Lean times: No long convoys, many aides for Nigeria’s new ministers

Lean times: No long convoys, many aides for Nigeria’s new ministers

Friday, November 6, 2015 10:35 pm

President Buhari and VP Yemi Osinbajo at the retreat on Thursday

President Buhari and VP Yemi Osinbajo at the retreat on Thursday

President Muhammadu Buhari’s new ministers will not have a retinue of aides and long convoys, one of the ministers-designate has said

Senator Chris Ngige, a former governor of Anambra state, linked the cutting down on perks of office  to the “lean economy”.

“Yes, lean economy because we are going to block areas of leakages. Retinue of aides, protocol staff, large convoys of cars are things that will not fly in this administration,” he said.

His comments came at the end of a two-day retreat for the new ministers in Abuja. It was  organised by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

President Buhari discusses with Dr Baba Ahmed and Secretary to government, Babachir David Lawal

President Buhari discusses with Dr Baba Ahmed and Secretary to government, Babachir David Lawal

Buhari had, while declaring the retreat open on Thursday, told the ministers-designate that his administration would make running of government as lean as possible by avoiding waste and conserving resources.

He told them he expected them to be more determined to work as a team and live up to the high standards of probity and integrity expected by Nigerians.

“You (ministers-designate) are coming on board the ship of governance at an interesting time. So much has been said about the state of our economy. It is expected that we make the running of government at all levels as lean as possible, avoid waste and conserve resources. As ministers, you must be the vehicle that will administer the change.”

The theme of the retreat, which was held at the Old Banquet Hall of the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja, was “Delivering Change: From Precepts to Practice”.

No portfolio, no problem

Some of the ministers-designate: Dambazau,(ist right) Ogbeh(2nd right)

Some of the ministers-designate: Dambazau,(Ist right) Ogbeh(2nd right), Dr Osagie Ehanire and Dr Ogbonnaya Onu

Fielding questions from journalists, Ngige, also stated that it was not a problem if a minister had no portfolio in the administration of President Buhari.

According to him, it is one single cabinet and all ministers have a right to discuss issues around ministries.

“No, no, no. If you have portfolio, if you don’t have portfolio, it is one single federal executive council. You bring whatever it is on the table. That is not a problem at all. We have a right to discuss things around the ministries because it is one single cabinet.

“The important thing is that we want to move our people from where they are now, they are in abject poverty which concerns about 75 percent of the populace. So, we need to actually restructure the political and social moment of the country, and that is what we are going to do. That means poverty will reduce,” Ngige said.

Some others ministers-designate

Some others ministers-designate

Ngige  said the experience gathered over the days was quite enormous as no knowledge gained was a waste and one continued to learn every day. I was governor; certain things taught here I rarely know, like etiquette, protocol; but there are other things like the economy which is something that I have come to grasp today.
“I do not think that I have not benefitted in a way that will equip me face the challenges of being a minister now’’, he said.

The Minister-designate from Kogi, Mr James Ocholli (SAN), said, “there is a lot of demands on us as the president told us at the opening session and he is preparing us to meet the challenges that we will face.

“I think it will be better for us ministers and the nation that most of us will hit the ground running on day one.’’

According to Ocholli, the retreat is well thought-out and well planned.
“It is an important thing that has been done by the President and the Vice President to ensure that before we even get inaugurated, we know enough to hit the ground running.’’

He said that virtually all of the participants were highly enlightened and grateful getting into government at this time with the change mantra.

A chieftain of APC and former Governor of old Abia State (now Ebonyi), Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, said the retreat taught the participants a lot about prudence and management of scarce resources due to dwindling federal revenue.

“You can see what happened to the economy. We have had a very drastic drop in the price of crude oil, more than 50 per cent drop over the past one year.

“So, revenue coming into the country has reduced considerably.

“Government must really run in a way that we will be able to meet the aspirations of our people to make sure that Nigerians are happy.’’

The Minister-designate from Niger State Alhaji Abubakar Bawa-Bwari, said the retreat brought out strategies on how to quickly make the people feel the impact of change.

He said many things were discussed relating to how the poor could be raised adding that Nigerians should be prepared to see action.

“Seeing us here shows that we have started and anything that you don’t plan well you don’t achieve. Now we have sat down and we have looked at the programmes. We have been reminded of our responsibilities of what we are going to do when we get there. That is the starting point.

“So Nigerians should expect action and that we are physically and mentally ready.’’

Mrs Kemi Adeosun, a minister- designate from Ogun, said, “the positive I am taking away from the retreat is that we got a lot of information on the strategy for transforming the election promises into realities for the people.

“As a team, we have bonded and we got to know each other a little better but most importantly was the strategic coming together to ensure that we are ready for the huge task ahead and I am very confident that we can do it.’’

For Mr Usani Usani (Cross River State), “Nigerians should realize that this is a challenging period and should give their maximum cooperation possible for the administration to succeed.

“This is because the aim of the administration is sincere and honest to leverage Nigerians on a better platform for sustainable and higher standard of living.

The two-day ministerial retreat was held behind closed-doors and it ended with no communique issued.


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