By Jide Ajani & Ben Agande:
ABUJA— ACTING President Goodluck Jonathan is set to swing into action this week with the exercise of full presidential powers.
According to Aso Rock sources, he will embark on sweeping changes in the area of security lapses noticed in recent times, Federal Executive Council and electoral reforms hinged largely on the Justice Uwais electoral reforms panel’s report, the power situation and the post amnesty issues.
Meantime, the Federal Executive Council will at its meeting midweek receive the report of six man delegation it sent to Saudi Arabia to evaluate the state of health of the President before his sudden return on Wednesday morning. The report could not be considered last Wednesday because of the inability of the Council to meet, following the arrival of ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua.
Though Acting President Jonathan has been considered as slow in taking decisions, Vanguard gathered that he has been consulting with sections of the country to arrive at decisions that would stand the test of time. Vanguard, however, learnt yesterday that President Umaru Yar’Adua remains incommunicado and is yet to be seen.
Riot act to ministers
Even as the jostle for control of the Presidency between forces loyal to ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua on the one hand, and Acting President Goodluck Jonathan on the other continues, the Acting President has directed ministers to do their work without any form of distraction.
Vanguard can also reveal that the Acting President is set to dismantle remnants of what an Aso Rock Presidential Villa source described as “the vestiges of the old order”.
Investigations by Vanguard in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, last week suggested that Jonathan may be about to stamp his authority on the Presidency this week.
His confidence level, which a source described as being “buoyed by the growing support from different quarters of Nigeria’s elite,” is also growing in a manner as to suggest that Jonathan may have put the hassles of the last week behind him.
Ministers to be up and doing
Consequent upon the admonition from Acting President Jonathan that Ministers should go about their work with dedication and commitment, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Adetokunbo Kayode, SAN, has sent a memo to the National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Maurice Iwu, requesting for the case files prepared against electoral offenders at the February 6 governorship elections in Anambra State.
Vanguard was informed that the memo to INEC was received by the Office of the Chairman of the commission last week.
Specifically, the Minister of Justice wanted INEC to furnish it with the list of offenders and their attached offences during the February 6 governorship elections.
Vanguard has also learnt that this, perhaps, “is the first time that electoral offenders would be specifically requested for by the Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation for prosecution.
The source said: “This is a paradigm shift from what Nigerians were used to in times past and it also shows that the Acting President knows what he wants to do and achieve for Nigerians.”
Vanguard was made to understand that “INEC, on its part is also ready to furnish the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation with the needed information to prosecute the offenders.
“One of the steps already set in motion by INEC”, Vanguard was informed, “is the communication to the Office of the Inspector General of Police. INEC will go ahead with the Police Authorities to send the case file to the Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation.”
Jonathan banks on public support
Vanguard has also learnt that Acting President Jonathan may be about to assert himself on the Presidency as he makes some moves this week.
Sources said that Jonathan was set to make some far-reaching changes in the cabinet last week before the unexpected arrival of Yar’Adua.
Speaking in separate interviews with Vanguard, Richard Akinjide, SAN, second republic Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, and Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, former president of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, said Jonathan should assert himself on the Presidency by mounting the chair designated for the President and Commander-in-Chief.
Akinjide said there was nothing wrong with Jonathan sitting on the chair, stressing: “It is very proper for him to sit on the chair because he has all the powers of the substantive holder of the office. There are no half measures in this thing. The President, whether substantive or acting, has all the powers of the holder of office.”
Agbakoba added his voice to the controversy surrounding the chair. He noted: “there can be no two presidents of Nigeria at any given time; there can be no two national anthems for Nigeria at any time, one for the President and the other for the Acting President. No
As it is, the transmission of letter from the President is a transmission of the presidential powers to Jonathan, simple and straight forward.
“There is only one insignia of office and it is on that chair. Once somebody is expected to discharge those powers, every other thing goes with it. The chair can not be vacant when you have an Acting President.”
Begins consultation for a possible cabinet shakeup
The Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has begun consultations with various power groups in the country for a possible shake-up in the cabinet to reposition his government, Vanguard has learnt in Abuja.
The cabinet change is as a result of the polarisation of members of the Executive Council of the Federation, following the long absence of President Umaru Yar’Adua from the country.
A highly placed source informed Vanguard that the contemplation for the change, which was expected shortly, is to halt the drift in governance and to relieve cabinet members whose continued presence in the council would engender negative feelings amongst their colleagues.
The absence of President Yar’Adua from office has sharply divided members of the Executive Council along the line of pro-Yar’Adua and pro-Goodluck Jonathan with only a few members seen to be neutral.
The redeployment of the former Attorney General of the Federation, Michael Aondoakaa to the Special Duties ministry is seen as a direct fall out of this division.
Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili in her interview with Sunday Vanguard, yesterday, referred to this division in council.
According to the source, the planned change in cabinet was not intended to punish or reward anybody but to reposition it for the task ahead especially on the critical areas of governance.
He said: “The consultation preceding the cabinet shake-up is to make everybody understands that the Acting President is not on a revenge mission. The most important thing is to ensure that those ministers whose continued presence would drag back this government are excused from the cabinet. It has nothing to do with their loyalty to the Acting President or not.
“Supporters of President Yar’Adua would be fully carried along in the assignment and the leadership of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, the National Assembly and other relevant power blocks would be informed and fully briefed by the Acting President before a final decision is announced to Nigerians.”
Vanguard gathered that a meeting of the caucus of the Peoples’ Democratic Party would be convened this week to afford the Acting President, an opportunity to brief members of the caucus and secure their consent before making the final changes.
“The changes would affect areas that are critical to the realization of mandate of this administration. The Acting President is keen on taking a decision that when the President recovers fully and is ready to continue in office, he (the Acting President) would be able to defend his decision to relieve some ministers of their appointments in the over all interest of the country” the source said.
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