FOR those that are eager to hear President Muhammadu Buhari name his cabinet members, they will have to tarry awhile because the President’s cabinet members may not be announced untill the end of August or early September.
A source very close to the President confided in The PUNCH on Sunday that Buhari would not form any cabinet until the “rot left behind by the past administration” is cleared.
“Mr. President is reluctant to build on a rotten foundation he inherited from the Peoples Democratic Party administration. You cannot even begin to imagine the situation we have met on the ground; almost everything is in a state of decay.
“There is absolutely no way the new government can hope to achieve anything long-lasting without first building a new foundation,” the source said.
The source added that clearing the PDP rot was not a month’s job and said those that had been heckling the President over lack of cabinet were politicians looking for jobs.
“They have tried doing it other ways and those haven’t worked. They only want their cronies appointed to ministerial posts anyhow and they are fuelling the agitation,” the source said.
He also said Buhari was taking his time to know the ministries that would survive government’s planned pruning and the desire to cut cost of governance.
The source likened President Buhari’s plan of action to that of a doctor, who first has to break a poorly set bone afresh, before resetting it to allow for smooth and proper growth.
Over the past week, Buhari has come under criticism because he had yet to appoint his cabinet members, despite having more than three months since his election, including a month since his inauguration.
The President was sworn in on May 29, exactly one month ago today.
Responding to the criticism, the source pointed out that it would be impossible to appoint ministers to portfolios without first knowing which portfolios exist and which will be abolished.
He said, “The President plans to cut down the number of ministries and parastatals. He wants to cut down the cost of running government. He wants to make sure that all the loopholes that enable corruption to thrive are blocked. All these are procedures that require time and careful planning. You cannot do it in a rush.
“Remember that he has to make sure that all this is done without any job losses or mass retrenchments. All this is not a day’s or one-month job.”
He added that Buhari could not have realistically commenced the process of forming a cabinet without first receiving the full report of the transition committee and ascertaining exactly the situation his government faced.
The source also denied news reports which stated that President Buhari’s lack of cabinet appointments had grounded the government, insisting that civil servants had been supervising the day-to-day running of ministries and that Permanent Secretaries of the various ministries all have full access to the President.
The source concluded by referring to the current crisis in the National Assembly as one more reason why forming a cabinet would be impossible until further notice.
“Look at how they are fighting among themselves. The Senate has now adjourned till July 21. That means no one to scrutinise or approve any ministerial list until the end of July,” he submitted.
But when reminded that the Senate had agreed to reconvene to consider the President’s ministerial nominees as soon as such list was ready, the source asked our correspondent to await the President’s intervention in the crisis between the party and the National Assembly. “The President wants to walk his talk on stable politics and being a leader for all. He has a plan for the National Assembly,” he said.
When contacted on Sunday, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said the information at the disposal of The PUNCH was “not far from the truth.”
“This narrative is the nearest to the truth than all others that are being peddled around. It is not far from the truth,” Shehu said.
Meanwhile, our correspondents learnt in Abuja on Sunday that Buhari would adopt the recommendation of the Ahmed Joda-led transition committee of the All Progressives Congress to prune down the number of ministries to 19.
The PUNCH learnt that the President would appoint 19 senior ministers and 17 ministers of state as recommended by the Joda committee.
It was also learnt that besides adopting the recommendation, the administration would place emphasis on the appointment of technocrats to man some ministries, including education, finance, works, housing and environment
The 18-man committee inaugurated on April 27, 2015 to prepare the ground for Buhari’s inauguration on May 29, 2015 submitted its report on June 12.
There were 28 ministries and corresponding number of ministers manning them under the immediate past administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The Jonathan administration also appointed 14 ministers of state.
A reliable source, who is familiar with the activities of the new administration, said the President, no doubt, had accepted and had been working on the recommendations of the Joda committee on the number of ministries to remain.
The source, who did not want to be named as he was not authorised to speak on the issue, said though the President had not made his proposed ministerial list open, the President had not hidden it from top presidency officers, including the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, that “the President will be guided by the Joda committee’s report.”
The source said, “I can confirm that the President is going to work with the recommendation of the Joda committee, which means he will operate only 19 ministries to be manned by 19 ministers.
“There will also be 17 ministers of state so that the President will not run afoul of constitutional requirement, which expects him to appoint ministers from all the 36 states of the federation.
“Top officers in the Presidency, including Vice President Osinbajo, are aware that President Buhari is going to adopt the 19-ministry recommendation.”
The Joda-led committee had recommended that the new Buhari administration should operate only 19 ministries in the spirit of cutting down the cost of governance.
The committee recommended that the President should appoint only 19 senior ministers and 17 ministers of state to fulfil the constitutional requirement that the ministers constituting the Federal Executive Council must be drawn from the 36 states of the federation.
The Joda committee recommended 19 ministries, some of which would be products of merging of some of the existing ministries.
Those to be retained in their present form are just nine- Trade, Industry and investment; Education; Defence; Federal Capital Territory; Labour and Employment; Finance; Justice; Foreign Affairs; and Budget and National Planning.
Others would either me merged or subsumed under others.