Ministers will operate without perks of office –Ngige …… PUNCH

Chris-Ngige

A minister-designate, Senator Chris Ngige, on Friday disclosed that following the resolve by the present administration to run a lean economy, members of the soon-to-be constituted Federal Executive Council would serve without some perks of office associated with past government officials.

He said ministers would not operate with huge retinues of aides and large convoys of vehicles.

Ngige spoke with State House correspondents at the end of a two-day presidential retreat organised for ministers-designate by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

The retreat with the theme, “Delivering Change: From Precepts to Practice”, was held behind closed-doors inside the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Ngige said it was the desire of the present administration to block all leakages in the economy.

“Yes, we shall operate a lean economy because we are going to block areas of leakages, retinues of aides, protocol staff, large convoys of cars are things that will not fly in this administration,” he said.

He also said the ongoing debate over a statement credited to President Muhammadu Buhari that not all ministers would be assigned portfolios was not necessary.

Ngige said with or without portfolios, it is the responsibility of all ministers to join hands and move the nation forward.

He said, “Whether you have portfolios or don’t have portfolios, it is one single Federal Executive Council. You bring whatever it is (you have) to the table. That is not a problem at all.

“We have the right to discuss things around the ministries because it is one single cabinet. The important thing is that we want to move our people from where they are now; they are in abject poverty, a situation that affects about 75 per cent of the populace.

“So, we need to actually restructure the political and social moment of the country and that is what we are going to do. That means poverty will reduce.”

Meanwhile, the retreat which started on Thursday was rounded off on Friday.

Although Buhari declared the event opened personally, it was Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, who declared it closed.

While journalists were allowed to witness the opening session on Thursday, they were barred from covering the closing session on Friday.

The Friday session started with a directive to all ministers-designate to treat all papers delivered at the two-day retreat as confidential, hence should not be made available to the media.

The anchor person told them that organisers were not happy about a media report on Friday written from a paper delivered by Osinbajo.

Quoting from Osinbajo’s paper entitled, “The economy -Where we are today,” THE PUNCH had reported exclusively on Friday that the Federal Government was working on the 2016 budget that will be between N7tn and N8tn.

The figures are higher than the 2015 budget of N4.4tn.

The Vice President was also quoted in the report to have told his audience that the government was working towards pegging capital expenditure in the 2016 budget at N2tn.

This, he said, was against the N1.31tn allocated to capital expenditure in this year’s budget.

He further said that while the percentage of capital expenditure to recurrent expenditure in the 2015 budget was 19.4 per cent, the government would propose 40 per cent for next year’s budget.