Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nigeria News Update: Acting President Goodluck Jonathan Sacks Cabinet

24 former ministers may return to new cabinet

Thursday, 18 March 2010 01:27

Nigeria Business Day

Nominees may get accelerated screening

The process of screening the new ministers to be nominated by Acting President Goodluck Jonathan may be fast tracked by the National Assembly following an understanding reached with the leadership of federal lawmakers. And as the National Assembly awaits Jonathan’s list of nominees, BusinessDay has gathered that up to 24 people in the dissolved cabinet may return to the new team. In deciding on those that will be nominated, sources said performance or lack of it may count more than any other factor.

Also, the apparent dubious loyalty displayed by some in the drama that characterised the ailment of President Umaru Yar’Adua and the aftermath of his return to Nigeria from a Saudi hospital may be factored in. Invariably, those that doggedly sought prevent the then vice president from exercising executive powers, thereby precipitating the power vacuum may have had their last day at the council.

Among former ministers that may be nominated by Jonathan, BusinessDay learnt, are Odein Ajumogobia, former minister of state for petroleum; Remi Babalola, former minister of state for finance; Adetokunbo Kayode, then attorney general and Ojo Maduekwe of foreign affairs. Others that may return are Sam Egwu and Dora Akunyili.

One of the two Kano ministers - Shamsudeen Usman and Mansur Muhtar - may have to go as the administration may not be inclined towards having two ministers from the same state.

For reasons of poor performance or dubious loyalty, Abba Ruma, former minister of agriculture; Rilwan Lukman who was away for OPEC meeting when the cabinet was dissolved, Michael Aondoakaa, the first casualty of the shift in power when he lost his justice portfolio; Adamu Aliero, erstwhile minister of Federal Capital Territory and Hassan Lawal of works ministry may not make it back.

Similarly, Grace Ekpiwhere is believed to be unlikely to make the new list.

Global security agencies on alert as Jonathan dissolves cabinet

Thursday, 18 March 2010 01:29

Horatius Egua
Nigeria Business Day

Security in key countries trail ex-ministers’ wealth

Security agencies and operatives around the world may have been placed on the alert following suspicions that some members of the Executive Council of the Federation which Acting President Goodluck Jonathan dissolved yesterday may have stashed huge sums of money off-shore.

According to highly placed sources, security agencies and financial watchdogs in the US, Britain and other major financial centres have been apprised of the development and are cooperating with the Federal Government. Already, a security ring is believed to have been thrown around the former ministers as intense investigations have been launched into the management of funds in the past six months.

Briefing State House correspondents shortly after the dissolution of the council, Dora Akunyili, former minister of information and communications, said Jonathan thanked members of the former executive council for their services to the nation.

In a one paragraph statement, Akunyili said: “Today, the acting president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan dissolved the Federal Executive Council”. She however said “Jonathan did not give any reason for the dissolution of the council”. The former ministers, according to her, will formerly hand over to the permanent secretaries of their respective ministries today as they would take charge pending the constitution of a new cabinet. The dissolution brings to an end months of speculations of cabinet change by Jonathan since taking over as acting president on February 9.

John Odey, minister of environment, has already handed over to the permanent secretary Shortly after the meeting ended, all the ministers departed the council chambers in a sombre mood. Those who had the privilege of driving their vehicles into the Presidential Villa rode quietly out without the usual fanfare. The sack of the ministers, according to some of them, came as a surprise as they claimed they were not expecting it since there had been reassured by the acting president that no major change will be made immediately.

However, there had been pressure from political party leaders, governors and other prominent Nigerians urging Jonathan to carry out a sweeping change in order to inject fresh blood into the system. A top presidency source told BusinessDay Wednesday night that the dissolution of the cabinet got input from the Theophilus Danjuma-led Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) which was inaugurated two weeks ago by the acting president.

Ironically, the sacked Akunyili was the one mandated by the dissolved council to brief State House correspondents on the development. Her deputy, Ikra Bilbis, refused to join her at the briefing.

News Analysis: Jonathan finally strikes

Cover Stories Mar 18, 2010

By Ikeddy Isiguzo, Chairman, Editorial Board
Nigeria Vanguard

HOW much power does an Acting President have? Acting President Goodluck Jonathan answered that question,
yesterday, amid speculations that he could not perform the duties of the President, for reasons power mongers have conjured outside the Constitution.

The political logjam began last November 23, when the President slipped out of the country in the dead of night for medical attention in Saudi Arabia and lasted until Wednesday, February 24, when again another operation in darkness delivered President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua back to the country. That he is yet to make a public appearance, or issue a statement made many believe that Dr. Jonathan counted for little.

All types of calculations had been made. There was an immediate crisis with the President’ arrival stalling that day’s Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting where some thought that Section 144 of the Constitution would be effected.

That Section gives FEC the powers to pronounce the President incapacitated, a preliminary step to the National Assembly impeaching him if the report of a medical panel confirmed his state.

Two other FEC meetings had been put off for reasons that were either related to the inability of the Acting President to see the President or the Acting President’s engagements, as was the case last week.

Division along lines of loyalty

Finally, Dr. Jonathan did what some had been asking him to do – dissolve the FEC – which had been divided along lines of loyalty to either the President or the Acting President since he assumed that office on February 9. Some members of the cabinet have been outrightly rebellious. There had been speculations that some had resigned, but their letters were rejected.

