For new ministers, work begins
Lagos ‘golden boy’ Fashola becomes Buhari’s ‘Actualizer’
FEW hours after they were sworn in and their portfolios announced, President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministers literally hit the ground running.
But like school children awaiting the headmaster’s verdict on their last examination, the impression was very strong that they may not have known what portfolios the President would assign them to until he read them out.
The visibly tense atmosphere and silence were not eased by the restrained attire of some of the ministers who could not have found any comfort in Buhari’s unemotional, business-like announcement of their names and portfolios, some of which attracted spasms of cheer and clapping.
From his pedestal, Buhari, though sending a rallying call to his change agents, also sent the message: ‘I am my own man.’
That they heeded the call may not be in question as one after the other, the new ministers seem to have keyed in on Buhari’s exhortation that they must justify the confidence reposed on them by him and Nigerians as a whole.
Reforms to spread to entire oil and gas sector
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu said the reforms carried out in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) would flow to the entire oil and gas sector.
His words: “I think we have lost a lot of momentum in this sector by what is happening in the international environment that we now need to sit down and map out very clear deliverables. Within the next months, we would get the managing directors of the parastatals to work with us closely to know what the agenda of the present administration is. Part of the reason I am chosen to supervise this ministry is to be able to help initiate some of the change process we embarked upon at the NNPC.”
He said while Buhari has approved fuel import claims of petroleum marketers, the approval of the National Assembly is needed before the money can be assessed.
Tumultuous welcome for Fashola
At the Ministry of Power, the atmosphere was a mixture of subdued excitement and some uncertainty with people discussing the double-barreled portfolio of Power, Works and Housing given to former Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola.
“Have the ministries being merged.” “Is he going to be based here or at the Ministry of Works and Housing office in Mabushi?’’ “ With this appointment Buhari has shown that Fashola is his most trusted ally” were some of the comments going round until 3:15 p.m., a thunderous shouts of excitement erupted at the ground floor of the block housing the ministry; Fashola had arrived.
Surrounded by a crowd of happy, cheering faces, it was as if the entire Federal Secretariat workforce trooped out to welcome him.
He was ushered to his office by the director in charge of Human Resources, Mrs. Grace Papka where he and his Minister of State, Mustapha Shehuri who joined him later met with directors behind closed-doors.
Professionals’ rivalry in Health Ministry to be addressed
The new Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said he would use the next four weeks to lay ‘solid foundation’ for healthcare delivery in the country.
He also pledged to end professional rivalry which has plagued the sector for years.
Adewole, who spoke when he resumed as Minister in Abuja yesterday, was accompanied by the Minister of State, Prof. Osagie Ehanire.
He said the deliverables must be set to convince people of the reality of the change slogan of President Buhari.
He drew attention to the professional rivalries in the sector, noting that everybody must work together to improve on the health of the nation’s population.
$22 billion food import bill unacceptable
Taking charge a few hours after his inauguration, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh pledged to reduce the import burden of food in the country.
He said it was unacceptable that Nigeria spends $22 billion on food importation yearly.
He said: “We have to challenge the situation where certain interests outside the shores of our country have taken us prisoners.
“I don’t know how anybody can explain importing banana from Cameroon,” lamenting that Nigeria still imports “$400 million worth of tomato from India.”
Ogbeh said his ministry will have to carry a new burden as oil has served Nigeria well though the country did not manage the resource well.
He said: “So now the pressure is on diversification of Nigerian economy to agriculture. So we have to make it work.”
He said the ministry will intensify research and marketing both home and abroad.
He attributed the 25 per cent increase in cancer and kidney diseases to the poison that gets into the food system even from packaging such as using cellophane, which could cause cancer, to wrap and sell moin-moin’
Abandoned rail projects to be completed
At the Ministry of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi promised to complete all abandoned rail projects in the country, saying that a fully functional rail system will ameliorate transportation difficulties in addition to creating employment.
The minister who was accompanied by Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, and the Permanent Secretary, Zakari Sabiu, said that he had come to work in line with the change mantra of the Buhari administration. While saying that it would no longer be business as usual, he called on staff and management of the ministry to give their best at all time.
He stressed that corrupt practices of all kinds would not be tolerated, adding that anyone caught would be punished.
“I believe in principles. I don’t like protocol. When I say I hate corruption I mean it. I don’t give bribe and I don’t take either. If you want to relate with me don’t give me money and don’t ask me for money. Just do your job creditably. Don’t see me on the road and run away. I am not as bad as they make it seem. Don’t steal, let’s be friends. I am here to learn.
“Rail transport is the easiest thing to achieve if you get capable hands. We are going to work towards completing abandoned rail projects. They will help create employment and ease mass transportation of people,” he said.
The new Minister of Environment, Mrs. Amina Mohammed gave directors and other workers, a five-month marching order to tackle problems associated with climate change and environment facing Nigerians.
She stated that the country was engulfed with various environmental problems and “these are very critical in our mandate,” adding: “We have a time frame as well as build on the successes of the immediate minister.
To achieve these, we are going to involve and engage other stakeholders, especially those groups that really matter to deliver our mandate. We are here for solutions as Mr. President has given us a marching order.”
The minister warned that it would not be business as usual, adding that those who have ideas that can move the ministry forward should bring them up.
Ado-Ekiti agag for Fayemi
Ado-Ekiti, the home state of Minister of Solid Minerals, Kayode Fayemi went agog yesterday as All Progressives Congress (APC) supporters celebrated his inauguration.
The State Deputy Chairman of the party Kemi Sola Olaleye, expressed confidence in the competence of the former governor to take charge in a ministry that could be the second biggest money earner in the nation’s economy after petroleum.
Describing Fayemi as “a dependable and patriotic leader who would add value to the change agenda of President Buhari’s administration,” Olaleye urged prayers for the success of the minister in his new assignment, assuring that Fayemi would once again prove his mettle as an agent of change agenda to lift the country out of poverty.
“I have no doubt that JKF will demonstrate his talents again in the handling of his briefs in his new appointment,” Olaleye said.