From Yusuf Alli and Vincent Ikuomola:

DAYS of speculation on the future of the cabinet ended – unceremoniously – yesterday.

Acting President Goodluck Jonathan disbanded the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

The former ministers are expected to hand over to permanent secretaries in their ministries.

Dr Jonathan’s action came after about five weeks of his leadership.

The decision was taken when the ministers went in for the second phase of the council’s meeting at about 2.20pm after observing an unusually long break, which lasted over 1hour.

No reason was given for the dissolution of the cabinet, which was announced by Prof. Dora Akunyili, former Minister of Information.

Mrs Akunyili, who briefed reporters at the end of the meeting, which lasted about six hours, said. “Today, the Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, dissolved the Federal Executive Council.”

When asked why the dissolution, she replied. “He did not give us any reason for the dissolution and, therefore, I cannot give any reason.”

She, however, announced that, as usual, the ministers should hand over to the permanent secretaries.

This has been the practice whenever ministers are sacked.

There was no group photograph, unlike the first dissolution carried out by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who took a photograph with all the ministers.

It was not immediately clear whether some of the 42 former ministers would be recalled.

One of the former ministers recalled their last moments in the Federal Executive Council chamber.

The ex-minister said: “We went into the FEC meeting with anticipation of what may likely happen. Some of us were already tired of the lull and were almost contemplating resignation if the Acting President would not act.

“The Acting President took his time to discuss all the 20 memos presented to the FEC. As a matter of fact, his patience and participation did not give any clue that the cabinet would be dissolved.

“But a few of us had the privilege to learn that the cabinet might be dissolved during the break from some reliable sources. We, however, kept the information to ourselves.

“After exhausting the 20 memos, the Acting President told us: ‘I am likely to bring a few hands into the cabinet. There will be some reshufflement. But I wish to thank all of you for your service to this nation. The cabinet is hereby dissolved’.

“Immediately the Acting President announced the dissolution, he stood up and was almost heading for the exit door when members of the cabinet called his attention to the need for closing prayers.

“We then prayed and departed the council chamber. While some of us discussed in hush tones, a few others were a bit transfixed.

“Some of us were no doubt shocked and disappointed. They had thought that a few ministers loyal to President Umaru Yar’Adua might be shoved aside.

“Eventually, the dissolution affected all of us.”

Jonathan decided to overhaul the cabinet for five reasons, it was learnt yesterday.

He spent Tuesday consulting with the leadership of the National Assembly and some eminent citizens on his plan and why he should carry it out.

It was also learnt that the legal and security implications of the dissolution of the cabinet were weighed before the overhaul.

A source, who pleaded not to be named, said: “Expectedly, opinions were divided on whether the cabinet should be dissolved or not.

“But some of those consulted actually advised against it. They recommended swapping of ministers, in the light of Jonathan’s discomfiture with some members of the cabinet.

“Jonathan, however, stuck to why the cabinet should be dissolved.

“There are speculations that some former Heads of State gave Jonathan tacit backing to go ahead with the dissolution.”

It was gathered that five reasons accounted for the dissolution. They are disloyalty; security reports; poor performance by some; need for new agenda; and alleged sabotage by some Ministers.

A top security source, who spoke in confidence, said: “The truth is that in as much as the Acting President had been accommodating, some ministers were just disloyal to him and it was apparent in their conduct. They had been underrating him.

“Security reports also showed that some of them had been holding nocturnal meetings in protest against the administration of the Acting President.

“So, I can conveniently tell you that the dissolution of the cabinet was a product of the Yar’Adua- Jonathan politics that split the Federal Executive Council.”

A source said last night hat a new cabinet would be put together within two weeks, adding that some of the old hands may return.

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