6 February 2013

Nigeria: Ministers, Unaware of FEC Meeting Cancellation, Arrive in Aso Rock

The communication gap at the topmost level of the Jonathan administration was revealed on Wednesday before the scheduled weekly meeting of the Executive Council of the Federation, FEC.

Some ministers arrived at the executive chambers at the Presidential Villa at about 10 a.m. for the meeting, only to be told by the protocol staff that the meeting had been put off till further notice, the News Agency of Nigeria reported.

The meeting was postponed at the instance of President Goodluck Jonathan who is out of the country for an official assignment.

No official reason has been given on why the Vice President, Namadi Sambo, could not preside over the meeting as is normally done in the absence of the president; but the ministers' arrival for the meeting showed that they were not pre-informed of the cancellation.

Cabinet reshuffle?

Mr. Jonathan, who was expected to preside over the meeting, had to travel outside the country on Tuesday night to keep official appointments with the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and French President, Francois Hollande, on important issues affecting the interests of Nigeria, Britain and France.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the president considered it expedient that the FEC meeting be shelved considering that some key ministers, who also attended the centenary programme held till late Tuesday night, were billed to travel with him on the two-nation trip, while others may be too fatigued to continue with the meeting.

Though the Vice-President, Namadi Sambo, usually stands-in for the president on such occasions, it was gathered that Mr. Jonathan insisted that he would want to preside over the meeting when he returns as the issues to be discussed can only be handled by him; fueling speculations that he has made up his mind to reshuffle the cabinet.

There have been rumours of a pending cabinet re-shuffle that would see some ministers swap positions or be dropped. One name being mentioned is the Abuja Minister, Bala Mohammed, who is being tipped to become the Minister of Defence.

The trip

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, said the President is expected to confer with Mr. Cameron on issues bordering on the expansion of trade and economic relations between Nigeria and Britain as well as the enhancement of cooperation between both countries on the war against terrorism.

According to Mr. Abati, before proceeding to London, the president would stop over in Egypt to participate in the conference of the Organisation of Islamic Countries, OIC, scheduled to commence on Wednesday.

In Paris, President Jonathan's meeting with President Hollande and top French officials would focus on the ongoing deployment of troops to Mali by the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, led by Nigeria. The meeting will focus on the need for more support to the current military action against insurgents and terrorists in Northern Mali.

Before returning to Nigeria, the President is also expected to attend the fundraising gala for the Olusegun Obasanjo Foundation in London on Friday.

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