Okechukwu Enelamah, the Minister for Trade, Industry and Investment, was on the BBC’s Hardtalk, broadcast on Monday and despite being lucky to be interviewed by Shaun Ley, instead of the more combative Stephen Sackur, the mininster still ended up being tripped up by the interrogation.
He had no credible answers for the questions on dozens of companies closing down in Nigeria and workers laid off. He couldn’t deal with questioning on why President Muhammadu Buhari took so long to appoint ministers like Enelamah.
Watch the encounter here.
Enelamah showed he wasn’t a politician by not sticking to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) script of not giving credit to the previous Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration. He admitted that they had a “well prepared” industrial policy inherited from the PDP administration and all this government had to do was implement it.
But things got hairy for the minister when he was asked to clarify the discrepancy in the Buhari Independence Day speech about investors “falling over themselves” to come to Nigeria and the reality from the National Bureau of Statistics that Foreign Direct Investment had dried up by 37%.
He also couldn’t adequately answer how his government budgeted 400bn naira ($1.1bn) for capital expenditure with no projects assigned to that amount.
It got worse for Enelamah when he was questioned about allegations made in the Nigerian Senate that he had helped the South African mobile phone giant MTN to illegally move $13.9bn out of the country. A private equity firm that Enelamah headed before he became a minister are investors in MTN. There was a whiff of a clear conflict of interest and Ley zeroed in asking whether the president questioned Enelamah before he was appointed about his involvement with MTN and his relationship as an investor.
The president apparently did not. After taking so much time to appoint ministers, it appears there wasn’t even the merest form of due diligence.
At this point, Enelamah seemed eager to get out of the studio and in the end, strangely sprang up from his chair to shake his inquisitor’s hand.
Incidentally, the minister was asked why a government that claimed it wanted to cut costs had 11 presidential jets, the presidency announced the next day after the programme that two of those jets were being sold. This feeds the perception that the president only responds to issues when they are raised by the international media.