By Chijioke Okoronkwo, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
At the 2-day presidential retreat that preceded the inauguration of new ministers, President Muhammadu Buhari apprised the appointees on the enormity of the tasks ahead.
The president told them that Nigerians were anxiously waiting for their services; hence they could not afford to fail on their mandates.
According to Buhari, there is a collective responsibility to improve the welfare of majority of Nigerians.
The president reiterated the urgency of driving accelerated economic development as majority of Nigerians were poor and eagerly hoping for a better life.
“Hoping for a Nigeria in which they do not have to worry about what they will eat, where they will live or if they can afford to pay for their children’s education or healthcare.
“Our responsibility as leaders of this great country is to meet these basic needs for our people.’’
More, so, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said that the retreat underpinned the appropriate Key Performance Indicators (KPls) and measures of success for each initiative.
“Some of the agreements from our deliberations include: Consolidate and accelerate on the agricultural agenda to achieve full food sufficiency, increase revenue, implement measures to reduce leakages and drive cost optimisation and ensure effective coordination, between monetary and fiscal policy.
“Invest in human capital development with strong focus on early education and health insurance, facilitate investment in oil and gas sector by ensuring speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill and Deep Offshore Oil and Exploration and Production Bill, resolve the liquidity challenge in power sector and facilitate private sector investment,’’ he said.
Again, at the swearing in of the 43 ministers on Aug. 21, Buhari reminded the appointees that the primary business of the administration over the next four years was to work together towards delivering the results that the people of Nigeria expect.
Buhari said that there was a great opportunity as an administration to build on the progress already made, in order to ensure steady growth and development.
“While recognising the existing challenges and the urgent need to surmount them; we must not fail to note the progress we have made since inception.
“Our economic policy, which is the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, is still robust and on course with the necessary policies and initiatives to sustain the country’s exit from recession, engender growth and promote the value chain of infrastructural development, he said.
In tandem with the focus of the administration, the new ministers, after taking their oath of office, expressed optimism on delivering on the mandate of their respective ministries.
Sen. Chris Ngige, who was returned as the Minister of Labour and Employment, said that it was a good home coming for him as he hoped for better working relations with labour unions.
“I expect better working relations; I will align with labour in their legitimate struggles.
“There is no job that does not have hazards; what happened at the last moment was part of the hazards of the job.
“There is nothing like crisis; we are a family; we had family disagreement and we have resolved them; we are in good term,’’ he said.
On the stalemate about the implementation of the minimum wage, Ngige said it would be resolved immediately.
He, however, explained that there were intricacies of minimum wage negotiations which would be sorted out.
“We know what a good template will be for government at federal, states and local governments, and for the workers themselves; we want them to smile; so, we must do something that put smile on their faces.
“We are bringing a template that we will send down from the Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission.
“We will agree on it with the Joint Negotiating Council; my permanent secretary held forth while I was away; he will brief me and we will take it up from there,’’ the minister said.
Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, said the ministry under her would work to sustain the Nigerian economy on the part of growth.
She said that the ministry would try its best to make sure that the economy was sustained on the path of growth and prevent fiscal crisis.
Ahmed said that her focus would be on the economy.
On combining finance, budget and national planning, the minister said that she had worked with budget and national planning, therefore combining both tasks would not pose a challenge to her.
“There are competent persons on both sides that will support me in my work.
“I will be co-coordinating both the budget and planning work as well as that of finance.
“So, I am sure that we are going to do well,” she said.
On his part, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, reminded heads of parastatals under the ministry, that the only reward for hardwork was more work.
He said that they were entrusted with the responsibility to turn down the heat, hostility and hatred that was threatening the country.
“Use your powerful platforms to restore unity to the country and promote cordial relationship among the various groups, irrespective of ethnicity or religion.
“I want to appeal to you to please redouble your efforts and ensure that we work together to take back our country from agents of disunity and destabilisation.
“I have no doubt that together we can turn down the acrimony that is being promoted by enemies of the country, using platforms which are not as powerful as yours,” he said.
On his part, Mr Olamilekan Adegbite, the new Minister of Mines and Steel Development, said that President Buhari had set an agenda from the 2-day retreat.
He said he would put in his best and deliver on his mandate for Nigerians.
“In line with the three-point agenda of the President, there is a lot of potential in mineral resources which we can exploit further to diversify from oil.
“Also, we want to lift people out of poverty; we will begin to encourage our people to add value to the minerals, instead of just sending the minerals raw like that,’’ he said.
For George Akume, the new Minister of Special Duties, it was a rare privilege to be selected to serve in a country of over 200 million people.
“What I have to say at this stage is that all the ministers are committed to the success of this administration.
“Nigerians are expecting so much from us; we cannot afford to fail and I believe by the grace of God, we shall not fail,’’ he said.
The new Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, said he knew why the ministry was set up and would deploy his energy toward achieving the mandate.
“Being a Niger Delta person, I will ensure that things are better for further and effective development of the region.
“So the President is looking forward to commissioning a lot of projects in the Niger Delta region.
“I believe the Niger Delta region and its people, are looking forward to the alleviation of poverty in their lives and transformation of infrastructure,” he said.
Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, on his part, harped on the need for cost and wastage reduction in implementation of projects.
As the ministers exude confidence on their ability to deliver, Nigerians await to see if they will perform. (NANFeatures)