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Ministers Panic Over Looming Cabinet Shake-up

Ministers in the Federal Government have been panic-stricken since the news broke that President Goodluck Jonathan had concluded plans for a major shake-up in his cabinet, investigations by SUNDAY PUNCHhave revealed.

It was learnt on Friday that while some ministers would be shown the way out, some others will swap positions.

The anxiety among the ministers, it was further learnt, was heightened because they were not sure of the criteria that might be adopted to decide their fate.

Since the plan of the Presidency is to constitute “an election cabinet” ahead of the President’s declaration of interest in the 2015 election, political clouts of the ministers will likely be a major factor.

Performance will also play a role in the fate of the technocrats among them.

It was further learnt that the ministerial nominees that will make the list that will be forwarded to the Senate next week is a fraction of the vacancy currently in the cabinet.

There are currently 12 ministerial vacancies in the cabinet.

“The nominees have undergone security screening. Not all the vacancies will be filled with this list but a substantial amount of them will be filled,” a top Presidency source told SUNDAY PUNCH.

While justifying the plan to change the portfolios of some ministers, the source said the idea was to give the cabinet “a new look.”

He, however, did not name those who might be affected in the new arrangement.

Our correspondent learnt that ministers who have ambitions to contest elections will form a chunk of those that will be leaving the cabinet soon.

For instance, Minister of Police Affairs, Navy-Cpt. Caleb Olubolade (retd.), is eyeing the Peoples Democratic Party ticket for the Ekiti State governorship election holding later in the year.

Other ministers who are eyeing the governorship seats of their states are Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku (Nassarawa); Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Godsday Orubebe (Delta) and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Muhammed (Bauchi).

Reports also have it that the Supervising Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof. Viola Onwuliri, who was deputy to former Governor Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State is also eyeing a senatorial seat.

Meanwhile, as Jonathan prepares to shuffle his cabinet, a Second Republic member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, has called for the removal of at least five ministers.

He made the call in a telephone interview with SUNDAY PUNCH in Abuja, on Friday.

According to him, the five ministers ought to have left the cabinet long before now.

Mohammed said, “The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison- Madueke, lacks competence and political dexterity. Her inability to even get the Petroleum Industry Bill through the National Assembly is evident that she commands no respect.

“The second Minister who must go is the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; she has not in any way managed our finance and she is simply being hyped by a section of the media.”

He also said the Ministers of Aviation, Stella Oduah; that of the Federal Capital Territory, Bala Mohammed, his counterpart in the Information Ministry, Labaran Maku and that of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, should also be dropped.

Speaking in a similar vein, the Executive Secretary of the Civil Societies Legislative and Advocacy Centre, Auwual Musa, said the planned cabinet shake-up was an opportunity for President Jonathan to redeem the image of his administration.

Musa said, “He can use this exercise to ease out all those ministers that have brought nothing but public opprobrium to his administration.

“For a start, he should do away with the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, who has been enmeshed in a series of corruption and academic fraud scandals.

“The Minister of Petroleum Resources Alison-Madueke and the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, who has been making bogus claims about the state of the economy, should also not be spared.”

In an interview with one of our correspondents, a Lagos-based legal practitioner, Mr. Festus Keyamo, objected to the appointment of politicians as ministers.

He said, “It will be extremely wrong to bring in politicians at this time because they will do nothing than campaign. That will be extremely objectionable.

“If he (Jonathan) knows he wants to finish strong, inaugurating projects and moving the country forward, he needs capable hands at this time. Any government who wants to do well towards the end of its tenure should bring in pure professionals not politicians.”

He added, “Any minister, who has a political ambition, should be shown the way out of the cabinet now, no matter how close the person is to the President. You cannot be campaigning and at the same time be a minister.”

Keyamo said the criteria to sack non-performing ministers were at the discretion of the President.

He said, “Some ministers are making more noise than others, while some are quiet performers. The President has the yard- stick to determine those performing to his own taste.”

Also, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Yusuf Ali, advised the President to ensure only patriotic Nigerians were appointed as ministers in his next cabinet.

Ali said this in an interview with one of our correspondents. He said, “The President should appoint patriotic Nigerians, people who will really serve the people, not just themselves and their families.”

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