabling environment for the President’s Next Level Agenda to run.

There is therefore a lot on the hands of Fashola to be done. “We have 10,000+ km of road network; we are refurbishing 37 bridges; we’re refurbishing public infrastructure highways and we are beginning to build our maintenance economy because it is a very important economy that really has not taken off”, he said.

He is driving infrastructure development with the purpose of enhancing the ease of doing business in Nigeria. And he expects to usher in an exciting business space that would spark off economic growth through investment inflow.

“This is the best country in terms of return on investment. You have a market that has a very high youth population, you see very active demand power”, he said. He considers Nigeria’s demand capacity irresistible to serious investors anywhere in the world.

His strategy therefore is to put the necessary infrastructures in place, let the investments roll in with new jobs, empowering the President to deliver on the promises of the Next Level Agenda.  Fashola has unveiled a raft of ambitious projects, some of which are in the multi-billion dollar region to make this happen.

The ability to execute king-sized projects in austere times is linked to borrowing as well as innovation. In the face of revenue challenges, Fashola combines borrowing for economic capacity building with strategic private sector interventions through tax credits. He operates Highway Development Management Initiative under which a number of highways are being concessioned to attract private investments.

Under the initiative, companies and institutional investors can make the investment by advancing their tax to government ahead of due time. Eligible companies are given the opportunity to identify the infrastructure works and agree the terms of execution with the ministry.

Infrastructure development in tertiary institutions has also progressed rapidly under the Next Level Agenda. This includes the construction of internal road networks in 43 federal tertiary institutions. Simultaneous execution of the projects across the geographical spread of the institutions has ensured the provision of uniform standards for educational developments across the nation.

The mood of execution of the campus infrastructures has innovative empowerment content designed to impact the lives of students personally. Fashola mandated the contractors to engage students of respective institutions, especially those in engineering/vocational related courses on the works.

The benefits are two fold – gain in practical knowledge along the value chain of project execution and payment for involvement on the jobs. This is in line with the job creation and poverty alleviation contents of the Next Level Agenda of the President. The development is providing the lead to making beneficial community involvement in projects the norm in the country.

Such is the quickening impact of national housing project in creating engagement opportunities for community members. Involvement of both skilled and unskilled workers is making reasonable contributions in stimulating economic activities that create even more indirect jobs within the communities.

Muhammed Nami – Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service [FIRS]

Dr.Muhammed Nami,executive chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service [FIRS], is in charge of an expedient job of building tax revenue big enough to make up for volatile oil prices, meet huge debt servicing budget and yet empower President Muhamadu Buhari with the resources needed for development spending.

The President needs aggressive fiscal injection in public services and infrastructures to deliver on his promises under the Next Level Agenda. Increased non-oil income, led by tax revenue, has become imperative to provide the fiscal space. Nami is the man to produce the money needed for stimulatory spending with tax revenue.

His task is to change the reading from five years of missed tax revenue targets to a new regime where tax revenue is depended on to close the fiscal gap. It is a task in which he cannot afford to fail the government and the nation.

Nami understands that the responsibility placed on his shoulders is critical to the smooth operations of the various tiers and arms of government and by extension the well-being of all Nigerians and he is poised to perform. “We cannot therefore afford to fail in this regard”, he assured.

He has sustained the hopes so far. In the first full year in office in 2020, he narrowed down the gap between actual and target tax revenue from 40 percent in 2019 to 2.5 percent. With that, he has ushered in a new momentum in Nigeria’s tax administration.

Nami is a versatile tax administrative specialist groomed on the full cardinals of professional practice. He learned the needle and thread of every professional practice that has anything to do with how a model tax administrative system should run.

He has an all-rounder background with professional credentials that cover the entire waterfront of knowledge and experience needed to make a big difference at FIRS. His educational training cuts across a number of professional corridors from which he gathered a mix of knowledge and experience that have made him an authority in fiscal governance.

He studied sociology at the Bayero University Kano from which he crossed over to study business at post graduate level at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He qualified as a professional accountant, added to that a practical working experience in auditing and topped up with specialist knowledge in taxation.

He has since set the goal for what is to be done at FIRS – which is to take Nigeria’s tax-to-GDP ratio from 6 percent to the World Bank-recommended threshold of 15 percent. That is the benchmark for Buhari’s economic growth and poverty reduction agenda to be realised. Nami is also set on a mission to slash Nigeria’s VAT gap from as high as 70 percent – one of the highest even by African standard.

He has defined the strategy for the goal, which is to transform the length and breadth of tax administration and compliance landscape in Nigeria. As soon as he came into office, he embarked upon a grand policy reform and institutional re-organisation.

He has unveiled an agenda of tax-driven solution to Nigeria’s earnings volatility. The agenda revolves around the application of technological innovations in the tax administrative machinery. This is in line with the global trend where deployment of appropriate technology has become an effective means of enhancing tax revenue. 

He has constructed four cardinal pillars around which the effort to reposition the service for enhanced performance are anchored. The four-point agenda are rebuilding FIRS’ institutional framework, robust collaboration with stakeholders, building a customer-centric institution and making FIRS a data-centric institution.

