President Muhammadu Buhari said yesterday that Nigerians should pass a verdict on the performance of his appointed officials during the administration’s first year in office so that he will know if he should change them. Asked if Nigerians should expect changes in his team during this anniversary period Buhari said, “I am waiting for the newspapers to tell me the performance of my ministers and whether I should make changes.”
President Buhari explained why his government took off rather slowly. He said former President Obasanjo, who had experience with hand over and take over, recalled that in 1999 outgoing Head of State General Abdulsalami Abubakar made each ministry to prepare handing over notes and then brief the president-elect, for him to choose what he wanted out of it. He said President Goodluck Jonathan agreed to do the same and asked all his ministers to prepare handing over notes and brief Buhari but they protested at the last minute that Buhari should not be allowed to take over the government before he was sworn-in.
As a result, he said no proper transition took place and after his inauguration he had to take briefings from two ministries a day in order to make up for lost time.
The president also spoke about budget padding. He said though he had been in public life since 1975, he never heard of budget padding until when he saw Minister of Health Prof Isaac Adeoye on television defending his budget before a National Assembly committee.
Buhari said he was shocked when the minister told the committee that he could not defend what he did not propose because the budget had been padded.
He said, “I went [to the National Assembly] and bowed and delivered [the budget] but I did not know that what I delivered was a shell. They removed what they wanted and added other things.” He said when the budget as passed by the National Assembly was brought to him, he refused to sign it because throughout his life he never signed anything that he did not understand.
At one point, he said, Minister of Budget and National Planning Udoma Udo Udoma persuaded him to sign it and he said “I will sign it because I trust you.”
However, he said before he could sign, Udoma read the budget thoroughly and rushed back to him and advised him not to sign it unless amendments were made.