Not all ministers will get portfolios, Buhari insists
A RESOLUTE President Muhammadu Buhari has stuck to his guns, insisting that not all of his soon-to-be inaugurated
ministers-designate would be assigned portfolios.
The president restated his position while receiving the list of the final batch of the 18 cleared nominees from the Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki in his office at the State House, Abuja.
The meeting between Buhari and Saraki lasted about 23 minutes.
Buhari’s firm stance is coming against the backdrop of views of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that his widely reported comments about the state of Nigerian economy during the India-Africa Summit that the economy was not buoyant to accommodate all the 36 ministers amounted to de-marketing the country.
Thanking the Senate for working hard towards confirming the ministerial nominees submitted to it on September 30, Buhari said while the constitution stipulated that a minister must be nominated from each of the 36 states of the federation, the law did not state that there must be 36 ministries.
“Mr. Senate President If I can remember, there must be a member from each of the 36 states. That was why I limited the number of my nominees to 36. The constitution certainly said there must be one member of the cabinet from each of the states .
But the constitution did not say I must have 36 ministries”
In a veiled allusion to the PDP’s reaction to his comments in India, Buhari insisted that because of the economic realities, having so many substantive ministers is not the way to go, saying: “Any investor interested in Nigeria will seem to know more about the economy more than ourselves. So when I tell the truth about the position of our economy, I am looking for investors.
“But I am confirming to them that we are truthful, that we need them to come and help us help ourselves by getting in industries, manufacturing and services. They know our needs. The economy of human resources, I believe will make them eventually come and help us.”
In his comments before submitting the list, Saraki had told Buhari : “We have finished the screening of the last batch of the ministers on Thursday and we waited for our vote of proceedings today which we finished this morning, I want to formally present the list of the 18 ministers who have now been cleared to you and that makes a total of all your 36 nominees that have been cleared by the Senate.”
In a brief chat with State House correspondents after the meeting with the president, Saraki said the easy clearance of the ministers was facilitated by “the good quality of nominees the president sent in.
Secondly , we put in the time to vigorously screen the nominees , and at the end of the day we found out that most of them met the requirements and the Senate was satisfied.
“You noticed that we delayed one or two; it is all part of politics, but at the end of the day we attended to them which is all about give and take.
I am happy with what the entire 108 senators have done. We have done a good job and I believe we have laid the platform for the government to fully take off.”
On the concern of some Nigerians that some ministers may not get portfolios, the Senate President said: I don’t think that is anything new.In the past, there had been ministers for special duties who really didn’t have portfolios. I think the key issue is being in the cabinet, being part of government.
Honestly I believe we need to move away from the small issues and begin to focus on the major issues. I think the country at present, is at a very trying period.
“We have the challenges of revenue drop, challenges in trying to boost revenue and create jobs and I think that it is time for us to address them and these are some of the issues we looked at as a Senate.
“This is time to give support to the executive to move the country forward and I think all of us and even those of you in the media, must begin to proffer solutions and put our country in a positive view.”
Asked why he personally brought the letter, Saraki confirmed there were other things he discussed with the President, but would not go into details of what those things were.
His words, “As you can see, after you left, we discussed for about 20 minutes on some major issues as well. So it wasn’t just about the letter. I think at the right time you will get to know. I have a constituency which is the Senate which I must first engage. The major issue has to do with moving Nigeria forward.”
Asked if the issue of his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) came up, Saraki smiled and said: “Did you think that will come up in this kind of situation ? No, it didn’t come up” and he walked away.