By Salisu Ibrahim & Mohammed Isa:
* As Northern Reps demand minister’s resignation…
The Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, yes-terday lashed out at the Minister of Information and Communications, Professor Dora Akunyili, and called on her to desist from making inflammatory comments that could inflame tempers.
At the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) held yesterday, Jonathan re-echoed the position of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum which called on the acting president to call Akunyili to order.
The tongue-lashing of Akunyili is coming on the heels of a demand by the Northern Caucus of the House of Representatives on Akunyili to resign her position over comments on the state of the nation.
Peoples Daily reliably gathered that Jonathan was unhappy with the minister over her recent comments in the media and charged her to halt further unguarded comments that may exacerbate the current political impasse.
Our correspondent gathered that the acting president, who was visibly angry with recent comments by the information minister, said the Nigerian public may get the impression that the views of the minister were position of the government.
Jonathan was said to have told a humbled Akunyili that, “your remarks may be considered as the official position of this government, hence the need to caution you from making further comments capable of creating increased tension.
“The position you maintain in the government is very sensitive; whatever you say people will construe it to mean the position of the government,” sources said the acting president told Akunyili.
An angry Akunyili who later addressed State House correspondents after the FEC meeting refused to answer questions from newsmen.
“She looked very angry and unfriendly. She also refused to answer questions on what happened in Council. She looked subdued,” our State House reporter said.
Professor Akunyili, it would be recalled, had been at the forefront of the media campaign to let Nigerians know the true state of health of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, accusing her colleagues of insincerity and cover up in the way they had handled the matter so far.
Meanwhile, the Council yesterday adopted the report of the six-man delegation to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sent to visit ailing President Yar’adua while in Jeddah.
The delegation reported to the Council that they were unable to see the president, as the President had left Saudi Arabia for Nigeria.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Mahmud Yayale Ahmed, who led the delegation, made the presentation to the Council.
Akunyili, while briefing journalists, said Council was informed that the delegation delivered the acting president’s letter to Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, for onward transmission to His Royal Majesty, King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud.
The minister, who parried all questions asked her on the issue, said that while in Saudi Arabia, the Nigerian Ambassador, Alhaji Abdullahi Aminci, informed the ministerial delegation that he had received information that President Yar’adua had been discharged and was on his way back to Abuja.
The report said, “From all indications, the President must have departed Jeddah Airport at about 10 pm, Saudi time on Tuesday 23rd February 2010. With news that the President had left Saudi Arabia for Nigeria, the delegation did not consider it necessary to proceed to Jeddah, where the President was hospitalised. Accordingly, they decided to return to Nigeria,” she added.
She said that before their departure to the Kingdom for the visit, the acting president had addressed a letter to King Abdullah, introducing the delegation as a special envoy from the Presidency.
“In the letter, the acting president conveyed the profound appreciation and deep gratitude of the government and the entire people of Nigeria to the King, for the kindness, hospitality, fraternal care and excellent facilities extended to President Umaru Musa Yar’adua”, she added.
The delegation comprise of the SGF as leader, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, SAN, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, and Dr. Abba Sayyadi Ruma as members.
Meanwhile, the Council has approved the sum of N21.48 billion for the reconstruction of Owerri-Elele road linking Imo and Rivers state as part of the post-amnesty programme aimed at enhancing accessibility and creating employment opportunities as well as additional consultancy services for the project valued at N469.73 million.
Also approved is the N1.45 billion contract for the rehabilitation of Dengi-Jarmai road in Plateau state. It is to be funded by the Federal Road Maintenance Agency and the Ecological Fund.
A consultancy services contract for the Obiakpo-Obeng gas pipeline was approved in the sum of N236.8 million; it involves project studies and technical surveys, among other technical supervision duties for the project.
Meanwhile, members of the Northern Caucus of the House yesterday demanded the resignation of Akunyili over her recent statements on the state of the nation.The demand was one of the resolutions reached by the caucus at its meeting last Tuesday in Abuja.
Briefing newsmen on the resolution, the chairman of the caucus, Rep Terngu Tsebga (PDP-Benue) said Akunyili’s statement suggesting systematic undermining of the functioning of the acting president, was full of security implications.
“Under the doctrine of collective responsibility, she, as a cabinet minister, is incompetent to make public statements in contradiction to the collective decision of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) irrespective of her personal opinion.”
The correct option in the circumstances of her total objection to the decision of FEC is to resign, said Terngu, who read the resolutions in company of many of his colleagues.
The caucus, according to him, urged public officers, particularly ministers to refrain from making further inflamma-tory statements capable of undermining the peace, stability and unity of Nigeria. It advised them to instead, “concentrate on their constitutional role of service delivery to the nation through diligent budget implementation.”
He assured of the caucus’ continuous support for Jonathan in the exercise of all the powers of the office of the President in line with the resolution of the House.
The caucus, he said was willing to remove any impediment for Jonathan to discharge his duties efficiently and effectively.
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