Jonathan Sacks Divided Cabinet, Lobbying Begins

THISDAY Newspaper-Chuks Okocha and George Oji

Exactly five weeks in the saddle as acting president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan yesterday dissolved the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF), comprising 42 ministers, in a move calculated at ending division in the cabinet.
But most of the sacked ministers immediately started lobbying last night to get back their jobs, with many enlisting the support of their governors and senators.
THISDAY learnt that as many as 15 ministers may not return as Jonathan seeks to strengthen the administration and make a bold statement on his hold on power.

The cabinet had been divided and factionalised in the wake of the prolonged absence of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, with a group of ministers loyal to the president moving against attempts aimed at declaring him incapacitated and removed from office for Jonathan to step in as the substantive president.
A Presidency source told THISDAY that the dissolution of the cabinet can be termed "governmental activism" because Jonathan was bent on breathing fresh air into the government.

The source said: "There are three reasons for the dissolution. One, it had become glaring that the cabinet is no longer one. Some ministers are working for their governors and trying to work against the acting president. Two, the budget will soon be passed. A strong team is needed to deliver the goods. Three, the acting president needs to assert himself. It's not good for the country when people think he does not have the liver to take this sort of action."
A new list of ministerial nominees is expected to be sent to the senate for screening latest next week ahead of the passage of the 2010 Appropriation Bill which was submitted to the National Assembly by Yar'Adua shortly before his illness last November.
THISDAY reported yesterday that key ministries to be affected by the cabinet overhaul included Petroleum, Power, Works, Niger Delta and Agriculture and Water Resources.

It was also gathered last night that changes may be effected in Aviation, Informa-tion and Communications as well as Health ministries, but THISDAY could not confirm the information. Many ministers will be moved to other ministries, THISDAY was told.
Yesterday's dissolution of the council took place after over six hours of marathon meeting, which was chaired by Jonathan.
Former Information and Communications Minister, Prof. Dora Akunyili, who announced the dissolution of the council while briefing State House correspondents, said the ministers are to hand over to the permanent secretaries of their various ministries.
Akunyili, who did not provide explanations for the council’s dissolution nor the time it would be reconstituted, said in a terse sentence: “Today, the Acting President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan dissolved the Federal Executive Council. He did not give any reason and so I cannot give any reason.”

Jonathan's spokesman, Mr Ima Niboro, said last night: "Cabinet dissolution [was done in] a bid to inject fresh blood and bring even greater vigour to governance. It is part of the larger strategy to frontally confront the core challenges that face the nation at this critical moment of our history."
The initial indication that the ministers had been sacked came from former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Senator Adamu Aliero, who was among the first ministers to emerge from the council meeting.
Aliero, who was immediately approached by a reporter who whispered some words to the minister, was overheard saying: “My brother, I am powerless now, we have been dissolved.”

Aliero’s remarks immediately sparked off excitement from the reporters who scampered to confirm the information. Former Labour and Productivity Minister Ibrahim Kazaure, who was redeployed just three weeks ago from Special Duties Ministry, was on hand to do just that. “I thanked the President for giving me the opportunity to serve this nation. I have no regret taking any action I took in the course of his service,” Kazaure said.
When asked what he would be doing now the former minister said: “As a career politician, I am going back to the trenches to continue from this point.”

After the meeting, most of the former ministers walked briskly out of the council chambers to their various cars parked outside the building. They wore straight faces as they made their ways out.
Unlike previous occasions when ministers whose memos were discussed in council accompanied Akunyili to the media briefing to shed light on their memos, yesterday’s case was different as Akunyili was left alone to face the press.
The ministers had spent the greater part of the meeting, which commenced at about 10.35am, deliberating on the 20 memos, which had accumulated from the previous week following the cancellation of the EXCOF meeting. The memos bordered mainly on contract proposals.

Jonathan did not give any indication that he was going to dissolve the cabinet.
"It was like drama," a former minister said. "He was so relaxed. We took out time to discuss memos. He even said some memos would be discussed next week. This gave us a sense of false security. Towards the end of the meeting, under AOB, he said the cabinet had been dissolved and thanked us for our service."
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said the dissolution of EXCOF did not come to it as a surprise, as the acting president has the constitutional right to choose a team that would help him execute and move the country forward.
"We are not surprised. This is his constitutional right to choose a team that would work with him," National Publicity Secretary of the party, Prof. Ahmed Alkali, told THISDAY last night.

