Buhari bars ministers from direct contact with him

•Says four years too short to address challenges

President Muhammadu Buhari has barred ministers from direct contact with him and has instead directed they should route their submissions through the office of his Chief of Staff (CoS) and the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF).

He has instructed specifically that all submissions for his attention and requests should be passed on to the CoS while the ones emanating from the Federal Executive Council  (FEC) must go to the SGF.

He was speaking at the closing session of the two-day retreat for ministers-designate, permanent secretaries and other top government officials at the presidential villa, Abuja on Tuesday.

The President said: “In terms of coordination, kindly ensure that all submissions for my attention or meeting requests be channelled through the Chief of Staff, while all Federal Executive Council matters be coordinated through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.”

The President observed that the majority of Nigerians are poor and are anxiously hoping for a better life, “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.”

He said it is the responsibility leaders to meet the basic needs for the people, recalling that his administration inherited many challenges from its predecessors.

Among these challenges he said were “country in which 18 local governments in the Northeast were under the control of Boko Haram; decayed infrastructure in which our rail lines and roads had severely deteriorated; a rent-seeking economy that depended largely on oil revenues and imports; and significant unpaid pensions, subsidy debts, legacy contractor debts. I can go on and on.”

The President remarked that in the administration’s first term, it laid the foundation to rebuild the country, adding: “We recaptured those 18 Local Governments previously held by Boko Haram, whose activities are now limited to sporadic attacks against soft targets.

“Our investments in road and rail infrastructure are without precedent, and many of you can attest to this. We also focused on diversifying the economy from oil towards agriculture and industrialization.

“Despite reduced revenues from oil and gas compared to past governments, we have broadly addressed many of the legacy debts they left behind.

“Whilst we have obvious successes to celebrate, the challenges ahead are significant as you would have observed in detail over these two days. Nevertheless, from the quality of the deliberations, it is clear that solutions to our problems are well researched and have been well articulated.”

Buhari noted that the retreat discussed solutions relating to addressing Insecurity; Macroeconomic Stability; Agriculture and Food Security; Energy Security for Petroleum products and Electricity; Transportation and Critical Infrastructure; Industrialization and SME Development; Human Capital Development; Social Inclusion; Anti-Corruption; Housing Financing and Consumer Credit.

While observing that the remaining period of the administration is short, he admonished:  “Public service is not easy work, and at times it can be thankless. I am therefore charging you all to see this opportunity to serve as an honour, to give your best to deliver on this mandate, for a more prosperous Nigeria, not for some, but for all Nigerians.

“You will find that working collaboratively and purposefully will enable us to achieve quicker results, recognizing that four years is not a very long time. For the new Ministers, make sure you engage and benefit from the experience of the older Ministers and former Governors in the cabinet.”

The President said even though the retreat had come to a successful end after two days, “however, you will agree that our work is just beginning.”

He observed that the two days have been very instructive for him personally, “because I have had the opportunity to know many of you new Ministers-Designate better. I was also pleased to see that you have all equally enjoyed debating and deliberating on the various challenges before us over the next 4 years.”

He thanked the Office of the SGF for successfully coordinating the Presidential Retreat just as he lauded the National Assembly leadership, the All Progressive Congress (APC) Chairman, Chairman of the Governors Forum, and resource firms, for what he said was their active engagements and contributions.

“Once again, the challenges that lie ahead of us as a country are significant. But I have no doubt in your individual capacities and our collective patriotic commitment to deliver a better Nigeria for us, our children and a brighter future for all,” he declared.

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In his closing remarks, the SGF, Boss Mustapha, said the retreat spent the two days agreeing to and prioritizing the key strategic initiatives required to drive accelerated economic growth in the country as well as the critical enablers required for seamless execution.

He said they had also agreed on the appropriate (Key Performance Indexes) KPls and measures of success for each initiative.

He added: “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 Ensure effective coordination between monetary and fiscal policy. Invest in human capital development with a 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 & Production Bill Resolve the liquidity challenges in power sector and facilitate private sector investment

“Furthermore, it was emphasized that we need to work effectively with all other arms of government such as state government, national assembly etc. for major high impact initiatives such as provision of large scale land for agriculture and food security, passage of critical legislations, etc.

“The work we have done here has been critical to laying the foundation for what we will accomplish in this administration. But this work alone is not why we are here. Now it is time to turn our words into actions – to take everything that we have learned, all the strategies and approaches that we have discussed, and go execute our priorities. This work begins now. The people of Nigeria are looking to this administration for results – and they expect them quickly.”

He reiterated that the Federal Government is committed to delivering on and implementing all agreed initiatives within the stipulated timelines.

The SGF further said to ensure effective implementation, the initiatives will be cascaded to the relevant ministries, whose ministers will champion the responsibility for driving implementation and execution.

He revealed that a monitoring and evaluation framework will be instituted to track the performance of each ministry against its cascaded strategic initiatives based on the outcome of this retreat, saying: “this is an integral measure to ensure we deliver on our agreed objectives.”

Meanwhile, the Ministers-designate will be sworn in on Wednesday after which they will be allocated portfolios by the President.

Following the swearing-in, each Minister will be given a Mandate, based on the assigned Ministry, and which will spell out priorities, deliverables and timelines.

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