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Buhari’s Return: Cabinet Reshuffle, SGF, NIA DG Appointments Top Agenda

There are indications that President Muhammadu Buhari will not waste any time in going ahead with the plan to effect major changes in the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

Buhari is expected to make a national broadcast to Nigerians today by 7a.m. A competent presidency source confirmed to our correspondent at the weekend that the President has returned to the country well prepared to take actions on some critical decisions that were pending during the 104 days of his stay in London, United Kingdom (UK). Buhari handed over power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in acting capacity on May 7 after transmitting letters to the leadership of the National Assembly before proceeding to London on a medical vacation.

The President, who returned on Saturday, immediately went into a closed door meeting with Osinbajo at his official residence at the presidential villa, Abuja. According to the presidency source, one of the first actions that Buhari will carry out, in the coming days, is the rejigging of the cabinet. He is expected to also consider the report of the Presidential Investigative Panel on the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Lawal David Babachir, and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Mr. Ayodele Oke. “The reports indicted these two officers.

The reports are already with the President and he will, this time, act on them and announce the replacement of these two officers,” the source said. Lawal was suspended for alleged corruption. He was reported to have benefitted from a government contract in the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).

A Senate Committee on Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East accused Lawal of awarding a N200 million grass-cutting contract to a company he had interest in. On his part, Oke had laid claim to $43.4 million the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) found in a luxury Lagos apartment.

Oke claimed the previous administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan approved the money for the NIA’s covert operations. An aide to the President, who prefers not to be quoted, told New Telegraph that the President will also effect major changes in the cabinet very soon. According to the source, the changes in the cabinet would have been made by Osinbajo, but Buhari directed for a stay of action until he returns to the country.

Buhari had, in March, nominated Professor Stephen Ocheni (Kogi State) to replace Minister of State for Labour and Employment, James Ocholi, who died last year in a car accident, and Suleiman Hassan (Gombe) to replace Ms. Amina Mohammed who left the cabinet to join the United Nations (UN) as deputy Secretary General. They were confirmed by the Senate on 3rd May. “Remember that this was what delayed the assigning of portfolios to the two new ministers.

Now that the President is back, himself and the Vice President will put heads together and make the changes,” he added.The two ministers were assigned portfolios last Wednesday by the Acting President. Ocheni was deployed as Minister of State for Labour and Employment while Hassan got the portfolio of Minister of State for Power, Works and Housing.

New Telegraph gathered that the decision by the Acting President to assign the ministers with portfolios was an interim measure to avoid the mounting pressure on him that he could not assert himself. Governor of Imo State and chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Governors’ Forum, Rochas Okorocha, who was among those that received the President at the airport on Saturday, told reporters that Buhari will have to do some rejigging.

“The impact of the President’s return is that it will rejuvenate the economy and the polity. He will do a lot of restructuring and rejigging because Nigerians are expecting a lot from him,” Okorocha said. Another source confirmed to our correspondent that when Buhari met with the acting President on Saturday shortly after his return, both leaders also looked at the pending issue of posting of Ambassador designates and some board appointments that were yet to be made by the administration.

Aside the posting of Ambassadors who are permanent representatives to international agencies including the European Union (EU), African Union (AU) and the UN, majority of the diplomats are still awaiting deployment to countries of service. He said that the President will also put a final seal to the disagreement between the Executive and the Legislature over the delay in the confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as substantive chairman of EFCC. Magu was appointed as acting Chairman of the EFCC by President Buhari in November 2015, but has been rejected twice by the Senate on account of security report submitted by the Department of State Services (DSS) which indicted him.

“The President will, this time, bring to rest this controversy and also add vigour to the anti-corruption war,” the source noted. A member of the APC National Working Committee (NWC) told New Telegraph that party leaders are expecting Buhari to fill vacancies in the boards of federal agencies.

“APC members are waiting on the president to make board appointments and fill other vacancies. Some of the party members are expecting the president to make some appointments,” the APC leader said.

New Telegraph learnt that the national leadership of APC had submitted a list of about 2,000 party members to the Presidential Committee on the Reconstitution of Federal Government Boards of Parastatals, Agencies and Commissions, chaired by the suspended SGF, Lawal. There are hundreds of federal agencies, parastatals and commissions. Usually, board appointments are reward for party leaders and chieftains.

This has been the practice since 1999. In the last administration, senior party officials and leaders were made chairmen of boards of federal agencies, parastatals and commissions. The APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, had requested the 36 states chapters of the party and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to submit a list of 50 members each for consideration and screening for appointments into the boards of federal parastatals and agencies. The Federal Government had, on October 26, 2015 inaugurated an eightman committee headed by the suspended SGF for the reconstitution of the boards of federal agencies, parastatals and commissions.