Whenever Zainab Ahmed talks, the Nigerian economy sneezes. That is how powerful she is currently, particularly with the state of the economy. She is, no doubt, the most influential woman in government at the moment.
She may have been a household name in government circles having spent the majority of her career in public service coupled with being a relative to a prominent state governor, but she only became popular with Nigerians in 2015.
So, who is Zainab Ahmed, the woman shaping Nigeria’s economy?
Zainab Ahmed Biography
Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed was born on June 16, 1960, in Kaduna State, She attended Queen Amina College in Kaduna for her secondary education before moving on to Zaria for her A’Levels. She received her first degree in accounting from Ahmadu Bello University in 1981.
She obtained a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, in August 2004.
Ahmed began her career as an Audit Trainee at Messrs. Egunjobi Suleiman & Co. Chartered Accountants, where she was posted for the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC scheme) from 1981-1982. She was subsequently employed as an Accountant II in the Main Accounts Unit of the Ministry of Finance in Kaduna State in 1982 and was later elevated to Accountant I in March 1984.
However, she quit her employment in the ministry in 1985 to work for the now-defunct Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL). She rose to become the Chief Financial Officer of NITEL.
The trained accountant has held high-level positions in public service at various times, including being the Managing Director of the investment company for the Kaduna State, National Coordinator of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and the Executive Secretary of NEITI.
Appointment as Minister
Ahmed was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari as Minister of State for Budget and National Planning in 2015. She was the junior/deputy minister in charge of the ministry.
Following the resignation of Kemi Adeosun as Finance Minister in 2018 over a certificate controversy, President Buhari elevated Ahmed to the position of Minister of Finance.
After his re-election and inauguration for a second term, the President reappointed the ABU-trained accountant as a Minister. This time, her portfolio was expanded as Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning.
In her role, Ahmed coordinates the Nigerian economy, prepares the budget and undertakes fiscal policy on behalf of the President. She also oversees agencies that conduct national planning activities such as population census.
She has been involved in several controversies, ranging from her economic policies to her stance on the country’s debt.
The most notable of the controversies was, however, in November 2022 when she said that her ministry was unaware of the proposed changes of the redesign of the N200, N500 and N1,000 denominations as announced by Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). According to her, her ministry was not consulted by the CBN on the new monetary policy, which will be implemented from December 15, 2022.
The minister claimed that she received information about the new policy in the same way that other Nigerians did and that, as a fiscal authority, her ministry was not involved in the steps that led to the formulation and announcement of the policy. She claimed that her ministry was not consulted and that they were only made aware of the announcement.
Since she assumed office, Ahmed has identified the government’s major problem as a lack of revenue. She identified revenue generation as the greatest difficulty and as a result, she directed her team to put some revenue growth ideas into action, to enhance revenue performance by launching new initiatives.
To expedite the conclusion of more than 209 ongoing cases involving tax revenues of nearly $18,804 billion and other issues, she established eight tax appeals tribunals across the nation. The tribunals were essential in ensuring that taxpayers receive a fair hearing and in hastening the settlement of tax issues.
For her efforts in attempting to rejuvenate the economy, President Buhari conferred on her the national award of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) in October 2022.
Ahmed is estimated to be worth between $500,000 to $1 million.
Ahmed is the daughter of the late Yahaya Hamza, the foster father of Nasir el-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State. Although she is a stepsister to Governor el-Rufai, she publicly addresses him as “my uncle”.
She is married to Mr Shamsuna Ahmed.