Through the use of technology-based intelligence-gathering and information-sharing, he plans to plug the loopholes usually exploited by individuals and businesses to evade taxes. He has deployed technology in tax collection through innovative links to business premises using a central server.

The innovative step has lifted the agency’s tax revenue capacity, as all transactions that bear on taxes payable are captured directly as per the globally accepted standards. The task, Nami said, is to have everyone, who wants to benefit from the nation’s commonwealth, become contributors to the wealth of the nation.

The FIRS’ boss is therefore leading a major campaign aimed at turning tax evaders into national wealth builders. He is going about it by giving a human face to tax administration. He has unveiled a series of palliative measures designed to cushion the burden of tax compliance on taxpayers.

A major milestone attained by Nami’s leadership of FIRS in 2020 is his grand design to reposition stamp duty as the next major revenue growth driver for Nigeria. A good part of tax revenue capacity building strategy is billed to happen with stamp duty under Nami’s tenor at FIRS.

His regime at FIRS has attained great milestones in reshaping the nation’s revenue structure to prevent changes in crude oil prices from undermining budget performance and implementation of development projects.

Nami is progressively headed towards delivering the much-desired fiscal space that the President urgently needs to fulfill his promises to the nation under the Next Level Agenda.

Sadiya Umar-Farouq – Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development

Sadiya Umar-Farouq, minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, oversees the new ministry that President Muhammadu Buhari created out of necessity. The ministry provides a meeting point for the President’s poverty eradication under his Next Level Agenda and his response in caring for streaming victims of humanitarian crises raging at various fronts in the country.

Nigeria has faced sustained humanitarian emergenciesfor over a decade, which began with the Boko Haram insurgency and spread to sectarian crisis, herders and farmers’ clashes, separatist movements, kidnappingand banditry. To the long and yet growing list is still added natural disasters such as flooding and erosion.

Also, a large and increasing number of people are falling victims of poverty, ignorance, unemployment, economic inequality, illiteracy, domestic violence,post-traumaticstress disorder and so on.

The result is that thousands of people have been displaced from their homes with families broken and children left without parents. The need for resettlement and humanitarian aid for such refugees has never been this huge in Nigeria.

In the wisdom of the President, an organized structure has become a necessity to manage the requisite features of the criseswithvarious professionals in attendance. The step to bring tis about gave birth to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs,Disaster Management and Social Development – which kicked off with the President’s second term in office and his Next Level Agenda.

Umar-Farouq has been widely endorsed as the right and proper person having the humanitarian heart and the capability in terms of administrative skills with a professional touch to deliver the much needed results expected of the ministry. The President has received a double score first for the wisdom in creating the ministry and second for placing Umar-Farouqin charge.

She is not new on the humanitarian job, having been in charge of National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons since 2016.Yet, it isn’t without a challenge. “We have learnt to navigate the peculiar geography of humanitarian interventions, disaster management and social interventions,” she said.

Since she took the mantle of office in August 2019, Umar-Farouqhas run ceaselessly to live up to the vision of the national calling.Hers is essentially a ministry of the less privileged and she therefore represents hope out of despair.

If the promise of lifting people out of poverty under the President’s Next Level Agenda is to be met, her ministry is the gateway to deliver it. The first set of people to be lifted belongs to her ministry. Her role is therefore about the closest and most direct in making Nigerians feel the impact of the Next Agenda promises.

So far, she has held forth the light of hope for many and spreading it as fast as she could to others.She is practically on the field daily to proffer solutions to the plight of millions of Nigerians who are victims of the nation’s humanitarian crisis.

For months, Umar-Farouq practically made the risk-prone north-east her home. There she formed committees for various project executions. This includes National Steering Committee for the restructured Multi-sectoral Crisis Recovery Project (MCRP) – which is designated for Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.

She shows a burning determination to reach out to everyone in need no matter how remote or inaccessible their location. In Maiduguri, she collaborated with the Nigerian Air Force to carry out airdrop relief operations. This was the strategy to reach many locals trapped in a number of inaccessible communities in Borno State.

Her joy lies in a life touched. “It has been rewarding in the sense that when I visit the field and I see beneficiaries whose lives are being changed by the federal government’s humanitarian interventions, it leaves me with a sense of fulfillment that we are doing something for humanity”, she said.

Umar-Farouq’s exceptional performance has attracted attention in many quarters. A timely recognition came fromTransparency Watch last year, which adjudged her the best minister in 12 months of President Muhammadu Buhari second term.

The organisation hadgraded ministers on organizational strength; performance of agencies under their purview; impact on the lives of the people as well as transparency and accountability. She cleared the marks for effective organization of the various interventions of government through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the National N-Power Initiative, National Home Grown School Feeding Programme and the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme, according to Transparency Watch.

For Umar-Farouq, the recognition calls for more work and not celebration. “I am grateful that individuals and organisations are watching our activities and to be honoured with awards is a good thing but we are not anywhere near the standard the President set for us.

“The vision of the President is to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years and our ministry is playing a major role to make this a reality, so we still have a long way to go. Reward for hard work is more work, not a celebration at this stage”, she said.