CORRUPTION: JONATHAN ORDERS MASS PROBE OF MINISTRIES, STATES
President Goodluck Jonathan
Drawing inspiration from the immortal words of one of Nigeria's foremost educationists, the late Dr. Tai Solarin, President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday wished his ministers a 'rough road' ahead and told them that he had asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission to probe all levels of government and ministries.
Jonathan, at the inauguration of the last batch of ministers cleared by the Senate, said, 'Remember the words of the late Tai Solarin, in a January 1, 1964 essay: 'May your road be rough,' I am not cursing you; I am wishing you what I wish myself every year. I therefore repeat, may you have a hard time this year, may there be plenty of troubles for you this year! If you are not so sure what you should say back, why not just say, 'same on you?' I ask no more!'
The ministers inaugurated on Thursday were Dr. Ali Pate, Mr. Edem Duke, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, Hajia Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia, Alhaji Nurudeen Mohammed, Mrs. Sarah Ochekpe, Ms. Ama Pepple, Mr. Ezenwa Wike, and Mr. Adewunmi Adesina.
The proposed Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was said to be processing her disengagement from the World Bank where she was the Managing Director, was, however, absent from the event.
With the inauguration of the nine additional ministers on Thursday, Jonathan's cabinet now comprises 40 ministers, out of an expected total number of 42. The President is yet to send a replacement for Dr. Obadiah Ando, the nominee from Taraba State who was rejected by the Senate.
Jonathan described the country's rating in the Global Corruption Index as 'embarrassing' and vowed to make an example of any minister or head of government agency found to be corrupt.
The President said, 'One critical issue that will also engage our attention is the issue of corruption. There is no doubt that our rating in the Global Corruption Index is embarrassing. Corruption is therefore the monster that we need to confront and defeat, in order to raise the country's integrity profile. The war against corruption in this dispensation will start at the centre.
'The anti-corruption agencies have been directed to beam their searchlights on the Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government, and to also focus on the states and local government areas, in order to send out a clear signal, that no form of abuse will be tolerated.
'We will carry out a comprehensive audit of all Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government beginning from June 2007. You must observe due process in all that you do. I expect you to be above board.'
The President tasked the ministers to prove themselves as worthy of their high positions.
'I enjoin you not to see your position as merely another job or a reward for status, but as an opportunity to serve the people of Nigeria.
'You must remember that Nigerians have serious concerns about the integrity of their leaders. We cannot just talk about transformation; Nigerians must see us taking serious steps in that regard.
'To start with, this is not a government of the ruling party; this is a government of the Nigerian people. Each one of you must prove that you are deserving of the honour of recognition and of the portfolio that has been assigned to you.
'You are expected to ensure that the Ministry you head serves the interest of public good, and promotes the highest standards of ethical and professional conduct.
'You must always remember that we are not alone in government; you will be carefully watched and assessed by other stakeholders who have as much right as you do, to be concerned about the fortunes of our country', he said.
He told the ministers and their ministers of state to work in harmony.
The ministers must always be responsive, responsible and accountable, if they must continue in the government, the President said.
Still advising the ministers, Jonathan said, 'A responsive, responsible and accountable government is central to a genuine democracy.
To continue in your positions, you must always be responsive, responsible and accountable.
'In particular, I expect that Ministers and Ministers of State will work together as a team, and in so doing eschew the kind of rivalry and one-upmanship that has been a problem in the past.
'I expect maximum co-operation among all members of the Executive Council of the Federation.
'We cannot achieve much if we work at cross-purposes.'
The President said the cabinet was constituted after a rigorous process.
Spelling out the criteria used for the selection of ministers, Jonathan also explained why some returning ministers were sent back to their previous portfolios.
According to him, the development is in line with his intention to ensure continuity, and the consolidation of ongoing projects and programmes.
He said, 'I want to assure everyone that the process of selecting this team of Ministers was quite rigorous; we searched far and wide, within and outside the country, and finally made a selection based on an assessment of expertise, integrity, experience, qualifications, and after due consultations with a broad category of stakeholders.
'We have taken time to put together a cabinet, and due process, as stipulated by the constitution, has been carefully observed.
'Some of the Ministers are returning to their old portfolios to ensure not just continuity, but also the consolidation of projects and processes embarked upon in the last year.'
He said he was aware that some ministerial nominees received assassination threats in the course of their nomination.
'I am concerned however, that in the course of our efforts to select this cabinet, I received disturbing reports of threats of assassination to nominees, their families and friends, and so much campaign of calumny to discourage them from coming into government to serve,' the President said.