From Madu Onuorah:
SHOCK. Disbelief. And then, resignation to fate. That was the situation at the Aso Rock seat of Federal power yesterday.
Members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) could not conceal their shock as the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, announced the dissolution of the body. When many of the members came out, not only did they wear long faces, they also could not respond to harmless greetings.
The announcement of the dissolution came at the very end of more than a seven-hour session, late in the evening, presided over by Jonathan.
Senior Special Assistant to the Acting President, Ima Niboro, said the cabinet dissolution is a bid to inject fresh blood and bring even greater vigour to governance. It is part of the larger strategy to frontally confront the core challenges that face the nation at this critical moment of our history.
The ministers came out with straight faces, walking away. It was only the former Minister of Labour and Productivity, Ambassador Ibrahim Kazaure, who volunteered information to journalists on the report of the dissolution, telling journalists how happy he was to have had the chance to serve the nation as a minister.
According to Kazaure: “I thank the President for giving me the opportunity to serve. I have no regrets. As a career politician, I am going back to politics.” He then walked away.
Former Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili, walked into the Presidential Briefing Room alone. No minister accompanied her, contrary to the practice whereby all ministers whose memos were approved by the council usually accompany her to brief the media.
Akunyili then read out a long list of approvals made by the Council.
Lastly, she announced that: “Today, the Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, dissolved the Federal Executive Council (FEC).”
Asked the reason Jonathan gave for the dissolution, Akunyili said: “The Acting President, Dr. Jonathan, did not give us any reason for the dissolution of Council. Therefore, I cannot give you reasons.”
On who will be in charge of the ministries with the dissolution of the council, the former Federal Government spokesperson noted that “the Permanent Secretaries will be in charge of the ministries because tomorrow morning, I will hand over to my Permanent Secretary. I believe other ministers will also hand over to their Permanent Secretaries. That is the usual practice.”
The first set of ministers were sworn in by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on Thursday, July 26, 2007. Later on November 21, 2007, Chief Godsday Orubebe was sworn in alone. The last set of the ministers were sworn in, in December 2008.
Most of the out-going cabinet was appointed by President Yar’Adua on July 26, 2007, although last month (February 10, 2010), Acting President Jonathan replaced Justice Minister, Chief Michael Aondoakaa with Prince Adetokunbo Kayode (SAN).
Aondoakaa was moved to the special duties department.
Before the Council was dissolved, it approved contracts in the roads, energy, housing and other sectors.
For the road sector, it approved the augmentation of contract for the dualisation of the Onitsha-Owerri Road in Anambra and Imo states in favour of Julius Berger for N1.233,326,297.72, thereby revising the original contract from N19,417,010,359.90 to N20,650,336,657.62 with an extended completion date of September 2010.
The other was the contract for the dualisation of Sango-Ota-Winners Chapel Road in Ogun State at a cost of N687,258,282.91, bringing the contract to a new N1,786,552,318.75.
For the power sector, additional works and revision of the contract for the construction of Maiduguri 1X150MVA 330/132/KV sub-station was approved at a total cost of $2,371,564.54 plus N113,347,000, bringing the total contract sum to $7,449,747.54 plus N538,876,783 with a completion date of January 31, 2011.
The Council also approved an extension of project consultancy and revision of contract for the Gombe-Damaturu-Maiduguri 330KV single circuit transmission line and associated sub-stations at a total cost of £701,371,710.59 plus N91,217710 to N1,143,855.59 plus N123,371,710, with an extended completion date of September 30, 2010. Also, the Council endorsed additional works and revision of the contract sum on the Damaturu 1x150MVA/330/132/33KV line bay extension at Gombe at a $2,298,338.35 plus N75,716,100; bringing the contract cost to $12,950,751.50 plus N482,513,539, with a completion period of seven months.
FEC also approved the construction of nine skills acquisition centres in nine states of the Niger Delta for N27.32 billion.
The states are Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers. Fifteen per cent of the contract sum was captured in the 2009 budget while the 2010 budget has taken care of the balance.
Akunyili, who disclosed the approvals, said the centres would equip Niger Delta youths with skills to enable them work in various sectors of national economy.
The Council also gave nod for the purchase of 120 housing units for senior officials of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) at the cost of N4.8 billion.
For the Ministry of Education, the Council authorised the purchase of 138 units of 30-seater buses for distribution among all the federal universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. They will cost N1.94 billion.
Also approved was augmentation of the sum for the construction of the National Library, Abuja, from N8.59 billion in 2006 to N17.05 billion with a completion period of 21 months.
According to Akunyili, the project could not take off then because of paucity of funds and changes in the work based on updated user requirement in variation.
The Council also okayed the setting up of gender units in every government ministry and parastatal to promote the National Gender Policy.
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