By Chiawo Nwankwo:
All the 42 ministers in the Federal Executive Council have been barred from making public statements, our correspondent has learnt.
Also, regional or group meetings of ministers, which flourished since cracks appeared in the cabinet, have been outlawed.
However, Jonathan told the ministers that if it became imperative for any of them to make a public statement, then his approval must be secured, a source in the Presidency told our correspondent.
The directive came against the background of concern expressed by governors on Tuesday in Abuja over public utterances of the Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili, in which she criticised the cloud of secrecy in the Presidency concerning President Umaru Yar’Adua’s health.
Akunyili had in an interview granted many newspapers on Sunday claimed that a cabal existed in the corridors power.
According to her, the cabal’s hold on government must be broken if the secrecy around the President’s health should become a thing of the past.
Also, Jonathan frowned on regional or group meetings of ministers, which seemed to have characterised Yar’Adua’s 93-day medical sojourn in Saudi Arabia .
According to Presidency sources, the ministers tended to confer along the North and South divide.
The most noticeable members of the ministerial cliques were the Minister of Special Duties, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa; Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources, Dr. Sayyadi Abba-Ruma; and Chief Economic Adviser to the President, Dr. Tanimu Yakubu.
Before Jonathan entered the Council chambers for the FEC meeting, a Presidency source said the ministers were jittery, following an earlier information that he would dissolve the cabinet.
But the Acting President had a last-minute change of mind on the dissolution.
He reportedly told the ministers that he had suspended the idea and enjoined them to face their jobs squarely and avoid divisive tendencies.
“At the FEC meeting, the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, ordered ministers to stop making public statements.
“He also warned against regional or group meetings of ministers, which was the rule rather than the exception during President Umaru Yar’Adua’s absence.
“Henceforth, ministers wishing to make any public statement must get clearance from the Acting President.
“The order was given because of comments of some ministers that were thought to be heating up the polity. Again, he told the ministers that cabinet dissolution had been put on hold.
“He seems to have gauged the political temperature and realised that such a measure now would have fractious consequences on the Presidency.”
Despite Jonathan’s assurance to the ministers, a cabinet source said the feeling that their days were numbered pervaded the Council chambers.
Besides Akunyili’s memo to FEC on the need for Yar’Adua to comply with Section 145 of the constitution, which attracted an unusual focus on the FEC, Aondoakaa’s unguarded attacks on her dragged the cabinet in the mud.
Aondoakaa has since apologised to Akunyili.
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