September 26, 2008

Senate Recess Delays New Ministers’ Appointment

Nigerians anxiously aw-aiting President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s new cabinet will have to wait a little more.
However, the list of the prospective ministers is ready and only waiting for the Senate, which is at present on recess, for the confirmation of the nominees.
Briefing State House correspondents at the end of yesterday’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, which lasted exactly two hours and presided over by President Yar’Adua, the Minister of Communications and Information John Odey said the announcement of a new cabinet would be done at the President’s discretion.
Asked if the cabinet reshuffle was discussed at the FEC meeting, Odey said: “Definitely, there is a way forward because council resolutions have been passed today and the structure as listed to you has been approved.”
On when to expect the new cabinet, the minister replied, “That is at the pleasure of Mr. President. All cabinet ministers and members are at the pleasure of Mr. President and of course that will be done by Mr. President himself.”
But the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Olusegun Ade-niyi, said in a chat with State House correspondents last night that the ministerial list had been completed and was only waiting for the Senate, which at present is on recess, to confirm the new ministers.
“Well, the cabinet reshuffle is not a public relations gambit for the President. It is based on the need to galvanise government and improve on service delivery by identifying areas where there ought to be changes and bringing in new talents that would do the job.
“That process I can assure you is completed but since the Senate, which is the confirming authority, is currently on recess, there is no wisdom in creating vacuums at a period finishing touches are being put on the 2009 budget.
“The better part of next week is public holiday, so there is no hurry and I know the President to be a very painstaking person when it comes to crucial decisions as in this instance. And perhaps to assure you I have not been gagged, you can quote me on that, there will be a ministerial reshuffle,” he added.
However, the fate of ministers nominated from the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) remains unknown in the impending cabinet reshuffle as their political parties are yet to be contacted.
Two ministers from ANPP and one from PPA are currently serving in the President Yar’Adua’s Gover-nment of National Unity (GNU).
The National Chairman of ANPP, Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, told THISDAY last night that his party was yet to be contacted on the impending cabinet changes.
“We are members of the GNU, but I can tell you that up till this moment, the President is yet to contact us on the planned cabinet changes. We nominated ministers to the GNU and therefore we ought to know what is happening. Though we defer to him that as the Commander-in-Chief and President, he may choose not to contact us,” the ANPP chairman said but refused to accept that the refusal of the President to contact the party was responsible for the latest outburst against PDP.
He insisted that PDP was a cancerous political party without any idea to move Nigeria forward.
A source from the office of PPA National Chairman also told THISDAY that the party was yet to be contacted.
Also yesterday, Adeniyi denied insinuations in some section of the media that Tuesday’s oath of secrecy administered on political office holders serving in the State House meant they were being gagged.
He said: “It’s been discovered that the special advisers and the chief economic adviser were not supposed to be part of the oath taking as they like ministers and permanent secretaries had already been sworn in by the President.
“The oath taking is a public service ritual that ought to be in our file and it was the new State House Permanent Secretary who discovered the omission on the part of many of us and insisted we all had to do it. While it imposes responsibility on public officials, it is not an attempt to gag anybody and I can say categorically that nobody can gag me.
“I have even discovered that there was an error because the oath of secrecy is not for myself, the Chief Economic Adviser and other special advisers who, like ministers and permanent secretaries, had already been sworn in by the President.
“If it was an attempt to muzzle the media as it is being erroneously interpreted to mean, why would we make it public and allow the event to be covered by the same media? That is not realistic. I allowed reporters in because there was nothing to hide otherwise, we could have done it secretly. The truth is that it was a mere procedural thing and the idea that it is targeted at the media is not, and cannot be correct. I would never be part of such an exercise and neither would the President allow such to happen,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) yesterday approved the restructuring of federal ministries, which increased the number of the ministries from 22 to 28, as announced September 10.
FEC also granted approvals for the awards of some contracts which included contract for the completion of the University of Abuja Permanent Site’s core ring road project in favour of Messrs Exsa (Nig) Ltd, in the sum of N57,430,424.86.
The initial cost of the project was about N642 million before the contractor was asked to carry out variation as there was no fund to continue the project which had at that time reached about 65 per cent completion stage.
Another contract awarded was the one for sole sourcing of surveying and geomatic equipment for three universities in favour of Messrs Geoqinetiq Limited in the sum of N496, 502,150.58.
University of Lagos, University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria were the three beneficiaries under the second phase of the project.
The phase one of the project covers four institutions; Kaduna Polytechnic, Federal School of Survey, Oyo, Federal Polytechnic, Damaturu and Federal Polytechnic Nekede were approved by FEC last year.
The project which is in response to the President’s initiative of revamping Technical and Vocational Education (TVE) is under the sponsorship of Education Trust Fund (ETF).
The purpose, according to Odey, is to develop and deliver a geomatics capacity building initiative to transform seven institutions of higher learning as identified by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and ETF, into world class geomatics centres of excellence.
FEC also gave anticipatory approval for a credit worth $250million and $200million for the proposed 3rd National Fadama Development Project (FADAMA III) and support of Community and Social Development Project (CSDP).
The total project cost for the FADAMA III project is $450 million out of which $250 million is IDA credit.
The highly concessional credit facility has 0.75 per cent service charge per annum on the amount withdrawn and it is payable over 40 years with a grace period of 10 years.
The balance will be sourced among the three tiers of government as follows: Federal Government $23 million, state governments $77 million, Local Government $40 million and communities $60 million.
The minister said 20 per cent of the communities contribution would be in kind (materials and labour) while Global Environment Facility (GEF) is expected to provide grant in the sum of $7million.
The objective of the proposed FADAMA III project, according to Odey, is to increase the incomes of users of rural water resources on a sustainable basis.
He noted that the project has six components that would be executed by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources over a period of five years (2009-2013).
The 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are expected to benefit from the project.
The community project, which is targeted at promoting the use of participatory planning, budgetary and monitoring process is aimed at increasing the access of the poor rural people to improve social and natural resource infrastructure services.
According to the minister, the project fits into the programmes of NEEDS, President Yar’Adua’s 7-point Agenda and the country Partnership Strategy Framework agreed with World Bank and DFID.
The credit, he further said, would be on lent to participating states on the same terms and conditions in which they are offered by IDA to the Federal Government.
However, a subsidiary Credit Agreement is to be executed between the Federal Government and the participating 24 states.
But in what appears to be a subtle protest over the United Nation’s non-recognition of Nigeria’s contributions to the South-South Development Cooperation (SSDC), FEC frowned on the UN Secretary-General’s 2007/2008 speeches, which did not reflect the country’s contribution. thisdayonline

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