President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said that he did not sack members of his cabinet for close to four years because of their outstanding performance.
He stated this at a valedictory session of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
In his remarks at the event, Buhari said that he refused to rejig the cabinet for three and half years because the ministers contributed their divergent views during heated debates which eventually led to rational decisions being taken by the council.
Though yesterday’s session was the last FEC meeting, the president urged the ministers to remain in office and hand over to their various permanent secretaries on Tuesday next week, a day before his oath-taking for a second term in office.
Buhari directed the ministers to submit their handing over letters to the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, thereafter.
On why he held on to the ministers for that long, Buhari replied: “Although we all had a common vision, we frequently had heated debates in this room on the best way to achieve our goals. These differing views are what made the decisions we took all the more rational.
“It is this quality that made me retained my cabinet for the full term. Each of you in this room has a unique skill and strength. We are a reflection of the Nigeria we aspire to achieve; a diverse but tolerant nation where no one is silenced and where every opinion should be heard and considered,” he said.
While commending the cabinet members for serving to the best of their abilities, the president added that “you should be proud to have been part of the government that liberated the local governments previously under Boko Haram rule.
“You should be proud to have contributed to our food security and economic diversification agenda which led to the revival of our rural agrarian economy. You should be proud to have been part of the team that developed the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) which led Nigeria exiting its worst recession in decades.
“You should be proud to have introduced the social investment programme that enhanced the livelihoods of millions of Nigerians. You should be proud to have participated in settling outstanding pensions of many senior citizens abandoned by previous governments while supporting state governments to meet their salary arrears.
“And of course, you should all be proud to have overseen the most ambitious road, rail and airport rehabilitation programmes in the history of our country,” he told the ministers.
The president said that he wants to put on record that the ministers’ achievements in the last three and a half hears had guaranteed their position in the history of this nation, adding that “you have certainly built the foundation for an improved economy and a more purposeful government.”
Buhari recalled that his administration inherited a broken economy which eventually went into recession in the second quarter of 2016.
The situation, he noted, was further compounded by insecurity and massive corruption.
According to him, “many would have given up. Indeed, many outside commentators said that our situation was well-nigh hopeless. However, we all came together and pushed forward to deliver our campaign promises to rescue our country from its parlous state.”
Buhari, who recognised that the success recorded so far by his administration was made possible by the cooperation and hard work of the ministers, paid tributes to those ministers who resigned their appointments for one reason or the other as well as the dead, the late James Ocholi (SAN) who, died alongside his wife and son in a road accident.
The ministers who were given three minutes each to make their valedictory comments poured encomiums on the president for giving them the opportunity to serve Nigeria.
They listed lessons they learnt serving under the president and also commended Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for providing purposeful leadership and giving a right direction for the country.
Buhari was specifically applauded for his integrity and dedication as well as for his calmness in the face of daunting challenges.
On his part, Osinbajo said: “I thank Almighty God for preserving our lives to serve our nation this past four years. I will like to thank Mr. President for the opportunity to serve as your vice president and your running mate twice. My deepest gratitude comes from the great trust that you reposed in me at all times.
“I will never forget when you were going on medical leave in May of 2017 and you said to me that you will not falter my discretion as acting president in anyway. In keeping with your character and style, you kept your words.
“Mr. President many know of your personal integrity, discipline and capacity for hard work but many will not know just how humorous you are. I remember you Mr. President telling me once that the we should observe the cabinet members who go out often during meetings; that they were actually going out to finish the coconut and peanut. And since then I have noted carefully all those who go out looking very serious but I’m sure they end up finishing the coconut and peanut as Mr. President said.
“I want to use this opportunity to greet our cabinet colleagues; this has been an exceptionally patriotic and talented team. Everyone brought experience, knowledge, wisdom and selflessness to council’s deliberations at all times. I treasure the friendship that we have built with ourselves and among family members in the last four years. I pray that you will all go from glory to glory, that you will never fail or fall. As we depart from this council, I pray that the Lord that has guided us this far will be our helper in the years to come in Jesus name,” he prayed.
The minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Heineken Lokpbiri, advised that the next cabinet meetings be regulated so that President Buhari would have enough time for state matters.
He said: “Mr President as you go to the next level let me suggest that as president of Nigeria, you’re the president of the black world, you have enormous responsibility, so you need all the time to attend to other matters apart from the FEC proceedings and so it is my very humble submission that in the next level, let the office of the SGF develop a standing order that will regulate proceedings of the FEC to save Mr. President a lot of time to attend to other matters.”
The minister of Defence, Mansur Dan Ali, said under Buhari’s leadership, the Ministry of Defence recorded several achievements, which included the review of National Defence Policy, increased occupational capability of the armed forces, conduct of internal security and the incapacitation of Boko Haram among others.
His Education counterpart, Adamu Adamu, said that more money was needed for education and urged the government to invest at least N1trillion in the sector.
The minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, said: “My appointment was unique because prior to it, I have never been in politics. Unlike many people you gave me the twin portfolios of managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the minister of state petroleum. This put on me the responsibility to try and cleanse that ministry so that it will be useful to Nigerians.”
“I have had the unique privilege of working with Mr. President directly, different from being my president, he was my direct boss,” he said.
The minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, advised the president to take more interest in investment in Information Communication Technology (ICT) which, he said, had the potential of transforming the economy.
As the ministers left the Presidential Villa, they handed their diplomatic passports over to the protocol officials of the State House.
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