President Muhammadu Buhari is considering assigning the Defence portfolio to the Kano-born Major-General Salihi Magashi (rtd), a ministerial nominee with vast military experience and who held many senior command positions while serving in the Nigerian Army, Daily Trust on Sunday has gathered.
Buhari, last week, forwarded the
names of 43 ministerial nominees to the Senate for screening and confirmation as ministers. A total of 31 nominees have been screened by the lawmakers, with three billed to face the lawmakers on Tuesday.
Even though no portfolios were attached to the nomination sent to the Senate, the senators grilled them based on their professions, working experiences/previous positions they held, among others.
Sources around the president said Magashi who was asked questions on security issues, including infighting among service chiefs, is likely to head the Ministry of Defence.
The president’s likely choice for the Defence job, Magashi, who is the only retired Army general among the 43 ministerial nominees, was screened on Thursday.
Barring any delay, sources said the cabinet may be inaugurated on Wednesday as the Senate had announced that the screening of the nominees would be concluded on Tuesday.
It was further gathered that immediately after the conclusion of the screening, the senators will confirm the 43 nominees and communicate same to the president same day.
So far, 31 out of the nominees have been screened. Nine out of the 12 remaining nominees have been penciled down for screening tomorrow (Monday) while the last three will have theirs on Tuesday morning.
It is expected that the federal cabinet would be expanded to accommodate the 43 nominees. In 2015, there were 36 ministers. Fourteen of them were junior ministers.
At the moment, there are 23 ministries, namely, Trade and Investment, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Budget and National Planning, Labour and Employment, Agriculture, Education, Power Works and Housing, Niger Delta and Petroleum.
There are also ministries of Science and Tech nology, Health, Solid Minerals, Foreign Affairs, Environment, Water Resources, Transportation, Aviation, Justice, Information and Culture, Communications, Youth and Sports, Women Affairs and Defence.
Uchechukwu Ogah, who is the Abia State nominee, is likely to be assigned to the Ministry of Petroleum based on his background and exposure.
Ogah, who is the president of Master Energy Group and a former banker, was grilled on the oil and gas and the banking sectors when he appeared for screening on Wednesday. It is believed that the president may name him as the minister of state for petroleum.
Muhammadu Musa Bello (Adamawa) is most likely to return back to the FCT Ministry. When he appeared before the Senate, he pleaded to be allowed to take a bow and go, thus he wasn’t asked any question.
Credible sources around the president said the return of the former chairman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria to FCT ministry is as “sure as daylight.”
Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed (Kaduna), like Bello, is likely going back to the Ministry of Finance where she held sway after Kemi Adeosun left unceremoniously in 2018, following the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate scandal.
An accountant by profession, Zainab was not grilled when she appeared before the Senate on gender ground. In 2015, she was the Minister of State for Budget and Planning. If she is not assigned to Finance Ministry, she may go to the Budget and Planning.
Senator Godswill Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, is said to be considered for the Ministry of Niger Delta. Until his defection to the APC in 2018, he was the minority leader of the Senate. His efforts to return to the Senate would soon be determined by the court.
He is likely to replace Usani Usani (Cross River) as the Minister of Niger Delta. Sequel to the tradition of the Senate, after a brief remarks, he took a bow and left during his screening.
Dr Chris Ngige (Anambra), a medical doctor and former state governor, who was described as Igbo leader when he appeared before the Senate, is likely to retain his ministry.
To the Presidency, Ngige’s performance in the ministry was satisfactory, thus he may be reassigned there. Another source said he may likely be moved to Health or Works ministry.
Sharon O. Ikeazor (Anambra), a lawyer and the current executive secretary of the Pension Transitional Administration Directorate (PTAD), could become the Minister of State for Justice or Finance.
Adamu Adamu (Bauchi), the immediate past Minister of Education, is most likely to return to that position.
However, being an accountant in whom the president has much trust and was in charge of the APC campaign funds, he could become the finance minister. At the Senate on Wednesday, he was asked questions on education, corruption war of the president, among others.
Amb Maryam Katagum (Bauchi), Nigeria’s current permanent representative to UNESCO for the past 10 years, is likely to be named as minister of state for Foreign Affairs. If Adamu Adamu is moved from Education, she could also replace him in that capacity.
Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa), a former governor of Bayelsa State, may be assigned the Ministry of Agriculture, where Heineken Lokpobiri represented the state at the Federal Executive Council. He may, however, be considered for Petroleum or Niger Delta. He was one of the nominees who took a bow and left on Thursday.
Senator George Akume (Benue) is a two-time governor of Benue State. He was the chairman of the Senate Committee on Army in the eighth Senate. He could be assigned to either the Ministry of Agriculture or Interior.
During the screening, encomiums were showered on Mustapha Baba Shehuri (Borno) based on the cordial relationship that existed between him and the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Raji Fashola during the last cabinet.
Shehuri, who was a minister of state, may not be upgraded, but he may be assigned to another ministry.
Festus Keyamo (Delta), the spokesperson of the Campaign Council of President Buhari was grilled on Friday. His performance was satisfactory, according to Senate President Ahmad Lawan.
Should Abubakar Malami be moved out of the Ministry of Justice, which is very unlikely, he could become the Minister of Information, though he is a lawyer. He has since indicated his plan to unbundle the Supreme Court if assigned the Justice ministry.
Dr Ogbonnaya Onu (Ebonyi) was in the Ministry of Science and Technology in the last cabinet. This chemical scientist and former governor of old Abia State could become the Minister of Health or Trade and Investment.
Dr Osagie Ehanire (Edo) was the Minister of State for Health in the last cabinet. He may stay there or be moved to another ministry.
Otunba Richard Adebayo (Ekiti), a former Ekiti State governor and APC deputy national chairman (South), could be Minister of Solid Minerals, a post once held by the current Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi.
Geoffrey Onyeama (Enugu) is the immediate past Minister of Foreign Affairs. The body language in the Presidency suggests that he would be retained in Foreign Affairs.
Dr Isa Ali Pantami (Gombe) is the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). The firebrand scholar is being considered for the Ministry of Communication.
Suleiman Adamu (Jigawa), former Minister of Water Resources, would be screened tomorrow. It is believed that he would be sent back to his former ministry.
Dr Mohammad Mahmud, the current chairman of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), could become the Minister of State for Education.
Hadi Sirika (Katsina), a trained pilot and former Minister of State for Aviation, is likely to become the full Minister of Aviation, separate from the Ministry of Transport. Even in the former cabinet, he was quite autonomous and Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi had little to do with Aviation.
Abubakar Malami (Kebbi) is most likely to be retained as Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. Impeccable Presidency sources said there’s no contemplation to replace him. “He has a lot of unfinished assignments in the ministry,” a Presidency source said.
Paulen Tallen, a former minister and deputy governor of Plateau State, could become the Minister of Women Affairs or Communication.
If Tallen is not assigned to the Ministry of Women Affairs, Ramatu Tijani (Kogi) may be assigned there.
Lai Mohammed (Kwara), the controversial former Minister of Information, could get another portfolio, such as Communications or Special Duties.
Gbemisola Saraki (Kwara), a former senator, could become the Minister of Women Affairs.
Babatunde Raji Fashola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and former super minister, could see his old portfolio of Power, Works and Housing split into two or three. He is likely to retain the Power portfolio.
Senator Adeleke Mamora (Lagos), the charismatic former Speaker of the Lagos State House Assembly and former senator could get an important portfolio, such as Foreign Affairs.
Mohammed Abdullahi (Nasarawa), former attorney-general and later, Secretary to the State Government (SSG) of Nasarawa State, could become Minister of State for Justice or that of Solid Minerals.
Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), an engineer and former governor of Osun State and Buhari’s confidant could become the Minister of Works.
Sunday Dare, a career broadcaster, former head of the Voice of America (VOA), Hausa Service, former Tinubu’s spokesman, and recently, executive director of the National Communications Commission (NCC), could become the Minister of Information, Communications or Culture.
Rotimi Amaechi is likely to retain his Transport portfolio or be moved to Works.
Abubakar Aliyu (Yobe), a trained engineer and former deputy governor of Yobe State, could be at Works, Power or Housing.
Sadiya Umar Faruk (Zamfara), the current head of the National Commission for Refugees, could become Minister of State for Defence or Interior. If the ministry of North-East is created, she may be assigned there.
When contacted, a presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu said, “When they (senators) finish screening, they are expected to send a report to the government. Depending on when this is received, the president will then take the next steps.”