He said the party would continue to give support to the acting president to ensure he succeeded.
In its own reaction, the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) charged the acting president to nominate only patriotic, competent and transparent men and women into the new EXCOF regardless of party affiliation, religion or creed.
CNPP said in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, that "nomination of partisan and corrupt people will defeat the objective of the dissolution and make mockery of the expectations of Nigerians who earnestly want the decaying infrastructure – electricity, Niger Delta, roads, water, health and educational services to be revamped”.
Also, the group urged Jonathan to appoint patriots who will appreciate the import of invoking Section 144 of the Constitution when nominated and thus pave the way for the Senate President to set up a medical panel that will determine the true state of the health of President Yar’Adua.

Meanwhile, EXCOF yesterday approved a number of contracts running into billions of naira before its dissolution. Akunyili who announced the contract awards said N27.32 billion of the amount was for the construction of nine skills acquisition centres in the nine states of the Niger Delta.
The states are Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers. Fifteen per cent of the contract sum was captured in the 2009 budget, while the 2010 budget has taken care of the balance for the continuation of the projects.
The centres, according to Akunyili, would train Niger Delta youths to acquire skills that would enable them work in various sectors of national economy, including oil and gas, ICT, maritime, tourism, automobile engineering and other trades.
Contracts approved in the road sector include the augumentation of contract for the dualisation of the Onitsha-Owerri road, in Anambra and Imo States in the sum of N1.233,326,297.72. This brings the revised original contract sum from N19,417,010,359.90 to N20,650,336,657.62 with an extended completion date of September 2010.

The other was the augumentation contract for the dualisation of the Sango-Otta-Winners Chapel (10.5 kilometres) road in Ogun State at a cost of N687,258,282.91, bringing the contract to a new total of N1,786,552,318.75.
For the power sector, additional works and revision of the contract sum for the construction of Maiduguri 1X150MVA 330/132/KV sub-station was approved at a total cost of $2,371,564.54 plus N113,347,000, bringing the total contract sum to $7,449,747.54 plus N538,876,783 with a completion date of 31 January 2011.
EXCOF also approved an extension of project consultancy and revision of contract for the Gombe-Damaturu-Maiduguri 330KV single circuit transmission line and associated sub-stations at a total cost of £701,371,710.59 plus N91,217710 to N1,143,855.59 plus N123,371,710, with an extended completion date of 30th September 2010. It also approved additional works and revision of the contract sum on the Damaturu 1x150MVA/330/132/33KV line bay extension in Gombe at a total cost of $2,298,338.35 plus N75,716,100; bringing the total contract sum to $12,950,751.50 plus N482,513,539, with a completion period of seven months.

EXCOF also approved the purchase of 120 housing units for senior staff of the Nigeria Customs Service at the cost of N4.8 billion with a view to addressing the shortage of accommodation for its senior officers in the past 15 years.
For the Ministry of Education, the council approved the purchase of 138 units of 30-seater buses for distribution among all the federal universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. This will cost the government N1.94 billion and covers necessary taxes, insurance, branding and tracking of the vehicles to guard against theft.
Also approved was augmentation of the sum for the construction of the National Library, Abuja, from N8.59 billion in 2006 to N17.05 billion with a completion period of 21 months.

According to Akunyili, the project could not take off as expected then because of paucity of funds and certain changes that arose in the work based on updated user requirement in variation.
EXCOF granted the acting president’s request for the award of contract to the National Management Consultants on Quickwins 2009 projects for the management of warehouses in six geo-political zones to the tune of N204 million.
Council okayed the setting up of gender units in every government ministry and parastatals to promote the National Gender Policy.
It further approved establishment of Monitoring and Evaluation Office in the National Planning Commission, even as it approved the implementation of the National Strategy for the Development of Statistics (2010-2014) “to ensure orderly development of the entire national statistical system with the aim of ensuring statistical harmony within the system”.


Your comment






News Archive