Given the lean and dwindling economic fortunes of the country, President Muhammadu Buhari has read the riot act to would-be Ministers, who will be inaugurated on Wednesday, saying his government would not tolerate ostentatious and flamboyant lifestyles from any one of them.
He thus dashed the hope of some of his ministers-designate who may be wishing for a royal treat by way of lofty paraphernalia of office upon their swearing in as substantive ministers.
This was the fallout of the three days presidential retreat for the 36 ministers-designate held at the Banquet Hall within the precinct of the presidential villa, Abuja.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that the retreat, which started at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja on Wednesday and was later moved to the Villa on Thursday was essentially to educate the Ministers-designate on a wide range of issues that would bring them to terms with the current economic realities.
Given President Buhari’s body language and what he made clear to them it was learned that the general consensus forged at the retreat by the ministers-designate was that in the light of the economic downturn and the position of the President they would drastically reduce their retinue of aides, protocol staff and number of convoys.
We ‘re prepared for the task ahead – Onu, Ngige, Kachichukwu, Ocholi
Senator Chris Ngige, a minister-designate told State House Correspondents that the Buhari-led government was that of ‘change’, which would not tolerate waste of resources and impunity.
He said that all financial loopholes would be plugged to save money for the development of critical sectors of the economy, saying it is not going to be business as usual.
According to him, the retreat has equipped them for the task ahead.
He said: “I don’t think that I have not benefited in a way that will equip me to face the challenges of being a minister now. It is a lean economy in the sense that we are going to block areas of leakages; there are a lot of leakages. 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. It is a ‘change’ administration.”
Ngige said that he was not be worried if all the ministers-designate were not assigned portfolios.
“No, I am not. If you have portfolio, if you don’t have portfolio, it is one single executive council. It is one single cabinet. You bring whatever it is in your ministry where you have the portfolio and place on the table for everybody to see. So that shouldn’t worry us at all.
“We have even a right to interlope, not interlope actually but you have a right to discuss things happening in another ministry because it is one single Federal Executive Council, one single cabinet, one single Federal Government of Nigeria. The purpose being that we want to move our people from where they are now.
“They are in abject poverty and this poverty concerns about 75 percent of the populace. So, we need to actually restructure the political and social firmament of the country and that is what we are going to do and that is what it means. Poverty will be reduced, more people will smile and that is the essence of what we are talking about,” he said.
Another Minister-designate and former governor of old Abia State, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, said that President Buhari harped on running a cost effective government.
He said: “The president has asked for a lean working government. You can see what has happened to the economy. We have had a drastic drop in the price of crude oil, more than 50 percent drop over the past one year or around that time. So, revenue coming into the country definitely has reduced considerably. So, government must really run in a way that we will be able to lead the aspirations of our people to make sure that Nigerians are happy.”
Also speaking, the Group Managing Director, GMD of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu said that the retreat has equipped them for the challenges ahead. “It is a wonderful session. It equips us, gets us ready, charges us to action” Kachikwu, who is a minister-designate, told Saturday Vanguard.
On his part, another minister-designate, Mr. James Ocholi said the retreat has afforded the appointees the opportunity to know themselves.
“Government has to ensure that before we even get inaugurated we know enough to hit the ground running and many of us, virtually all of us are highly enlightened. We are grateful that getting into government at this time with the change mantra, we will not be taken by surprise. Some of the things we have learned within the last two days even former governors who have completed eight years term never knew them when they were sworn in. So, they were learning on the job and trying to find their way of sorting out things.
“There is a lot of demand on us as Mr. 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 from day one”, he said.
Ministers to be sworn in next Wednesday
Meanwhile, Saturday Vanguard gathered President Buhari would swear-in the Ministers-designate on Wednesday.
It is also expected that the first Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting would hold on the same day to earnestly kick start the long awaited government business.