More heads are expected to roll as President Muhammadu Buhari begins an unprecedented move to weed out non-performing ministers from his cabinet, Daily Trust learnt.
The president on Wednesday announced the sacking of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, and that of Power, Engr Sale Mamman during the weekly Federal Executive Council (NEC).
This was the first time President Buhari would wield the big stick on any of his ministers, before the end of their terms, since he came to power in 2015. He returned most of the ministers who served in his first tenure and posted them to the same ministries when he was re-elected in 2015.
Daily Trust reports that both Nanono and Mamman are long-time associates of the president.
The two sacked ministers were replaced with the Ministers of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar and the Minister of State, Works and Housing, Engr. Abubakar D. Aliyu, respectively.
Presidency sources confided in Daily Trust that those penciled down to be axed were more than the two eased out and that more ministers would be shown the exit any moment from now.
Announcing his decision to the cabinet members during the FEC meeting, Buhari said the cabinet reshuffle would be a "continuous" exercise.
He said the changes in the team, which he formed on August 21, 2019, were sequel to the "Tradition of subjecting our projects and programs implementation to independent and critical self-review" through sector reporting during Cabinet meetings and at retreats. Buhari's statement, insiders say, was an indirect reference to a Cabinet Office review he commissioned with the mandate to review activities of all ministries, their presentations before the FEC and contributions of the ministers as individuals in shaping policies and discussions in the council.
Apart from the need to strengthen "weak areas" and improve the delivery of public good to Nigerians as adduced by the president, sources said the sacked ministers were not fully on top of key issues in their ministries.
A presidential aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak on the matter said Buhari was "particularly disappointed" in the two ministers going by the premium he placed in the two ministries.
"The president was deliberate in assigning portfolios to the two men. Mamman, from Taraba State, was expected to get the Mambilla Power Project up and going, himself being from the area. But up to this moment, nothing tangible is achieved in that regard.
"The choice of Nanono to superintend agriculture ministry flowed from the same principle. As a seasoned farmer himself and someone from Kano, he was expected to reposition the sector and help government's diversification mantra," the source said.
He should weed out poor performers - CSOs
Speaking on the matter, the Director, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan, said the president's decision should be in the interest of the country.
"It is better late than never. If the president has woken up to his responsibilities, then we are happy about it. We hope to see more of such happen and importantly replacement with better appointees," she said. On his part, the Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Head, Transparency International Nigeria (TI-Nigeria), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said that many Nigerians have lost hope that the president will take action on those ministers who, he said, have "Clearly contributed to his government's poor ratings by their lack of positive initiatives, proactiveness and responsive governance to deliver good governance".
According to him, if the sacking of the two ministers was due to credible complaints and evidence-based corruption-related issues, the president should make it known to the public so that other ministers can wake up and avoid getting involved in any issue that will tarnish the image of the government and Nigerians.
"Nigerians have repeatedly complained about the poor performance of some ministers and allegations of corruption but the president did not respond to the concerns being expressed by Nigerians rather he reappointed them for the second tenure. Again, some of the ministers have no energy and capacity to run modern governance but due to political greed they accepted the appointment and therefore, failing to carry out their work as expected.
"There should be a mechanism to evaluate each minister's performance and failure to meet expectations, the person should simply leave. However, if there is an allegation of corruption it must be investigated and if found guilty he/she be punished not just sacked alone," Rafsanjani said.
Don't use them to cover your failures - PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has described the sacking of the two ministers as "infective attempt" to cover for the president's "failures" in office.
The party, in a statement by its spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan, said it was also investigating the real reason behind their sack given Buhari's public approach to fighting corruption by "easing out" the culprits.
"The party however asserts that the manifest inefficiency of the Buhari administration is a product of President Buhari's myopic and divisive approach to governance as well as the impunity and corruption deeply embedded in his administration and party, the All Progressives Congress (APC)."
Hasten action in rejigging cabinet - CNPP
The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) has hailed the president for relieving two ministers in the federal cabinet of their appointments, asking him to appoint young technocrats to fill vacant posts.
In a statement issued in Abuja by its Secretary General, Chief Willy Ezugwu, the CNPP urged President Buhari to "hasten action in overhauling his cabinet as there are many underperforming ministers as well as heads of agencies and parastatals still in government."
According to the umbrella body of all registered political parties and political associations in Nigeria, "like we have constantly advised Mr. President to replace some non-performing members of his cabinet, we also urge Mr. President to replace some of his advisers.
"The CNPP believes that there could still be areas the President can salvage in terms of performance by his administration if his cabinet is urgently rejigged to place square poles in square holes.
"And, beyond redeployment of some already spent ministers, the CNPP urges President Buhari to shop for young technocrats and more innovative citizens, even outside his party, for appointment to ensure that he succeeds in the remaining less than two years of his tenure", the CNPP counselled.