Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
Former Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, is the substantive Minister of Finance, Presidency confirmed wednesday in Abuja.
The clarification cleared the uncertainty about the real status of Ahmed who was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari to “oversee” the Ministry of Finance following the resignation of Mrs. Kemi Adeosun at the weekend.
Adeosun had resigned over allegations that she forged National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) discharge certificate.
But against the background of the uncertain status of Ahmed in view of the earlier presidential pronouncement that she should only oversee the ministry, and her eventual movement into finance minister’s office as well as taking over Adeosun’s seat in the council chamber yesterday, the presidency was asked to clarify the real status of Ahmed yesterday.
Responding, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Ahmed was no longer the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, saying following her recent deployment to finance ministry, she had automatically relinquished her initial status.
“You know she was Minister of State, Budget and National Planning. She will relinquish that or she has relinquished that to go and oversee the Finance Ministry. So, that is her status for now,” he said.
Probed further if she would only be playing supervisory roles or just serving as the acting Minister of Finance, Adesina said, “it is a matter of nomenclature, yes but she is overseeing the ministry.”
Not yet satisfied, journalists probed him further, asking if she should be addressed as the overseer of Finance Ministry, Adesina again responded, saying, ‘what you call her is a matter of nomenclature but if she is overseeing the ministry, then she is.”
He added: “But note that she is no longer Minister of State, Budget and National Planning for now until anything contrary happens. But for now, she is in charge of the Ministry of Finance.”
Still dissatisfied, journalists asked the president’s spokesman if Ahmed should then be described as the substantive Minister of Finance.
At this point, he opened up, after referring to his earlier statement announcing Ahmed as the overseer of the ministry.
According to him, the minister was already addressed as the Minister of Finance at yesterday’s FEC meeting.
He said: “Well, you know that statement was written in English and that statement says she will oversee the Ministry of Finance. Let’s leave it like that.
“I just told you she is no longer Minister of State, Budget and National Planning. She will be Minister of Finance. In fact, that was how she was addressed at the council.
“Don’t forget it is also a legal thing. If a minister is going to be appointed, there are procedures. That is why it is a deployment,” he stated.
Also briefing journalists at the end of yesterday’s FEC meeting, the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said the council resolved to concession 20 of existing 33 silos in the country for a period of 10 years at the rate of N10 billion.
“Government will earn N6 billion in the 10-year period of the first instance. The federal government remains the owner of the silos and at the end of 10 years, it can either renew, revoke or takeover the silos and operate them ourselves.
“The advantages of the concessioning include: private sector groups with these silos in their possession will drive the production of grains where these things grow more suitably.
“We have request for grains from different parts of the world – soya beans, sesame, sorghum and millet. We also have massive rice production going on and the likes of Dangote and Coscharis going into rice production now need these silos.
“So, concessioning it to them means they will organise local groups to produce grains for them to dry properly and store and market when the need arises or even export.