Work as a Team, Buhari Tells Ministers-designate

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•Says Nigeria’s impending population explosion frightening
•Court declines to stop ministers’ inauguration

Omololu Ogunmade, Alex Enumah and Udora Orizu in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja told ministers-designate that they must work as a team, stressing that his administration would rely on them to implement policies and programmes to lift Nigerians out of poverty.

The president also described as frightening Nigeria’s “looming” population status, which he put at 200 million today but has been estimated by the United Nations (UN) to rise to 411 million by 2050.

He told the would-be ministers in Abuja at the opening of the two-day retreat for them that “working as a team demands that we know what the next person is doing.”

The retreat is to familiarise the incoming cabinet members with governance process and to let them know expectations of them.

The retreat also began on a day the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, refused to grant an order by indigenes of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) seeking to stop the president from swearing in the 43 ministers-designate.

In his speech at the retreat, Buhari said: “As ministers, I am counting on you together with advisers and Nigerians willing and able to contribute to build upon our road map of policies, programmes and projects that will lift the bulk of our people out of poverty and set them on t he road to prosperity.

“Our administration’s eight years will have laid the grounds for lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. This outcome will fundamentally shift Nigeria’s trajectory and place us among the world’s great nations.”

He implored his audience to cultivate the team spirit, educating them that even though they have been chosen from their various states in line with the dictate of the constitution, it is necessary for them to work as Nigerians by engaging in open communications as lack of communication leads to sub-optimal performance.

He also told them that they would be responsible for policy development and implementation in their various ministries, departments and agencies in conformity with government priorities.
He tasked them to ensure that agencies under their watch are not only effective and efficient but also accountable in the discharge of their responsibilities.

The president also told participants at the retreat to see their appointments as a great privilege and to ensure that they put in their best because Nigeria needs frontline individuals to address its many challenges.
He warned them to prepare for arduous commitments, which would require long hours of work and acute labour all geared towards optimal performance.

Buhari seized the occasion to give account of activities of his administration in the first term.
He said: “First – we have rolled back the frontiers of terrorism; we are actively addressing other challenges such as kidnappings, farmer-herder violence, improving the safety of our roads, railways, air traffic and fire control capacities.
“Second – we are steadily turning the economy round through investment in agriculture and manufacturing, shoring up our foreign reserves, curbing inflation and improving the country’s infrastructure.

“Third – on corruption, we have recovered hundreds of billions of stolen assets and are actively pursuing control measures to tackle leakages in public resources. We will not let up in fighting corruption.”

Speaking on the country’s looming population, Buhari said by the UN estimates that Nigeria would be third in terms of population density, behind only China and India come 2050, the situation would only be dreadful if the country opted to be idle by waiting for development partners to proffer solutions.

He added that solutions to Nigeria’s problems are not with foreign partners but “within us.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are all aware of the looming demographic potential of our country. By average estimates, our population is close to 200 million today. By 2050, UN estimates put Nigeria third globally behind only India and China with our projected population at 411 million,” he said, adding: “This is a frightening prospect but only if we sit idly by and expect handouts from so-called development partners. The solution to our problems lies within us.”

Buhari, who said his administration had been pursuing its three-point agenda of anti-corruption war, economic growth and fight against insecurity, added that he would rely on the ministers-designate and advisers to build on the roadmap and policies aimed at alleviating the plight of the people.

He implored the incoming cabinet to key into the vision with a view to putting the people on the path of prosperity, including achieving his administration’s commitment to lay the foundation to lift 100 million people from poverty within 10 years.
According to him, achieving this goal will alter the status quo and place Nigeria among great countries of the world.
At the event, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, also said the retreat was designed to prepare and sensitise cabinet members with policies and projects of government as well as the roadmap towards the delivery of its agenda from 2019 to 2023.

He listed other objectives of the retreat to include enlightening the would-be ministers on the necessity for collaboration with the other arms of government as well as “tracking and monitoring the basis of performance of the management and ensure all members are fully aware of government procedures such as procurements, Federal Executive Council (FEC) processes and the role of the permanent secretaries in the ministries, departments and agencies.”

While thanking the president for providing him and participants with the opportunity to serve in different capacities in the next cabinet, Mustapha challenged the cabinet members to maximise the opportunity of the call for service to key into what he described as the president’s vision and agenda for Nigeria.

The SGF also proceeded to enumerate other functions the ministers would be required to perform when they are sworn in.
Mustapha said: “This retreat is intended to further prepare us to be able to share in this vision and sense of purpose. Let me reiterate that as ministers of the federal republic, you are required to work to high standards of integrity, discipline and dedication that have been set by the president in his long career in the service of the country.

“I will also like to remind you that of all the functions that you will be called upon to perform as ministers, none is more important than to help the president deliver policies, programmes and projects required to move the nation to the next level. As the president said, our legacy will lie on how much we are able to deliver on this, not on how much patronage we extend to close associates and supporters.”

Abuja Indigenes Loss Bid to Stop Inauguration of Ministers

Also yesterday, the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, removed a legal impediment to the swearing in of the incoming cabinet on Wednesday.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court in a ruling on an exparte application brought by an aggrieved FCT indigene and an Abuja based legal practitioner, Mr. Musa Baba-Panya, declined to grant the exparte order and ordered that the respondents be put on notice.

Baba-Panya had on behalf of himself and the indigenes of Abuja, dragged Buhari to court for failing to appoint an indigene of the FCT into the Federal Executive Council.
Defendants in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/878/19, are President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation, 1st and 2nd respondents respectively.

Out of the 43 ministerial nominees into the Federal Executive Council of the current dispensation, none is from the FCT. And following their successful screening by the Senate last month, the federal government announced that they would be formally inaugurated on August 21, 2019.

This development prompted the applicant to approach the court for an order stopping the president from going ahead with the planned inauguration pending the hearing and determination of the main suit challenging the exclusion of the FCT representation in the cabinet.
Delivering judgment, Justice Taiwo held that the applicant was guilty of delay, since the names of the ministers had already been confirmed by the National Assembly.

He in addition said the court had no place to grant an injunction when the applicant had not established a legal right.
While holding that the court is inclined to grant an accelerated hearing in the main suit than granting a restraining order, the judge, however, advised the plaintiff to serve the processes on the AGF alone, since it may be very difficult to personally serve the president with the suit.

The court further held that the matter should be placed on the court list after service is done personally on the respondents.
Meanwhile, indigenes of the Federal Capital Territory have threatened a showdown with the president following their alleged non-representation in the Federal Executive Council.

Speaking to journalists shortly after the court’s ruling, spokesperson of the Coalition of FCT Indigenes, Mr. Ahmad Yusuf, warned that they would no longer tolerate acts of marginalisation and disregard by the federal government, whom they accused of disregarding them after taking over their lands.

Yusuf, who accused the judiciary and the legislature of conniving with the executive to deprive Abuja indigenes of their rights, said they had been pushed to the wall and would have no other choice but to look for other alternatives to get justice.