From George Oji:
In a bid to inject new life into the administration, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan is currently mulling over a major change in the cabinet to enable him implement his “programme to perform” in the remaining life of this government.
A major shake-up in the cabinet is being expected today as he holds the weekly Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) meeting.
But the expected overhaul is far from certain as Jonathan was still keeping his cards close to his chest as at early this morning.
THISDAY checks revealed that the Acting President was yet to decide if to carry out wholesale changes or just move some ministers around in his quest to reposition and re-energise the government.
But at least five ministries, which are key to the focus of Jonathan, may be manned by new persons if the Acting President eventually overhauls his cabinet.
On top of the list is the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman, who may eventually give way to Dr. Emmanuel Egbogah, currently the Special Adviser to the President on Petroleum Matters.
It is also expected that the Minister of Power, Mr. Lanre Babalola, will be affected as Jonathan considers the ministry as very critical in his attempt to fulfil his promise of a significant improvement in power supply in the coming months. Jonathan is said to be less than impressed with the pace of the minister.
The fate of the Minister of Works, Alhaji Hassan Lawal, who has been a minister since the time of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, is also said to be uncertain as the record of performance of the ministry in the last three years has not been considered too impressive.
There were also reports that the Minster of Agriculture and Water Resources, Dr. Sayyadi Abba Ruma, is not in the good books of Jonathan, although his ministry has been one of the few highly regarded as performing in recent times.
The Minister of Niger Delta, Chief Ufot Ekaette, is almost certainly on his way out in the event of a major overhaul of the cabinet as Jonathan tries to quicken the pace of the post-amnesty programme in the oil-producing region which has been regarded as too slow.
Yesterday, Jonathan directed all the relevant ministries and committees involved in the post-amnesty programme to fast-track all issues, particularly those involving infrastructural development so as to correct the perception that the amnesty programme is sleeping.
“The acting president has given a marching order to all agencies and bodies involved in the amnesty process to immediately go to work and ensure that whatever challenges that are holding up in these areas be surmounted immediately so that the process can move ahead flawlessly,” Acting President’s spokesman Ima Niboro said while briefing State House correspondents at the end of yesterday’s amnesty committee meeting at the Presidential Villa Abuja.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that some ministers who believe they will lose out in the cabinet change are considering going to court to challenge the constitutionality of acting presidency.
Jonathan was pronounced Acting President by the National Assembly on February 9, 2010 after the prolonged absence of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who had travelled to Saudi Arabia on medical vacation without empowering his Vice-President through a letter to the federal lawmakers.
The Senate had based its decision to make Jonathan Acting President on the “doctrine of necessity”, saying the constitution did not envisage a situation where the President would be unable to transmit a letter of vacation to the National Assembly.
But the action is being challenged in court by Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, a former presidential aide in the Second Republic.
Some of the ministers are considering towing this line in some friendly courts. If their action succeeds, all the actions taken by Jonathan since February 9 may be declared illegal, null and void.
He has notably sworn in 17 permanent secretaries, while also carrying out a minor cabinet reshuffle as well as sacking the National Security Adviser, Major Gen. Sarki Mukhtar, and replacing him with Lt. Gen. Aliyu Mohammed Gusau.
Jonathan has also been sending bills to the Senate.
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