I’m not on witch-hunt, says Buhari
• Wait until you are sworn in, Jonathan replies
• President-elect inaugurates 19-member transition committee, solicits co-operation of lawmakers
PRESIDENT-ELECT, Major-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) yesterday faulted the view held in certain quarters that his administration would be on a witch-hunting mission.
But what seems to suggest a less than cordial relationship between the outgoing and incoming administrations, ahead of the May 29 handover, may be the Federal Government’s admonition that the incoming Buhari administration must not be seen as running a parallel government.
Citing some alleged policy statements as contained in the Terms of Reference (ToF) of the Transition Committee of the incoming government, handed over to it, the government warned against creating an impression to the public that it is beginning to form a parallel government.
Speaking while inaugurating his 19-member Transition Committee in his campaign office in Abuja, Buhari assured that his administration would avoid the mistakes of the past to be able to reposition the country to achieve progress and prosperity.
Also, yesterday while addressing a meeting with a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives, Buhari acknowledged that the legislature is not only a critical component of democracy but also a necessary ingredient of good governance and solicited for their cooperation.
The president-elect, who charged members of the Transition Committee to hit the ground running in the discharge of the task before them in view of the fact that the May 29 handover date is around the corner, expressed gratitude to the members of the committee for accepting the call to serve the fatherland at short notice.
He disclosed that the committee has two weeks to submit its report, which must be based on accurate facts to work with once he mounts the saddle of power.
He noted: “The change from one government to another always involves complicated operational challenges and we all know that government is a continuum but the incoming government needs to know where the previous government stopped so that it can know where to continue, luckily you are all outstanding men and women ofcompetence and experience in different fields so that this assignment, though onerous, it is well within your ability to accomplish, you are enquired to assess the information provided to you and advise me on its quality and accuracy.
“It is a simple matter but you must have the right information if you are to shape appropriate policy decisions. Needless to repeat that your committee and our government are not on a witch hunt or engage in fault finding. We want the facts and nothing but the facts, what has been done cannot be undone, our job is to learn from the mistakes of the past in an attempt to avoid similar errors.
“The time given for you to complete your assignment, two weeks, is short but because of the postponement of the election for six weeks from February 14 to March 28, the transition period has been truncated, we are obliged therefore to fast track steps to May 29. Your job is to make sure that you do not overlook essentials.”
The terms of reference of the committee include to develop a clear framework for liaison with the out-going administration for purposes of a smooth hand-over/take-over and to receive hand-over documents from Ministries, Departments and Agencies and itemise the most important or most urgent issues confronting the in-coming government.
It is also saddled with reviewing and making preliminary assessment of the balance sheet of government with particular emphasis on the status of assets and liabilities of government; cash flow position of the government; quantum of public domestic and external debt of government and their deployment; government’s out-standing contractual obligations and its ability to meet such obligations and the status of implementation of capital projects.
The committee is also expected to among others, undertake a preliminary assessment of the security challenges facing the country and the counter-insurgency measures taken by the government thus far; the counter policy measures being implemented in the Niger Delta to deal with unrest and major economic crimes in the area.
In particular, the status of the Amnesty Programme, the readiness of the Police and other national security and intelligence agencies in addressing threats to law and order and provide a brief over-view of Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Nigerian Communications Commission, Customs Service and Federal Inland Revenue Service, among others.
Seasoned technocrat, Alhaji Ahmed Joda, who will chair the committee expressed appreciation to the president-elect for bestowing on them the responsibility of preparing the ground for a smooth transition from the President Goodluck Jonathan administration to that of the president-elect on May 29, this year.
Joda expressed the committee’s determination to do the best it can within the time frame, adding that with the calibre of persons on the committee, they would live up to the expectations of the president-elect.
The Federal Government’s position was explained at a joint media briefing by the Ministers of Information, Patricia Akwashiki and National Planning, Dr. Suleiman Olarewaju Abubakar after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Jonathan at the State House.
Without going into specifics, Abubakar, who is also the chairman of the Transition Committee Sub-committee, confirmed that the council discussed the contents of the ToR of the briefs handed over to the Federal Government and found some of them unacceptable as he said they tended to create the impression that they were trying to form a parallel government.
The Council, during its deliberations, also granted provisional approvals for the operating licences for two privately-owned universities. The new universities included Edwin Clark University located in Kiagbodo in Delta State and Hezekiah University located in Umudi, near Orlu in Imo State.
According to Abubakar: “We did receive from the in-coming government transition committee some terms of reference which we looked at critically, and council did agree that the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s administration remains the current government of this country. The incoming government should avoid creating a parallel government while the government is still on.
“We take exception to some of the terms of reference that look as if the current government is being stampeded or intimidated.
‘‘Council frowned at most of the statements, most of the provisions and council members are advised to work in line with the terms of reference of the current government.
“When the incoming government takes over, they can come out with their programmes, their own agenda or policies the way they feel like.
‘‘This government remains resolute to the various programmes and projects and the government will continue to do that until morning of May 29.
“The magnanimity of Mr. President should not be taken to be cowardice and that is why Mr. President and indeed council members enjoin Nigerian people to see the olive branch extended to Nigerians and international community as a way of keeping this country intact, as a way of ensuring peace in Nigeria and as such whatever the outcome of the election, what is important is Nigeria’s national interest. And that national interest should be protected, enhanced and promoted at whatever level we are.”
He noted that Joda, who is chairing the Buhari Transition Committee on Tuesday conferred with the chairman of the transition committee of the current government, Vice President Namadi Sambo, during which they had a very robust discussion and are working together as a family for the good of the country.
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