Retains ministers till last day in office
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday gave an insight into why he did not drop any member of his cabinet since they were appointed in November 2015.
The president, who presided over a valedictory session of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja, said he did not drop any of his ministers because each has a unique skill and strength, which have been harnessed to serve the nation well.
He also told the ministers to carry on with their responsibilities until May 28, 2019.
The president spoke against the backdrop of concerns by Nigerians that notwithstanding the perceived lacklustre performance by some of his cabinet members, he has refused to remove any of them.
While expressing satisfaction with the performance of all the ministers, Buhari said they should leave the cabinet with a sense of pride that they had served Nigeria to the best of their abilities.
According to the president, when the cabinet took off in 2015, it was confronted with challenges, which he said included a crisis-ridden economy that later went into recession in the face of insecurity and massive corruption.
He said whereas many would have given up in the face of the daunting challenges, the cabinet confronted the challenges with unity of purpose.
He added that it was that principle of collective responsibility, which encouraged him to keep the cabinet intact, saying every minister had a unique skill, which was a reflection of the state of Nigeria they came to serve.
“You will recall that when we started this journey, our country was facing numerous challenges. We inherited a broken economy, which eventually went into recession in the second quarter of fiscal year 2016. The situation was further compounded by insecurity and massive corruption.
“Many would have given up. Indeed, many outside commentators said our situation was well-nigh hopeless. However, we all came together and pushed forward to deliver our campaign promise to rescue our country from its parlous state.
“Although we all had a common vision, we frequently had heated debates in this room on the best way to achieve our goals. These differing views are what made the decisions we took all the more rational.
“It is this quality that made me retain my cabinet for the full term. Each of you in this room has a unique skill and strength. We are a reflection of the Nigeria we aspire to achieve. A diverse but tolerant nation where no one is silenced and where every opinion should be heard and considered,” Buhari said.
At the occasion, the president presented the scorecard of his administration, which he believed should make the ministers proud.
Among the achievements of the administration are the liberation of some local governments hitherto under the control of Boko Haram before its advent; food security and diversification agenda of the government.
Other achievements he listed were the development of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), which he said aided the country’s exit from recession, social investment programme, provision of bailout funds to states as well as road and rail infrastructure.
“I want you all to leave this meeting proud to have served your nation to the best of your ability. You should be proud to have been part of the government that liberated the local governments previously under Boko Haram rule.
“You should be proud to have contributed to our food security and economic diversification agenda which led to the revival of our rural agrarian economy. You should be proud to have been part of the team that developed the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, which led Nigeria to exiting its worst recession in decades.
“You should be proud to have introduced the social investment programme that enhanced livelihoods of millions of Nigerians. You should be proud to have participated in settling outstanding pensions of many senior citizens abandoned by previous governments while supporting state governments to meet their salary arrears. “And of course, you should all be proud to have overseen the most ambitious road, rail and airport rehabilitation programmes in the history of our country.
“I want to put on the record, that your achievements in the last three-and-a-half years have guaranteed your position in the history books of this nation. You have certainly built the foundations for an improved economy and a more purposeful government,” the president said.
Buhari also directed the ministers to formally hand over to permanent secretaries in their ministries on May 28, 24 hours before the end of this tenure.
The president, who said yesterday’s FEC meeting would be the last to be held before the end of this first term, directed the ministers to submit their handover notes to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, before the expiration of their tenure.
He said: “Although today is our last council meeting, I expect all of you to continue working until Tuesday, 28th May, 2019 when you will officially hand over your schedules to your respective permanent secretaries.
“Your handing over letters should be submitted to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. Today’s Federal Executive Council meeting is the last time we will meet as a cabinet before the commencement of the second and final term of this administration.”
The president who recalled that the first cabinet meeting was held in November 2015, said the team had worked effectively together since then to deliver the campaign promises of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
He also recalled the death, in an accident, of former Minister of State for Labour, Mr. James Ocholi, along with his wife and son barely four months after the take-off of the cabinet.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and the ministers, in their valedictory speeches, paid glowing tributes to the president for choosing them to work with him.
The vice-president thanked the president for the trust he had in him, recalling that on the occasions when he handed over power to him as acting president, he told him that he was giving him unfettered platform to act, a promise he said Buhari kept.
Most of the ministers praised the combination of the president and the vice-president as the drivers of the country’s affairs, describing Buhari as a man of character and Osinbajo as a true man of God.
They also praised Buhari whom they said gave them unfettered freedom to discharge their respective responsibilities without any interference.