6 February 2013

Nigeria: Anxiety Grips Ministers Ahead of Cabinet Reshuffle

Anxiety over the possibility of being moved to less "significant" ministries gripped ministers Tuesday ahead of today's Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting where a shake-up in the cabinet could be announced.

Signs that President Goodluck Jonathan would reconstitute his cabinet were strengthened yesterday with the announcement of portfolios for the two ministers - Professor Chinedu Nebo and Alhaji Kabiru Tanimu Turaki (SAN) - who were sworn in on Monday.

While Nebo, from Enugu State, has been assigned the power ministry portfolio to replace his kinsman, Prof. Bart Nnaji, who resigned from the cabinet last August, Turaki will not be going to the Ministry of Defence. He has been named the Minister of Special Duties in the presidency.

Turaki's kinsman from Kebbi State, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed, was sacked from the defence ministry last June.

It was gathered that with the allocation of a different portfolio to Turaki, the Minister of Police Affairs, Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade (rtd), is now under consideration to take over as the Minister of Defence, while the Minister of State, Mrs. Olusola Obada, who has been holding the fort since Mohammed's sack, may be reassigned in a cabinet change.

Confirming the possibility of a cabinet shake-up, a source in the presidency said if the announcement reshuffling portfolios is not made today at FEC meeting, it would most likely be made when the president returns from his trip to the United Kingdom and France.

The allocation of portfolios to Nebo and Turaki, as contained in a statement yesterday by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, did not douse tension among members of the cabinet, as the non-assignment of a ministry to the defence ministry lent credence to the possibility of a cabinet change.

According to Anyim, the two ministers are to assume duties immediately.

THISDAY learnt that many ministers spent the better part of yesterday making calls trying to ascertain their fate.

Several of the ministers, a source confirmed, reached out to their governors, close friends and aides of the president, and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftains to safeguard their positions in the cabinet.

Although the president has kept his decision on the cabinet a closely guarded secret, those close to him say he is resolute about making changes that will bring a breath of fresh air and deliver on his programmes.

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