President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday declared open the Presidential Retreat for ministers-designate, federal permanent secretaries and top government functionaries, with a directive that they constantly communicate with each other as well as unite when carrying out their functions.
The President said he will be counting on the ministers and the advisers to contribute to build upon the road map of policies, programmes and projects that will lift the bulk of Nigerians out of poverty and set them on the road to prosperity.
While stressing that they will be responsible for the development and implementation of policies, programmes and projects in the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies in line with government priorities, the President directed they ensure that Agencies under their Ministries are effective, efficient and accountable in the discharge of their responsibilities.
President Buhari said: “As Ministers, I am counting on you together with Advisers and Nigerians willing and able to contribute to build upon our road map of policies, programmes and projects that will lift the bulk of our people out of poverty and set them on the road to prosperity.
“Our Administration’s eight years will have laid the grounds for lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. This outcome will fundamentally shift Nigeria’s trajectory and place us among the World’s Great Nations.
“You will be responsible for the development and implementation of policies, programmes and projects in your various Ministries, Departments and Agencies in line with Government priorities. You must also ensure that Agencies under your Ministries are effective, efficient and accountable in the discharge of their responsibilities.
“We must work as a team. Although you have been chosen to represent your states as a constitutional imperative, it is vital for all of you to work as Nigerians.
“Furthermore, working as a team demands that we know what the next person is doing. You must open communications with your colleagues. Lack of communication leads to lack of cooperation and sub-optimal performance.”
The President explained that the purpose of the retreat is, firstly, “to familiarize ourselves with our colleagues with whom we shall be working closely for the next four years GOD willing; secondly, to reflect and assess the country’s position in 2015 and today; and thirdly, to chart a course for the country for the foreseeable future.”
He noted that the participants have been chosen above others to join the first term Ministers whose performance has been outstanding.
According to Buhari, “All of you are appointed to assist and advise the President in running the affairs of our country. At the end of the Retreat, it is hoped that all of you will be in tune with the roles and responsibilities of positions you will occupy in Government. Many national issues require unified decisions.
“It is a great privilege for you to be called upon to serve in these Great Offices of State and you must grasp the chance with two hands and put in your best efforts as Nigeria today needs top managers to handle our numerous challenges. There will be long hours and you must be prepared to live laborious days if we are to serve our people optimally.”
The President reminded the participants of the looming demographic situation of the country.
He said: “By average estimates, our population is close to 200 million today. By 2050, UN estimates put Nigeria third globally behind only India and China with our projected population at 411 million.
“This is a frightening prospect but only if we sit idly by and expect handouts from so-called development partners. The solution to our problems lies within us.”
The President reiterated that his administration identified three salient areas of addressing security, fighting corruption and revamping the economy.
According to him, “In our first term we identified three salient areas for close attention and action, namely to secure the country, to improve the economy and to fight corruption.
“None but the most partisan will dispute that we have made headway in all three areas:
“First – we have rolled back the frontiers of terrorism; we are actively addressing other challenges such as kidnappings, farmer-herder violence, improving the safety of our roads, railways, air traffic and fire control capacities.
“Second – we are steadily turning the economy round through investment in agriculture and manufacturing, shoring up our foreign reserves, curbing inflation and improving the country’s infrastructure.
“Third – on corruption, we have recovered hundreds of billions of stolen assets and are actively pursuing control measures to tackle leakages in public resources. We will not let up in fighting corruption.”
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, in his opening remarks said the call to service requires that all appointees fully share in the President’s vision and agenda for the country.
According to him, “As members of the President’s team, it behoves on us to join him in providing the leadership required to develop Nigeria and lift the bulk of our people out of poverty.
“The presidential retreat is to further prepare us to be able to share in this vision and sense of purpose.”
Mustapha reiterated that as ministers, “You will be required to work with the highest standard of integrity, discipline and dedication that has been set by the President in the service of the country.
“I will like to remain you that of all the functions you will be called upon to perform as ministers, none is more important than to help the President deliver the policies, programmes and projects required to move the nation to the next level.
“As the president said, our legacy will lie on how much we are able to deliver not on how much patronage we are able to extend to associates and supporters.”
The SGF reminded the ministers-designate, “that the task of governance requires patience, dedication and total commitment to the objectives we have committed to pursue, especially in realization of the yearnings for quick delivery of the dividends of democracy by the people.”
Meanwhile, embattled Head of Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita, who was recently invited by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to answer to allegations bordering on contract scam to the tune of N3 billion and duty tour allowance falsification and fraud, was conspicuously absent at the opening of the retreat at 10:30 am.