President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday took out time to formally present his Next Level Agenda to his ministers-designate ahead of their inauguration tomorrow.
Buhari told the ministers-in waiting that he would rely on them to implement the policies and programmes of his administration and therefore charged them not to disappoint Nigerians, who they were chosen to serve.
He told them that the first goal they should assist him to achieve is the lifting of 10 million Nigerians out of abject poverty.
The president spoke yesterday at the opening of a presidential retreat for the ministers-designate at the presidential Villa, Abuja.
Buhari said that the cabinet members who were chosen to represent their respective states as a constitutional imperative, must strive to work as a team for the next four years to chart a new course for the country.
He said that his first tenure identified three salient areas – security, economy and the fight against corruption – for close attention and action.
While charging the incoming ministers to build upon his administration’s policies, programmes and projects aimed at lifting the bulk of the citizens out of deep poverty and set them on the path of prosperity, Buhari said: “We must work as a team. Working as a team demands that we know what the next person is doing. You must open communication with your colleagues. Lack of communication leads to lack of cooperation and sub-optimal performance.
“First – we have rolled back the frontiers of terrorism; we are actively addressing other challenges such as kidnapping, farmer-herder violence, improving the safety of our roads, railways, air travel and fire control capacities.
“Second – we are steadily turning the economy round through investment in agriculture and manufacturing, shoring up our foreign reserves, curbing inflation and improving the country’s infrastructure.
“Third – on corruption, we have recovered hundreds of billions of stolen assets and are actively pursuing control measures to tackle leakages in public resources. We will not let up in fighting corruption.
“Our administration’s eight years will have laid the grounds for lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. This outcome will fundamentally shift Nigeria’s trajectory and place us among the world’s great Nations,” he said.
Buhari further charged them to ensure that agencies under their ministries are “effective, efficient and accountable in the discharge of their responsibilities”, adding that the ministers would be responsible for the development and implementation of policies, programmes and projects in their Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in line with the government priorities.
He averred that “working as a team to advance to the Next Level” demands that “we know what the next person is doing. You must open communications with your colleagues. Lack of communication leads to lack of cooperation and sub-optimal performance.”
The president stated that the retreat was designed to make the ministers familiarise with one another as they would be working closely for the next four years God willing, adding that “second, to reflect and assess the country’s position in 2015 and today; and third, to chart a course for the country for the foreseeable future.”
President Buhari congratulated the new comers, who, he said, were chosen above others to join the first term ministers whose performance had been outstanding.
“All of you are appointed to assist and advise the president in running the affairs of our country. At the end of the retreat, it is hoped that all of you will be in tune with the roles and responsibilities of positions you will occupy in government.
“It is a great privilege for you to be called upon to serve in these great offices of the state and you must grab the chance with two hands and put in your best as Nigeria today needs top managers to handle our numerous challenges. There will be long hours and you must be prepared to live laborious days if we are to serve our people optimally,” the president added.
Buhari declared that that his administration was aware of the looming demographic potential of the country, stressing that by average estimates, its population stood close to 200 million. He noted that by 2050, the United Nations (UN) estimates put Nigeria third globally behind only India and China with our projected population at 411 million.
This, the president said was a frightening prospect but only if the citizens sit idly and expect handouts from so-called development partners.
“The solution to our problems lies within us,” he said.
Earlier in his address, the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, said that the retreat was organised to prepare the new ministers to drive and coordinate the affairs and activities of the various socio-economic and political spheres of the country.
According to him, the gathering would afford the participants the opportunity to familiarise themselves with their roles and responsibilities as cabinet ministers, an understanding that would help to shape and streamline efforts towards the delivery of dividends of democracy to Nigerians.
Mustapha said: “Honourable ministers-designate and distinguished participants, it is expected that the outcome of this retreat will set a strategic agenda which would define our course of action for the next four years of the administration, set achievable targets and identify basic strategic options that will assist the new cabinet realise the goals for which the administration was elected to achieve.
“The Federal Executive Council, referred to in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as the Executive Council of the Federation, is the principal instrument of policy decisions for the federation, being the body charged with the responsibility for enunciating policies on matters to which the executive authority of the federation extends.
“The above statements are the kernel of the roles and responsibilities of ministers of the Federal Executive Council. The import of this, is that ministers are collectively responsible for policy decisions in council.
“Although an individual minister may differ in opinion during deliberations on any proposal before council, once a decision is taken, it becomes a binding council decision that no minister can speak against either in public or private no matter the argument he/she presented during discussion on the proposal,” he said.
“This principle of collective responsibility also infers that a minister has responsibilities wider than those relating to his/her assigned portfolio and will, in that capacity, receive documents from other ministers/ministries, which do not concern the subjects under his/her portfolio, requiring his/her consideration and contribution during the weekly council meetings.
“Honourable ministers-designate, let me remind us that the task of governance requires patience, dedication and total commitment to the objectives we have committed to pursue, especially in realisation of the yearnings for quick delivery of the dividends of democracy by the people.
“As honourable ministers of the Federal Executive Council, we are expected to live above board. We must, therefore, eschew every conduct, private or public, that would tarnish the good image of the President-in-Council.
“We must also reconcile with ourselves that the next four years of our lives would be effectively and efficiently dedicated to the service of our fatherland,” Mustapha said.
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