Why Osinbajo Swore in Two New Ministers Without Portfolios

  •  Buhari to reshuffle cabinet himself

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

More than three months after the Senate confirmed the nominations of Professor Stephen Ocheni (Kogi) and Suleiman Hassan (Gombe) as ministers-designate, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo Wednesday swore them in at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chambers in the State House, Abuja, without assigning them portfolios.

After swearing in the ministers, Osinbajo had announced that portfolios would be assigned to them “shortly”.
After the meeting, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, also echoed Osinbajo stating that the new ministers would be assigned portfolios “shortly”.

However, THISDAY learnt late Wednesday that Osinbajo’s decision not to assign the new ministers portfolios was deliberate, as the acting president was only acting on the instruction of President Muhammadu Buhari who was said to have instructed him to only swear them in without assigning them portfolios.

It was learnt from a senior presidency source that when Osinbajo visited the president early this month in London, where he is receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment, he had sought Buhari’s permission to swear in the two ministers, assign them their portfolios and reshuffle the cabinet.

However, Buhari, the source said, asked Osinbajo to tarry a while, because he hoped to assign the two new ministers their portfolios and use the opportunity to reshuffle the cabinet upon his return.

Buhari was said to have informed his deputy that if he assigned the portfolios to the ministers and reshuffled the cabinet, it might be impossible to reshuffle it again, given that the administration was already mid-way into its tenure.
While Ocheni replaced the former Minister of State for Labour, Mr. James Ocholi, who lost his life in a ghastly motor accident along the Abuja-Kaduna expressway on March 16, 2016, Hassan replaced Ms. Amina Mohammed who until her appointment as the United Nations (UN) Deputy Secretary-General, was the Minister of Environment.

After taking the oaths of office, Osinbajo who welcomed the two men to the federal cabinet said they were not only expected to join other ministers in the federal government’s efforts to improve the living standards of Nigerians but also to live exemplary lives that befit their status as ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
According to Osinbajo, FEC is a place where far-reaching economic decisions are taken, with a focus on key areas that will affect both the lives and livelihoods of Nigerians.

The acting president said in accordance with the vision of the president, Ocheni and Hassan would join other ministers in FEC’s efforts to turn the economy around and make lives meaningful for Nigerians.
He also enlightened the new ministers on the two primary campaign thrusts of Buhari during the electioneering.
He listed the two areas as security and the anti-corruption fight, noting that as FEC members, they were duty bound to support the fight against corruption in practice.

Submitting that the cabinet was founded on good governance, he said hard work was a requirement for effective membership of FEC.
“The Federal Executive Council is one that is committed to the very far-reaching and reform programme of this government. That reform programme is contained in our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).

“We have focused our attention on key areas of that economic recovery plan and we believe those key areas are things that need to be done to make a difference in the Nigerian economy and in the lives of Nigerians.

“Time and time again we have continued to emphasise the need for ministers to pay particular attention to all the areas that we have highlighted in the economic plan.
“President Muhammadu Buhari decided to task ministers with specific functions and so we expect our new ministers to be part of this herculean task in turning around the Nigerian economy and making life better for the citizens.

“Of course, you know that aside from the economy, we have two key areas highlighted by the president during the course of the campaigns and have become centre pieces of our administration’s programme – security and the anti-corruption fight.

“We expect that members of the Federal Executive Council will focus on these key areas as well. We have of course made tremendous progress in security. We have issues and challenges here and there, but they are, in comparison to where we are coming from, very minor indeed and we are tackling them on a day-by-day basis.

“On the anti-corruption fight, we are focused. We believe that the primary thing is for those of us who have the privilege of serving to ensure that by our own point and actions, we support the anti-corruption fight and also that our conduct will be exemplary so that we will show by practice not just by words that we are determined to ensure that this country is run by a good government. And where there are honesty and integrity, service will be delivered.

“Even as I welcome you to this cabinet, I congratulate friends and family who are here and I can only say going by your antecedents as contained in your resume read out, it is evident that you are deserving of the positions held in the Federal Republic of Nigeria and that you are capable of rendering all the tasks that will be given to you.
“The only reward is more hard work and I wish you the best as ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he said.