The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, says it took the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), nearly six months to form his cabinet in 2015 because he was meeting with permanent secretaries and heads of government agencies one after the other.
Shehu said this in a birthday tribute to the President titled, ‘Anti-Corruption Hero, President Buhari Leads by Example’ on Thursday.
He wrote, “Upon his assumption of office in May, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari sat at long meetings with teams led by Permanent Secretaries and heads of the various government agencies and departments. Those meetings took a few months to go round and were in effect, responsible for the delay in the appointment of ministers into his first cabinet.
“Before his inauguration, President-elect Muhammadu Buhari wasn’t allowed to meet government officials, just as we witnessed in America recently, until the incumbent President agreed that the incoming President Joe Biden be met and briefed.”
The President’s assistant said although former President Goodluck Jonathan started laudable initiatives like the Treasury Single Account, the Bank Verification Number and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, he didn’t have the willpower to implement them fully but Buhari was able to do so.
Shehu added, “He found very progressive policies on the drawing boards, the Bank Verification Number, BVN; the Treasury single Account and the IPPIS Payroll service which the previous government failed to implement and promptly put the mechanism in place for their implementation. Arising from this, gains from savings are today being counted in trillions of naira.”
He stated that Buhari had shown from his first day in office that he would neither be corrupt nor condone acts of corruption.
Shehu said Buhari once rejected a customised Rolex wristwatch during his early days in office.
“A young Nigerian designer, very successful abroad produced a gold wristwatch of the famous Rolex brand and embossed the picture of the President on its face. The President commended the success of the young man’s brand overseas, asked him to keep the name of Nigeria flying but directed that the gift be politely returned. The young entrepreneur picked up his precious wristwatch and left,” Shehu claimed.
The President’s aide said Buhari had warned public officials against the practice of giving kickbacks for the award of government contracts.
He said when Buhari brought this up with contractors during his first meeting with them, there was an eerie silence in the room.
He quoted Buhari as saying, “From now going forward, the added costs and all this padding must end. If we ask for quotations from you, tell us the actual cost that the project entails. No ten percent, no added costs.”
Shehu said an eerie silence greeted the riot Act as read by the President.
“No one in the room complained against the assessment of the President nor was there a dissent,” Shehu said.