Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo wednesday assigned portfolios to Professor Stephen Ocheni and Mr. Suleiman Hassan, three weeks after swearing them in as ministers.
While Ocheni from Kogi State was made the Minister of State for Labour, Hassan who hails from Gombe State became the Minister of State for Power, Works and Housing, leaving the Ministry of Environment without a senior minister and the power and works ministry with two ministers of state.
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 road on March 16, 2016, while Hassan replaced Ms. Amina Mohammed who until her appointment as the United Nations (UN) Deputy Secretary-General, was the Minister of Environment.
The assignment of portfolios to the ministers was deferred when they were sworn in on July 26, following the instruction from President Muhammadu Buhari that the acting president should only swear them in and suspend assignment of portfolios to them until his return from London where he has been receiving medical treatment since May 7.
The president had hoped that the pace of his recovery last month would enable him to return home soon to reshuffle the cabinet during which he hoped to assign the new ministers portfolios.
But at the weekend, the president told his media team led by the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, in London that though he considered himself fit to return home, his doctors had advised against it. The president said he was left with no option than to obey his doctors’ orders.
It is believed that the uncertainty over when Buhari would return might have prompted the change in the earlier instruction asking Osinbajo to suspend the assignment of portfolios to the two ministers.
Osinbajo also swore in 15 of the 21 permanent secretaries who were appointed last week, in the council chamber of the Presidential Villa.
In his speech after the swearing in of the permanent secretaries, Osinbajo said they were coming on board at a time the nation was heading towards a radical recovery and implementation of its economic diversification policy.
While enlightening the permanent secretaries on the four executive orders he recently signed, Osinbajo said the orders were meant to aid the reform agenda of the government, pointing out that their roles as permanent secretaries are to provide direction and leadership in their various ministries.
He also said the government was committed to its anti-graft war, explaining that the economic programmes of the government would not be realisable if the menace of corruption is not dealt with.
He charged the new officers to ensure that their conduct and lifestyle reflect the government’s zero tolerance for corruption.
“Your role is not just to provide direction and leadership but also in the training of the core of the civil service and that is under your care and charge.
“We expect that permanent secretaries will be the drivers of the implementation of the executive orders and this is why the training programme has been undertaken and it is a continuous programme of training.
“Your coming into office at this time is a good signal and I believe very strongly that it will be an opportunity for a reset in some cases of projects and programmes that up till now may not have been fully implemented.
“It is also important to emphasise that this government is committed to an anti-corruption programme. It is easy to speak about corruption and to speak about anti-corruption programmes but we want to emphasise that we do not believe that any nation can survive at the level of corruption that we have witnessed in our country in the past years.
“It is completely impossible to implement government policies or programmes, or to ensure the benefit of economic programmes, or the benefits of democracy will ever reach the ordinary man if corruption continues at the level it has been in previous years.
“This is why our commitment to corruption is not just a glib reference, it is not just glib talk, it is important, crucial and as a matter of fact, as the president has said, ‘If we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us’.
“It is your responsibility as permanent secretaries, especially this new corps of permanent secretaries chosen and selected on merit, to ensure that you carry out to the fullest all of the anti-corruption programmes of this government. And to ensure also that in your practice and in your conduct, that you are also above board.
“Let me emphasise that the process of appointment of the permanent secretaries is one that was conducted in the fairest possible way and I hope this is the way that it will continue by this rigorous process of examination and tests that will bring the best that this nation can offer,” he said.
The newly sworn in permanent secretaries are: Ehuria Georgina Ekeoma (Abia), posted to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF); Akpan Edet Sunday (Akwa Ibom), posted to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment; Anagbogu Ifeoma Nkiruka (Anambra), posted to the Ministry of Women Affairs; and Walson-Jack Didi Esther (Bayelsa), posted to the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation.
Others are Gekpe George Isu (Cross River), posted to Ministry of Information and Culture; Aliboh Leon Lawrence (Delta), posted to the Ministry of Budget and National Planning; Uwaifo Osarenona Clement (Edo), posted to the Ministry of Health; Folayan Ayodele Olaniyi (Ekiti), posted to the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation; Abdullahi Abdulazeez Mashi (Katsina), posted to Ministry of Communications; and Adebiyi Bolaji Adekunle (Lagos), posted to the Ministry of Labour and Productivity.
Ibrahim Musa Wen (Nasarawa) was also posted to Ministry of Water Resources; Odewale Samson Olajide (Ogun), posted to the Head of Service of the Federation; Adesola Olusade (Ondo), posted to Ministry of Youths and Sports; Umar Mohammed Bello (Sokoto), posted to the Office of the Secretary to the Federation; and Gabriel Tanimu (FCT), posted to the Office of the Secretary to the Federation.