Unless there is an immediate communication from the Senate, President Muhammadu Buhari, may wait for another two months before inaugurating his cabinet. This is because the Red Chamber of the National Assembly proceeded on a two-month recess on Tuesday without an official communication to the president on the confirmation of his 43 ministerial nominees.
The presidency said yesterday in Abuja that once the communication was established, Buhari would assign portfolios to the ministers-designate and inaugurate the new cabinet.
The president's liaison officer to the National Assembly (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, told a press conference yesterday that the "president upon receipt of the communication from the National Assembly will on a date he will fix, notify the screened and cleared nominees to inaugurate them as appropriate."
Nigerians had expected that the president would inaugurate the ministers-designate yesterday to mark the beginning of the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting since he assumed office on May 29 for his second term.
Enang said that the president did not assign portfolios to the list of ministerial nominees because the constitution of the country did not ask him to do so.
He said: "You are saying that the president should have attached portfolios. I am sure from 1999 to 2000, this question has been asked. This means that the question has been asked for the past 20 years.
"The constitution says that the president shall appoint persons as ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria subject to the confirmation of the Senate. The constitution did not oblige the president or a governor to attach a ministry or a portfolio in his nomination to the legislature.
"The reason is that the candidate is screened and cleared as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he is not cleared as a minister of education or minister of health or industry.
"Portfolios may change and the structure of government may not be the same as it were. When a minister is screened and cleared, he is assigned a portfolio. It may arise in the course of his assignment, the president or the governor may decide to reassign him to another ministry at that time if you assigned and the person is screened in respect of that portfolio; that means the president may have to send the name again back to the Senate for screening or for confirmation.
"That is why the constitution did not make it mandatory to assign portfolio while sending the list to the legislature. Therefore, the president has not done anything wrong," he said.
Enang further explained that Buhari had assented to bills including the Federal University of Agriculture, Zuru in Kebbi State and the Architect Registration Council of Nigeria Amendment Bill
He said: "The (first bill) is converting the Federal College of Agriculture, Zuru in Kebbi State to a full-fledged university with all the powers and authorities of a university, with all the principal officers of the university from the chancellor down to the members of staff and from the date thereon, there is now an established Federal University of Agriculture Zuru in Kebbi State.
"The Architect Registration Council of Nigeria Amendment Bill has also been assented to and what the bill is about is that it has increased fine or penalty from the N1,000 to N500,000 in appropriate places and generally enhanced the power of architect registration process. So, this bill is now law and it is an offence to go against it," he said.
Enang also defended Buhari's decline of assent to the upgrade of Adeyemi College of Education to a university.
According to him, "when a bill is received by Mr. President, he looks at its content, he looks at the technical issues and if all is correct on the bill he assents to it.
"When he doesn't assent to a bill, he will state the reason that he has. Some could be drafting issues, some could be questions of duplicity in a section of the bill, some could be questions of conflict with the constitution; others could be any questions which are normally stated.
"Therefore, the two bills I have mentioned, just assented to, qualified on the basis of these technical reasons, others which may not yet be passed, something is being done to send them back to the legislature through an appropriate channel so that they can be attended to," he said.
President Meet With Ooni, Other S'West Monarchs
Meanwhile, President Buhari has assured traditional rulers from the South West geo-political zone that his administration would do everything possible to tackle the country's current security challenges.
In his address to the traditional rulers led by the Ooni of Ife,Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi during their visit to the State House in Abuja, yesterday, Buhari said that he is "working with the state governments to beef up the equipping of the police force with advanced technology and equipment that can facilitate the work of the security agencies."
In a statement issued by his special adviser on media, Mr. Femi Adesina, the president said that he "will be issuing directives to the appropriate federal authorities to speedily approve licences for states requesting the use of drones to monitor forests and other criminal hideouts."
He added that, "we also intend to install CCTVs on highways and other strategic locations so that activities in some of those hidden places can be exposed, more effectively monitored and open to actionable review."
According to him, "this administration will continue to do everything necessary to protect the lives of all Nigerians and ensure that every Nigerian in every state is safe, and that our people can live in peace and harmony, regardless of ethnicity, religion or region. As a government, we remain committed to the ideals of our democracy, particularly entrenching the rule of law and the sanctity of life."
He also assured the royal fathers and the entire country that "we will enforce the law, prosecute law breakers and secure an atmosphere of tranquility for all Nigerians wherever they choose to live and also protect our communities from all forms of crimes. This is both in our interests as an administration and the interests of the people who voted us into office.
"We need security to deliver on our many programmes to the people. There can be no prosperity if there is no security. This is not only a message of hope but a call to action to all of us as we seek ways to secure our country.
"On our part, as the federal government, we are ready to deal decisively with anyone that is fomenting this spate of criminal activities by every means necessary. We intend to deal severely with those evil Nigerians inciting violence for political ends," he said.
