Abuja — An indication that President Muhammadu Buhari may dissolve the Federal Executive Council (FEC) earlier than the May 29 terminal date of his first term in office emerged yesterday when he asked ministers and agency heads to turn in their handover notes by Wednesday.
THISDAY had reported exclusively on Monday that the president was weighing his options on the status of the ministers and that he might ask them to go shortly even as he might not reappoint most of them.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, Wednesday said the president asked his appointees to come up with a comprehensive status reports on policies, programmes and projects of their respective ministries, departments and agencies.
According to him, the government officials have Wednesday, April 24, 2019 as the deadline for submission of their reports to the Presidential Audit Committee in the Office of the Vice President.
Shehu also said a circular to this effect issued by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, instructed members of the Federal Executive Council to ensure that all outstanding memoranda they intend to present to the Federal Executive Council are submitted to the Cabinet Affairs Office, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, not later than Tuesday, April 30, 2019.
He also said the circular also informed members that the ninth and 10th meetings of the council have been rescheduled to Thursday, April 25, and Thursday, May 2, 2019 respectively in view of the Easter break and May Day celebrations.
Based on the president's directive, ministries have started directing agencies and parastatals under their supervision to equally submit their handover notes.
For instance, the Federal Ministry of Finance has ordered Customs Comptroller General, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), the Accountant General of the Federation and 12 other heads of agencies under the Ministry of Finance to submit their hand over notes by April 23.
The directive was contained in a circular signed by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed.
According to the circular obtained yesterday, permanent secretaries and heads of extra-ministerial departments and auditor-general of the federation were also directed to send in their handover briefs.
Others affected by the circular include, the Debt Management Office, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), National Insurance Commission, Investment and Security Tribunal, National Economic Reconstruction Fund, Nigeria Export Import Bank, Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Development Bank of Nigeria and Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority.
The minister revealed that the development was to ensure a comprehensive hand over notes for the smooth and effective transition to the in-coming administration on May 29.
The handover notes, she further revealed, are to be prepared in soft copies, hard copies must as well contain lists of files under the custody of all the MDAs.
Meanwhile, Buhari has insisted that he was validly returned as president by majority of the votes cast at the February 23 presidential election.
Buhari also submitted that he was eminently qualified to run for the Office of President of Nigeria having not only the minimum qualification required by law but rose to the peak of his career in the military.
The president's position was contained in his response to the petition against him at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
Atiku had in his petition filed at the tribunal in March claimed that he and not Buhari won the presidential poll.
The former vice president in his petition said based on figures collated from their agents in all the polling units, ward collation centres, local government area collation centres, and the state collation centres, in all the states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory as well as at the national collation centre, he scored a total votes of 18,356,732 as against Buhari's 16,741,530.
He said the figures, which are available in the server of INEC were at variance with those declared by the electoral umpire, which credited Atiku with 11,262,430 votes, while Buhari got 15,191,847 to emerge the winner.
However, in his response to Atiku's petition filed by his lawyers led by Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Wole
Olanipekun, the president said he led the former vice president with a margin of 3,928,869 to emerge winner of the poll that was adjudged to be free and fair by observers at various polling units across the country.
"Contrary to paragraph 17 of the petition, the respondent states that the petitioners scored a total of 11,262,978 votes, trailing behind the respondent who scored a total of 15,191,847 votes, with a margin of 3,928,869 votes," he stated.
Buhari while claiming that his success at the poll was not incidental, argued that he has always defeated Atiku in previous elections be it intra party or inter party.
He insisted that he won majority of the lawful votes cast at the poll and that there were no incidents of corrupt practices as alleged by both Atiku and the PDP in their petition.
"That the declaration and return of the respondent as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is valid and in compliance with the provision of the Constitution, the Electoral Act and all other laws, Rules, Guidelines and Regulations regulating the election," he submitted.
He added that nothing untoward regarding form EC8D affected the integrity of the election.
Reacting to the issue of alleged non-possession of requisite qualification required by law for the office of the president, Buhari in dismissing Atiku's allegation said he was far more qualified than the PDP presidential candidate.
"The respondent avers that he is far more qualified, both constitutionally and educationally, to contest and occupy the Office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria than the 1st petitioner (Atiku); and that in terms of educational qualifications, trainings and courses attended, both within and outside Nigeria, he is head and shoulder above the 1st petitioner in terms of acquisition of knowledge, certificates, laurels, medals and experience.
He said: "Respondent states further that it is the 1st petitioner, who is not qualified to contest the Office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and challenges the educational credentials and certificates of the 1st petitioner.
"1st petitioner is hereby given notice to produce and tender his educational certificates, indicating the schools attended by him, with dates."
Buhari also insisted that all the information contained in the affidavit he submitted to INEC for the purpose of the election were true and correct to the best of his information and knowledge.
Buhari, however, urged the tribunal to dismiss Atiku and PDP's petition on the grounds that the reliefs the petitioners sought are frivolous.
"The entire reliefs are not justifiable, as the petitioners, who claim to have scored majority of lawful votes in substantial number of states, are also questioning their own return in those states," he said, adding: "The petitioners cannot act as petitioners and respondents in the same petition."