When the Acting President moved Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, the former Minister of Justice to Minister of Special Duties, and followed that up with the replacement of the National Security Adviser, he was becoming visible and picking his strides.

A major argument of those who wanted the cabinet, shaken or taken out was that with the Acting President, coming from the South South zone, some of the political mathematics that resulted in some portfolios going to certain parts of the country with Yar’Adua in the saddle, had changed. It made political sense too that the portfolios were reviewed.

More importantly, loyalty is an issue on several platforms. There are some who had led Dr. Jonathan through the tricky paths of the Presidency. They think it is their turn to be “carried along.” Others also believe that some of the Ministers in the past cabinet were lethargic, and deserved to have been thrown out long ago.

A combination of these factors resulted in yesterday’s decision that borrowed again from the speech of the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council, Lt.Gen Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma who demanded action from the Acting President.

Danjuma at the inauguration of the Council, a collection of elderly people, with high net worth political accounts, asked the Acting President to act decisively.

“Now that you have been invested with the needed authority, the nation expects you to proceed quickly to effect the needed transformation. This is the right time for you to act – now when you can act quickly and aggressively, now when society can be trusted to be as generous as to credit you with your successes and to excuse your errors,” Gen Danjuma said at the Council’s inauguration.

“Because the times are extra-ordinary, the measures that need to be taken are not only urgent but extra-ordinary. Unless you take those measures quickly, the goodwill which you now enjoy may be lost. Fortunately, you have the required courage and vision. What you did not have in the past was the authority.

“This is a decisive moment in our history. At such moments, God always ensures that a nation possesses significant personalities who are to act as His agents for change. You, Mr. Acting President, are the significant personality that God has chosen at this time to take your place at the front in the struggle to save our country,” Gen Danjuma said.

Dr. Jonathan has done the easiest part. The harder aspect is getting replacements that would make a difference for good in the way the country runs. It is unexpected that he would sweep everyone away, for this would be politically incorrect, but he has a great opportunity to ignore most of the political jobbers who would want to replace this cast with one worse than the departing lot.

There is a lot that the Acting President can do, if he puts his politics to it. Anyone in doubt should ask the sacked Ministers.

Nigeria leads in crude oil production in Africa

Thursday, 18 March 2010 01:26

Olusola Bello

…output reaches 1.959m bpd in February

Nigeria came top in crude oil production in Africa for the month of February with Angola that was several times, last year, the leader of the continent coming second. Nigeria produced 1.959 million bpd. Nigeria’s production peaked 1.959 million barrels per day even as output against January production level was put at 1.991 million barrels per day and December witnessed the highest production level of 2.008 million barrels per day.

These production figures indicate the relative peace enjoyed in the Niger Delta. At the peak of the crisis, especially between June and July, last year, the nation’s production level went down to as low as 1.6 million barrels per day. It was during this period that Angola came up as the leader of crude oil production in the continent. For instance, her production level increased to a multi-year high of 1.946 million bpd, from 1.889 million bpd and 1.853 million bpd, respectively.

Nigeria’s output declined 1.6 percent Month-on-Month (MoM), but rose 9.1 percent Year-on-Year (YoY), while Angola’s production edged up 3.0 percent MoM and 18.2 percent YoY.

Relative stability in Nigeria’s oil-rich states following the offer of amnesty to militants operating in the region appears to have contributed to a turnaround in output since late 3Q09. Accordingly, the sustainability of the peace process will be a critical issue in the medium term to ensure the production levels discussed above are sustained.

According to Renaissance Capital, the oil growth in Nigeria will probably be in positive territory in 2010, given the likelihood of higher annual oil prices and output, offsetting relatively sluggish non-oil metrics (with the exception of agriculture). In an optimistic scenario, the oil production target included in the 2010 budget (2.088 million bpd) could still be outperformed, supporting the anticipated fiscal expansionary stance and mitigating the actual budget deficit.

Furthermore, this could incrementally boost the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) level of non-excess crude account foreign reserves and help maintain exchange-rate stability (NGN150/$1).

This would also allow the National Bank of Angola to contain the exchange rate at about AOA90/$1 as the foreign reserve position eventually improves, in addition to the current tight monetary stance which should ultimately curb excess demand for dollars and as market confidence picks up somewhat.

‘Dividing Nigeria not a solution’

Written by Abdulkadir Badsha Mukhtar
Nigeria Daily Trust
Wednesday, 17 March 2010 23:32

Splitting Nigeria into two between Muslims and Christians is not the solution to the country’s religious and ethnic crises, a scholar in Art and Culture Michael M. Gujiya has said.

Gujiya who is the author of a book on Nigerian unity, titled “The Ascension of a General” said the suggestion made by the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi that Nigeria should be divided into two nations, citing the examples of India and Pakistan was unfortunate.

“Anybody who calls for the split of Nigeria into two does not know what he is doing. For example, I am a Christian my brother is Muslim and the other one is even traditional. We are from the same father and mother, by dividing the country you are dividing the families,” he said.

He said even though his book is about the biography of the Emir of Zuru retired General Sani Sami “It is more to do with the unity of the country at large.”

He said to arrest the situation of both ethnic and religious unrest in the country, “particularly in Jos,” leaders must sit down and iron out whatever problem.

“We had similar problems in Zuru but we are living together because the emir focuses on uniting the area,” he added.

Some of the Zuru political representatives, he said, are not originally from Zuru “they are from Katsina. Our concern is who is developing Zuru irrespective of where he comes from, and that what it should be anywhere.”

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