While acknowledging the presence of significant security challenges in the South West and other parts of the country, President Buhari said that such understanding informed the ongoing consultations embarked upon by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo with some traditional rulers "so that together we can proffer solutions to the lingering security problems in the South West and other parts of the country."
The president said: "These consultations are important because traditional rulers form a critical part of governance structures, especially in their respective communities, where they feel the pulse of the people being the closest to the populace at the grassroots level.
"As a government, at all times, we need your active collaboration as we continue to deal with crimes of kidnapping, banditry and other forms of unlawful and criminal attacks resulting in needless deaths and causing fear among our people.
"There are some who might want to cause instability and difficulties, but we are very confident that God willing and working together as a nation, we will be able to overcome such difficulties and all our problems, and set our country on the path of peace and prosperity," he stated.
Drawing attention to the fact that "the dynamics for security keep changing," President Buhari said that "we must adapt our strategies to these challenges as well as adopt modern, technological and people-centred methods in achieving these goals.
"When Nigerians voted massively for us in 2015, we focused on three areas - security, economy, and fighting corruption. We have not relented on this promise and we will not," he said.
Going forward, Buhari declared: "Let me be very clear about our firm resolve to change the security architecture of Nigeria. It is one of the top priorities for this government but we won't be able to achieve this goal without the support and input of our royal fathers.
"As the traditional authorities in your communities, government and the security agencies will be relying on you to monitor the several different communities and people coming in and out of your areas.
"We hope that, for instance, traditional rulers would be able to observe new entrants into the community by requesting leaders of such ethnic groups to notify the traditional authorities of new intakes, thereby creating the opportunities for the gathering of actionable intelligence which tracks such movements in and out of communities thereby offering early warning signals," he said.
Outlining some of these interventions, President Buhari said they include an expedited commencement of community policing, a robust revamping of police intelligence gathering capacity and the significant boosting of the numbers of security personnel in local communities.
This in specific terms will include recruiting a lot more police officers and doing so right from their local government areas, where they would then be stationed in the best practice of community policing, he said.
Earlier, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II and other traditional rulers in the entourage, apprised the president with security challenges they faced in their domains and called on him to support their efforts in addressing them.
The Ooni told State House correspondents after the meeting that "we met with the number one citizen of the country, he has listened to all the issues we have been having in the South West and they proffered solutions. Today the inspector general of police was present and the entire security architecture will be restructured, we are very happy about that.
"We were also told about community policing so the policemen will be recruited from the community, those that were born there, brought up there and they won't be able to move them around. So, we can use that strategy to avert a lot of tension going around the South West in particular now. We were able to achieve that milestone.
"Another milestone we achieved is that Mr. President will fast track the rapid monitoring of our forests using modern technology such as drones. The various security agencies will rally round the IGP and see how it can be properly deployed.
"Another thing is that they will install CCTVs along our highways, the IGP said they are very aggressive about clearing our highways.
"We believe that with all these there will be reduction in the tension in the South West because the South West is very sensitive in Nigeria. We don't pray for crisis or war or uprising because it will snowball into a lot of things; that is why we are all represented from the six states that make up Southwesten Nigeria. We thank God that Mr. President is listening and so far so good, we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel," he said.
Asked if the monitoring of the CCTV was factored into the discussion, the monarch said: "Absolutely. This time around it is a fruitful interactive session. It is not the normal let's talk the talk, we are talking the work and we are going to walk the talk. "Because as traditional rulers, we know our people, we know the good, the bad and ugly, and that is why the government is taking it to another level by involving us directly on how to implement their initiatives."
On the call for the Fulani to leave South West, the Ooni said that it was due to tension and declared that it would no longer happen.
He said: "Well, it's because of the tension but this time around the traditional rulers have arrived at a resolution to ensure that will not happen. It is the bad ones that should be focused on. We all live in Nigeria, it is the bad ones that have come in from different borders that are porous; those are the ones we will focus on to separate the chaff from the wheat.
... Ongoing Projects Will Be Completed
Also yesterday, Buhari promised that his administration would strive to complete the ongoing projects to impact positively on the lives of Nigerians.
He stated this when he received the Olu of Warri, His Majesty Ogiame Ikenwoli at the State House in Abuja. Buhari in a statement released by Adesina said that he was mindful of what infrastructural development could bring to lift the standard of living of the people.
He also said that his administration was taking new measures to address the security situation in the country.
Replying to comments that the Itsekiri people gave him massive support during the elections, the president remarked that he appreciated the support, adding, "I have all the figures of votes I got and I know what itsekiri people did."
Earlier, the traditional ruler who spoke through Chief Brown Mene congratulated the president on his electoral victory and commended him for his successes so far in the battle against insurgency and his continued determination to tackle corruption.
While also praising Buhari for the dredging works on the Escravos and Warri Rivers, the Olu of Warri requested for intervention on some ecological problems in his domain as well as the resolution of issues surrounding the Ogidigben Gas Revolution Park.