by ‘Jola Sotubo
The nation is still reeling from the news of the sack of nine ministers in the first major cabinet reshuffle since the beginning of the Jonathan administration.
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday sacked nine ministers with no warning and no explanation. However, an explanation has been given for the move. According to reports, five factors accounted for the ministers’ sack.
According to highly-placed sources in government, some of the reasons are: non-performance; security reports on alleged corruption; political allegiance and doubtful loyalty to the President; poor management of turn-key projects; and the crisis in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party(PDP).
A source, who pleaded not to be named because of the “sensitivity” of the matter, said: “You will recall that the President asked the ministers to sign a performance bond. About four of the nine ministers failed to live up to expectations in the assessment of the Presidency.
“In fact, three of the ministers were yet to understand their mandate after being in office for two and a half years. One of the ministers had more than 20 agencies under him but his performance was poor.
“We cannot also rule out alleged corruption acts by two to three of the ministers. For instance, there is a particular outgoing minister who forced the parastatals under the ministry to buy a N17million Sports Utility Vehicle SUV for personal use.
“The money-spinning parastatals were unhappy but they had to do it. It also got to a ridiculous extent that the minister was always asking for remittance of interest accruable from funds kept in some banks by parastatals under the ministry.
“Another minister had problems with award of contracts, some of which were rated as inferior. The agencies supervised by the minister made a joint demand for change.
“Ironically, the minister lost a plum cabinet position at a time a platform was created in a state to fight political adversaries of Jonathan. The minister was dazed when the President announced the sack.”
According to a source, there was also the alleged tardiness in the award of the $1.3billion (N212billion) Zungeru Hydro Project.
The Federal Government is expected to spend about N303million in generating one megawatt of electricity. The hydro project is said to be one of the most expensive in the world.
“Although no corruption infraction was found against Hajiya Zainab Kuchi, she was sacrificed for not being vigilant,” the source claimed.
It was also learnt that the alleged overstaying in the cabinet by the former Minister of National Planning, Dr. Shamsuddeen Usman, may have led to his exit.
Another source said: “I think Shamsudeen has been in the cabinet since 2007. Though he did well in designing the Performance Benchmark for the Federal Executive Council(FEC), the nation’s planning system has not improved.
“An egg-head, who is a former Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN), he may have lost his post because of difficulty in measuring his achievements which appeared to be long term. And you know, politicians have no patience for long term gains.”
As at press time, political motives were being read into the sack of some of the ministers but a source in the Presidency disputed these.
Some ministers were reportedly sent packing because of the rebellion of the G-7 governors in the PDP.
“People alluded to this factor because some of the Ministers were nominated by their governors. Such Ministers are Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufai(nominated by Governor Sule Lamido); Zainab Kuchi(by Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State); Alhaji Bukar Tijjani(from Borno now being controlled by APC without being unable to mobilise PDP to launch counter-attack),” said the source, adding:
“For Shamsudeen, who was not nominated by Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso, his alleged cold war with the Kano State Governor led to the factionalisation of PDP in his state. He became a political risk for Jonathan to retain him in the cabinet.
“But, contrary to political permutations, some ministers from the rebellious states, like Adamawa , Rivers and Kwara, are in the cabinet because of performance without anyone touching them.”
Ms Amal Pepple, who is from Rivers State, is believed to have lost her job for being unable to read the President’s mood on the crisis in the state.
“Concerned about her state, Pepple recently walked up to the President, knelt down and asked him to forgive Governor Rotimi Amaechi of whatever sin the governor had committed,” the source said, adding:
“Although Pepple was not nominated by Amaechi, her U-Turn made the Presidency suspicious of her loyalty.
“Her innocent intervention in Rivers crisis and fact that she was also just waking up to make impact at the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development cost her the job.”
Ashiru’s removal was said to have shocked his colleagues. “In fact, one of the ministers almost shouted as the President was reeling out the names of those to be dropped,” the source said.
He said: “There is a strong suspicion that since the Presidency was uncomfortable with ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, who brought Ashiru into the cabinet, the minister’s days were numbered. In spite of the mediatory role of Obasanjo in PDP crisis, the position of the Presidency was that he had only attempted to clear the mess he created. Ashiru might just be a scape-goat.
“As for the Minister of Environment, Hadiza Mailafia, the tempo of political situation in Kaduna requires a change of guard.”
President Jonathan shocked the sacked ministers as he did not betray any emotions at the FEC meeting.
A Presidency source said: “We all went in with the usual exchange of banters. The President and his deputy and a few others came late but we did not suspect anything.
“After honouring a star athlete, Blessing Okagbare, we went into the business of the day with most of the nine ministers making contributions, oblivious that they would go.
“As we were about to say the closing prayers, the President said: ‘I wish to inform you that some ministers will be attending this FEC meeting for the last time there will be some changes; some will be dropped.’
“A pin-drop silence overwhelmed the Executive Chambers as he was reading the names in a military fashion.
“After the list was read, the Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, said the closing prayers.”