By Sam Chijioke Ekwueme
He is a consistent, persistent workaholic. He is not one given to sloth. His contempt for laziness is undisguised. And God continues to thrust on his laps assignments that require experience, hard work, commitment and tact to accomplish. Over the years, he had successfully honchoed some flagship responsibilities both in the private and public sectors. His position as a member of Nigeria’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) lends credence and validation to his profile in hard work. In addition to hard work is the factor of providence. Welcome to the world of Prince Clem Ikanade Agba, minister of state for budget and national planning, who takes time off on Saturday, March 28, 2020, to unwind on his 56th birthday.
Even if the occasion is low-key, in consideration of the COVID-19 global pandemic, it will, nevertheless, serve as a good break to his daily routine of immersing himself in files to ensure that his table is cleared and official processes are not slowed down. It is characteristic of Prince Clem to take home unfinished work or pending files to ensure that all issues are dealt with expeditiously. Most times, even after a long overseas trip, he still resumes work the same day while in some other times, he ensures he catches the last flights just to attend to official matters.
Brilliant, charismatic, disciplined, sound worker, proactive, result-oriented in every human endeavour, the first test of his resilient spirit was the expeditious passage of the 2020 budget. On assumption of office in August 2019, he was evangelical about the desire of the Federal Government to return Nigeria to the January to December budget cycle for better planning, performance and resource allocations. Working hand-in-hand with his sister and colleague, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zaynab Shamsuna Ahmed, as well as synergizing with the federal legislators, the 2020 budget was passed, signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari and became operational from January 2020, thus ending the plethora of hitherto haphazard budget cycles since 1999.
The certainty of the budget cycle enables states and local governments to plan as well. Furthermore, it assists Official Development Assistance (ODA) to align programmes and support to Nigeria’s priority areas. Significantly, deploying little resources in achieving more is Clem’s essential philosophy since assumption of office as Minister of State for Budget and National Planning. How to get value for money expended by government, with the reduction or elimination of leakages, is his preoccupation. To achieve this, he is sharply focused on strengthening the monitoring and evaluation capacity of the Federal Government to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of service and project delivery. This is one area about which Prince Clem is very passionate.
It is therefore also not surprising how quickly he is working with his other colleagues to develop short and medium-term strategies/programmes to navigate the current resource/revenue challenge due to the slump in oil prices from the benchmark of $57 per barrel to -$30 per barrel. He is optimistic that government will deliver critical priority services and projects even with the limited resources once leakages have been eliminated and efficiency/effectiveness enhanced.
Clem also swung into action in assessing and developing short, medium and long-term programmes of rehabilitating and enhancing the quality and performance of the parastatals under his leadership: National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER), Centre for Management Development (CMD) and the Budget Office of the Federation (BOF). These programmes included improved funding, rehabilitation of dilapidated facilities, building and enhancing the organizational capacity of the various organizations, among other things. He recently toured most of these facilities, held town hall meetings with the leadership and staff members to collate, synthesize and prioritize their issues. This is a demonstration of servant leadership.
Furthermore, within such a short time since assuming office, Clem also championed the Nigeria Road Safety Strategy (NRSS) II (2019-2023). This is an integrated road safety strategy anchored on the five pillars of the United Nations’ decade of actions, namely: effective road safety management, safer roads, safe vehicles, safer road users and post-crash care response. He provided support and input to the development of the strategy and chaired the technical session of all the relevant stakeholders in the transportation field at a close out workshop recently in Abuja. His performance and knowledge of the issues and strategies at the session were outstanding even to the amazement of stakeholders and participants. At the workshop, Clem asserted that although the country had made tremendous commitments and progress in the implementation of the first edition of the Nigeria Road Safety Strategy (2014-2018), “each road death leaves families and friends bereaved with its own particular story, pain and misery.”
A team player and an advocate of “power of one team” for better result., Clem has continued to strengthen executive/legislative collaboration. He recently facilitated and participated actively in a two-day retreat/workshop on the budget process for both the National Assembly (NASS)/ Budget office of the Federation where he championed the imperative for one team in the development and execution of budget to achieve critical priority goals. It was also an opportunity for him to continue to canvass an effective and efficient utilization of revenues and prioritization of various critical projects in identified key areas. According to him, “we are currently too thinned out, i.e. we spread out our little resources in so many areas with little or no project delivered. Through such collaborations, we can all agree on priority projects and provide adequate funding to deliver them for the good of the people instead of having uncompleted projects all over the places.”
Clem is saddled with the responsibility of providing leadership in the preparation of a Medium-Term National Development Plan (MTNDP) 2021-2025 and a Long-Term Plan called “Nigeria Agenda 2050” (Perspective plan) to replace the two plans that will be expiring at the end of this year (2020), to wit: the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020 and Nigeria Vision 20:2020.
Considering his background as a consummate professional with over 30 years in the private sector, his achievements within such a short time were not surprising. To be sure, he spent 29 of those years working for Chevron, a high-class multinational oil and gas company operating all over the world. Due to his distinctive performance in Chevron Nigeria, Clem was seconded to Chevron Oil Corporation in Houston in 1996 to showcase his expertise in Shipping. In the year 2006, he was again called upon to deliver another top-class performance in Chevroil Tengiz Kazakhstan, to run and manage a massive logistic chain with over 1600 people.
As soon as Clem was brought back to Nigeria by Chevron for a higher responsibility, he was called upon in 2009 by Edo State government to serve as Commissioner under Comrade Governor, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole. He joined the Rescue Team that took Edo State to an enviable height in governance and development. He served as commissioner for about seven years at various ministries such as Environment and Public Utilities; and, Lands, Survey & Housing. As usual, he displayed strong leadership and initiated fundamental reforms in the various ministries such as the setup of the Edo State Geographic Information Services (EGIS). He was a member of Edo State Economic Team and Chairman of Edo State Tenders Board (2009-2012). In line with the Governor’s vision, Clem championed the urban renewal and drainage infrastructure drive as well as the sustainable forest re-generation initiatives of the administration. He was also pivotal to the solution to Edo State flood and erosion challenge.
Recipient of many awards in both professional, social and community services among which are National Award of Excellence in Leadership, Save the Ozone Award of Excellence in Environmental Management; Diversity Ambassador of Chevron Corporation; Recognitions and awards from the Uneme National Development Union, among many others, Clem was born to the family of His Royal Highness, Pius Kadiri Ikanade Agba- the Oliola of Uzanu. A well-educated technocrat, he has two master’s degrees in business administration, one from the University of Benin, Benin-City with specialization in Management and the other from Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, the USA with specialization in Supply Chain Management. He obtained a B.Sc. Economics degree in 1985 from Bendel State University, now Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma.
He is married to Princess Catherine of the Obaseki royal family of Benin Kingdom. They are blessed with four lovely boys. Although they would have loved to have a lovely girl, they had to stop at four boys in dread of his grandma’s assertion that he would have nine boys first before a girl. However, the girls have started coming with two lovely daughters-in-law already. Enjoy your anniversary, Prince Clem!
· Sam Chijioke Ekwueme is Special Assistant to the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning.
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