By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA —President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, assigned portfolios to the 36 new ministers with former Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, and former Governor of Rivers State Rotimi Amaechi emerging as the administration’s point men in the drive to improve the country’s infrastructure and transportation system.
Fashola emerged Minister of Power, Works and Housing with the distinction of having two permanent secretaries working under him.
Amaechi on his part, will supervise the nation’s transportation system, including Aviation, with a minister of State, Aviation under him.
President Buhari, who presided at the swearing in ceremony of the new ministers, said that the assigning of portfolios was done to put square pegs in square holes, adding that he strove to avoid the mistakes of past administrations in placing the new ministers, who he said were carefully chosen to reflect their capacities.
Yesterday’s inauguration of the new Council of Ministers was attended by President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun among other leading political stakeholders.
Following the inauguration, the first meeting of the Council of Ministers took place in the council chambers.
Earlier, the new ministers had taken turns in groups of four to take the oath of office administered by the President.
Following the swearing-in, the President read out a speech during which he spelt out the portfolios for the new ministers. He assigned to himself the Petroleum portfolio, while assigning the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu as Minister of State, Petroleum.
As he read out the portfolios, the President seemed to enjoy the element of surprise as the portfolios, with very few exceptions, differed from speculations in the social media.
Buhari’s charge to ministers
Charging the new ministers to work speedily to justify the confidence reposed in them, he said:
“Since our inauguration on May 29, 2015, the Vice President and I have been mindful of the need to constitute a cabinet that will best deliver our expectations of a better country than we inherited. We want to work towards a prosperous nation respected for the right reasons, and whose citizens can hold up their heads up anywhere in the world. And we are optimistic that bringing this set of ministers into the service of our country today is a step in the right direction, a timely move towards realizing our positive goals for our country.
“Since we assumed office in May, I have been mindful of the need to ensure that the appointment of new ministers translates into putting round pegs in round holes while showing sensitivity to our diversity as a people and our various positions as groups of stakeholders in our country.
“I have also been conscious of the need not to repeat such mistakes of the past where the right people were allocated the wrong portfolios, which translated into their performing poorly to our collective detriment despite their obvious capabilities. Also, I have responded to the counsel to consult as widely as possible, given the need to build a stable and all-inclusive government by reaching across our various ethnic and political divides.
“Our new ministers must proceed to work speedily and do their utmost to justify the confidence we have placed in them not only by their conduct but also by their performance in their various positions.”
Highlighting areas of utmost importance to the government, President Buhari listed self-sufficiency in food production, improved security with the defeat of insurgency, among others.
“The primary aim is to achieve self-sufficiency in the production of such staples as rice and wheat and to become a major consumer and exporter of both items as well as solid minerals. We intend to pursue policies that will generate massive employment for millions of our youth.
“We shall also continue with greater determination and focus to pursue our goal of ensuring improved security for our country and its citizens, and without letting up on our fight against corruption. Our commitment to defeat Boko Haram and all the threats it constitutes remains as strong as ever. So is our resolve to root out vices such as kidnapping and neutralise the various forms of criminalities that threaten the social peace of Nigerians.
Speaking briefly on what his government has so far done to tackle corruption and financial recklessness, President Buhari said: “Our adoption of the Treasury Single Account has resulted in the blocking of financial leakages in the public sector, making more funds available for the business of governance and ensuring the welfare of our citizens.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria has also assisted more than 30 states of the federation with concessionary loans to offset salary arrears for their workers. On the monetary side, the CBN has also implemented country-specific and innovative policies that have helped to stabilize the exchange rate and conserve our reserves.
“Over all, our economy is poised for sustained job creation, poverty reduction and inclusive growth. Regardless of the present challenges we are confronting, I believe all Nigerians will keep hope alive and sustain their optimism about the future of our economic well-being”, he said.