Thirty-nine days after, President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to replace ministers who resigned from his cabinet to contest the primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Daily Trust reports.
The development, our correspondents’ report, has slowed down the pace of activities in the affected ministries.
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Following the delay, six states: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Ondo, Imo and Rivers are not represented in the Federal Executive Council. The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provided that each of the 36 states is represented in the federal cabinet.
Daily Trust reports that six ministers had resigned to contest for primaries of the APC, following a directive from the president at the council meeting. Before they left, the ministers had busied themselves campaigning for respective elective positions.
They included the then Ministers of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio; Science, Technology and Innovation, Ogbonnaya Onu; Minister of State, Mines and Steel Development, Uche Ogah, Minister of State, Education, Emeka Nwajiuba and Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Tayo Alasoadura.
Buhari had while speaking at a valedictory session for the ministers held on May 13 at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said replacement appointments would be made without delay, “So that the business of governance would not suffer as their departure had created a vacuum that should be filled”.
Despite the president’s pledge, he is yet to make nominations to fill the vacant slots.
Lull in ministries
At the Ministry of Transportation, findings by Daily Trust revealed that though the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki has been in charge since Amaechi’s departure, a source said there has been a lull in the activities in the ministry in recent times over the absence of a senior minister given the enormity of work in the ministry.
There is an uneasy calm among workers even as many of them strongly believe Amaechi would return to the cabinet.
“Senator Saraki has been doing her best. She was majorly in charge of maritime under Amaechi but now the entire transportation rests on her shoulder. Apart from Maritime, the Railway is there. We have various railway projects ongoing across the country.
“The Lagos-Ibadan railway is still undergoing some finishing touches, especially in the area of linking the network to Apapa. The Kaduna-Kano railway project is also there,” a source in the ministry said.
Only yesterday, Senator Saraki inspected the Apapa end of the Lagos-Ibadan railway project where she said work is ongoing to remove some of the impediments delaying the connection of the route to the ports.
The scenario is said to be worse at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, where Onu held sway.
Checks by our reporter who covers the ministry showed that since Onu resigned, activities in the ministry had been virtually grounded.
“Nothing had been happening here since the minister resigned. But last week, the Permanent Secretary, Dr Monilola Udo presided over one event, but nothing much is going on”, a source at the ministry told Daily Trust.
The source who declined to have his name in print because he was not authorised to speak to the media added that activities at the agencies under the ministry were equally affected.
However, one of the top aides of the former minister confirmed to Daily Trust that the minister, who represented Ebonyi State in the cabinet “may be reappointed”.
“But I don’t know how far that information is true because he (Onu) has yet to inform any of us”, the aide who pleaded anonymity told our reporter on phone on Monday.
Onu’s Senior Technical Assistant, Engr Ibiam Oguejiofor, did not respond to calls made to his line. He has also yet to respond to a text message sent to him.
The situation is not too different at the Ministry of Education where the former minister, Nwajiuba, though the junior minister, was the centrepiece of activities in the ministry before his departure.
Sources at the ministry said the Imo-born onetime House of Representatives member was being missed “being the ministry’s poster boy”.
An aide of the former minister, who confirmed the rumour of his boss’s possible reappointment on the condition of anonymity, said he was yet to hear it from the man himself.
One of the six former ministers, who spoke to Daily Trust Monday evening, said he and his colleagues were waiting for the president’s decision.
“We are grateful to the president for the opportunity to serve our country. No, we have not been contacted but we are waiting for us to be reappointed or otherwise,” he said.
President unreasonably slow – Dons
An associate professor of Political Sociology at the University of Abuja, Dr Abubakar Umar Kari, said the development was typical of the Buhari administration.
Reacting to the development, Kari said, “It is typical and consistent with Buhari to be very tardy – if not unreasonably slow – in making appointments (and replacing appointees).
“His government doesn’t seem to think that any position is so important that it needs to be filled with dispatch. This same attitude applied without exception to the appointment of boards of key departments and agencies, ministers and even his Chief of Staff. It is simply in keeping with the character of the government.”
Also reacting, Professor Kamilu Sani Fage of Bayero University, Kano (BUK) said the delay has spoken negatively about the reputation of the president.
The professor of Political Science said apart from the fact that it means the president may not be believed whenever he makes utterances again, it also does not speak well for his administration because it will mean that there are no qualified heads to oversee the affairs of the ministries, adding that even in places where there are state ministers, it does not speak well politically and policy-wise for the administration.
He also said that going by the constitution of Nigeria that every state has to be represented in the cabinet, and those states that are not presently represented have grounds to feel cheated “and this does not help in any way to address the current agitations and mistrust in the country”.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, did not respond to our reporter’s request to comment on the delay. He did not reply to a text message sent to him on the issue.
The text message read thus: “The President had while speaking at a valedictory session held on May 13, said appointments of ministers who resigned would be made without delay so that the business of governance would not suffer as their departure had created the vacuum that should be filled. It is 38 days today. When should we expect the replacement?”
Also, a text message sent to Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on the matter was not responded to.
However, the minister had last Wednesday said President Buhari will fill the vacant positions in the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at the appropriate time.
“You asked about the cabinet. I think Mr President when he finds it appropriate, will fill the vacancies,” Mohammed said tersely and gave no further explanation.
By Ismail Mudashir, Zakariyya Adaramola, Muideen Olaniyi (Abuja), Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos) & Clement A. Oloyede (Kano)