By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi and Chesa Chesa:
• Act Now, Danjuma Tells Acting President
• Senate Okays Presidential Advisory Council
Effect changes in the polity “quickly and aggressively” before you lose public goodwill which you now have by the barrel.
That was what Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) Chairman, Theophilus Danjuma, told Acting President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday in Abuja.
The PPAC, comprising 17 members, and headed by former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Ibrahim Bunu, will inspect and assess such contracts and projects nationwide.
In all, Jonathan inaugurated three panels on Thursday: the PAC, the PPAC, and the reconstituted Presidential Monitoring Committee on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The PPAC has three months to report back to the Villa with accurate information on inflated contracts and abandoned projects that are critical to national development, Jonathan said.
“We have received reports of abandoned Federal Government projects, petitions of over-valuation and under-valuation and, in some cases, outright non-performance of some contracts.
“The need for a comprehensive inventory of all our on-going projects and their level of funding has therefore become imperative,” he explained.
The PPAC is also expected to help the government to focus attention on the completion and effective utilisation of resources for good governance.
Bunu thanked Jonathan for the confidence reposed in the PPAC members and promised that they would not fail.
Another member of the PPAC, Etido Inyang, described it as a novel idea inspired by the vision to move Nigeria forward in the face of failed projects that litter the land.
“It is the first of its kind in Nigeria, and it is essential because the country requires this level of assessment, even as many contractors have fled their sites and are in hiding.
“This kind of assessment will, hopefully, reduce and eventually eradicate the problem of abandoned projects – and contractors will learn to sit up,” he enthused.
Inyang, Special Adviser on Technical Matters to the Akwa Ibom State Government, said the PPAC was not set up to witch hunt perceived enemies or opponents of the federal authorities.
Jonathan equally inaugurated the reconstituted Presidential Monitoring Committee on the NDDC, during which he acknowledged “the new cooperation and high sense of patriotism that have been exhibited by the ex-militant leaders and their followers. They have done well.”
He restated Abuja’s determination “to consolidate and build on the window of the amnesty process and bring happiness to Nigerians and foreigners alike who depend on the endowments of the region.”
The Committee has 11 members, and its Chairman, Isaac Jemide, pledged its resolve to ensure the NDDC lives up to expectations.
Danjuma, former Defence Minister, who spoke at the Villa when Jonathan inaugurated the PAC, which comprises 26 members, noted that this is “a decisive moment” in Nigeria’s history.
And, he stressed, at such moments, “God always ensures that a nation possesses significant personalities” who would act as His agents for change.
You are “the significant personality that God has chosen at this time to take your place at the front in the struggle to save our country,” he reminded Jonathan.
“Because the times are extra-ordinary, the measures that need to be taken are not only urgent but also extra-ordinary.
“Unless you take those measures quickly the goodwill which you now enjoy may be lost. Fortunately, you have the required courage and vision.”
Danjuma said what Jonathan did not have in the past was the authority, but now that he has been vested with it, the nation expects him to proceed quickly to effect transformation.
“This is the right time for you to act, now when you can act quickly and aggressively, now when the society can be trusted to be so generous as to credit you with your successes and to excuse your errors.”
He noted that this administration has 14 months to serve out its tenure, which is “not an awfully long time” to deal effectively with all the problems set out in the PAC’s terms of reference.
“But then one day is a long time in politics. Mr. Acting President, you have sufficient time to make a difference.”
Danjuma also urged Jonathan to bequeath a legacy of free and fair elections, and to pursue that effort to its logical conclusion, with all speed, determination, and sincerity.
“If all you do, as Acting President, is to ensure that our elections are transparent, it shall be sufficient to endear you to the nation and you shall go down in history as one of our greatest leaders.”
Danjuma thanked President Umaru Yar’Adua for his “effective use of sticks and carrots” in resolving the Niger Delta problem, and urged Jonathan to implement all the measures agreed, so as to reconcile the people of the region with the rest of the nation.
He commended Abuja’s battle against corruption, but urged that “it should be made pro-active rather than reactive because prevention is better than cure.
“There is a general feeling that the fight against corruption has slowed down, and we urge that something be done to restore the momentum.”
Danjuma recounted that, over the years, nothing has undermined efforts at self-reliance more than the lack of reliable power supply, which also discourages foreign investment and local enterprise.
He urged a “comprehensive solution” using not only the best experts of Nigeria but also of other nations, as “no attention paid to this sector will be too great.”
He pledged that the PAC would not disappoint, because by appointing “this calibre of men and women from all over the country and from all walks of life” Jonathan has demonstrated his own commitment to excellence as well as determination to succeed.
“On our part, we take this assignment to heart and look forward to all that we can do to make your administration a great success.”
Jonathan pledged not to ignore the “healthy clamour for good governance across our country” and reaffirmed his “belief that the privilege and opportunity of service is a sacred trust that we must not betray.”
He said “although time is short,” like a determined athlete, “we need no more than a hundred metres to make our mark on the sands of good governance. But we cannot do it alone.
“A people focused and a beneficial variety of government is a bold and co-operative affair delivered by patriotic men and women who believe in the limitless possibilities for our country.
“I am convinced, therefore, that the best advertisement of good governance is its positive expressions of happiness in the lives of the governed.”
Jonathan said the urgency of the task at hand compelled him to raise the PAC, comprising men and women of distinguished pedigree to provide their wealth of experiences to the government.
He assured that the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) and other key members of the government will pay attention to the recommendations of the PAC within its scope of assignment.
Defence Minister, Godwin Abbe, and FCT Minister, Adamu Aliero, were shut out of the event for arriving late.
One came in after Jonathan was already seated, the other did almost at the end of the ceremony, and both were stopped by security operatives from entering the hall.
At the end of the inauguration, Abbe and Aliero asked each other, “What do we do now that the meeting has ended?” then decided to “go in even if it is to shake hands and congratulate the members of the (PAC).”
The Senate expressed support for the PAC, saying Jonathan means well for the country, and asked that the controversy over Yar’Adua’s health should no longer be an issue.
Senate Spokesman, Ayogu Eze, noted that Jonathan has started on a good footing by appointing an advisory council, which is “a mark of humility,” and “an admission that he does not know it all.”
He needs to pull in experienced people who can provide advice on the next trajectory for the ship of state, Eze added, and urged Nigerians to “let this situation be; let us not heighten tension, let us emphasis only the issues that would enthrone peace, sustain peace and help (Jonathan) to move the country forward.”
Eze pleaded with Nigerians to focus on supporting Jonathan and helping him to strengthen his programmes to deliver the benefits of government while in the saddle.
“Every department of government has spoken – the Governors, the National Assembly (NASS), and a party to which all of us belong – that we are very satisfied with the steps being taken by (Jonathan), and equally satisfied that nobody is coming between him and his job.
“We urge him to concentrate and not be distracted and focus on delivering the goods.”
He said there is no need “looking for somebody who is sick and then poke nose or cry about; (Yar’Adua) is all right, but right now, there is an Acting President, and I urge us to please allow (Jonathan) to do his work.”
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