• Says labour union, oil marketers’ strike was sabotage
• FEC holds valedictory session
By Jaiyeola Andrews in Abuja
With less than 48 hours before he hands over the reins of government to the President-elect, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, President Goodluck Jonathan has charged his incoming successor to extend his probe (if he must) beyond his (Jonathan’s) administration, otherwise it will amount to a witch-hunt.
He noted that a lot of issues and transactions deserve closer investigations, even from past regimes.
He equally described as sabotage, the oil marketers and workers’ strike in recent weeks that almost brought the nation to her knees.
The president was also of the view that his administration had done its best while in office under difficult circumstances.
Jonathan spoke when the Federal Executive Council (FEC) held its valedictory session on Wednesday in Abuja, making it the last meeting of his cabinet.
Jonathan, who has obviously been uncomfortable about Buhari’s anti-corruption stance and what possible probes by his successor might unearth on him and his team, said: “First and foremost we have to thank God that we are here talking to ourselves, reassessing the relationship and what we have done. Others probably don't have that kind of luck.
“I recall that even I have dissolved quite a number of cabinets and the ministers don't even know when they are to leave, they will just hear the announcements. At least, we have the opportunity, as we know we are to leave government on May 29th.
“Looking at our political history in this country, some people don't even know and you just hear a big gun, and you are out. But here we are preparing to exit government on the 29th of May, so we thank God. We remain grateful to Nigerians for giving us the opportunity to serve.
“As ministers, you came in at different times – the likes of (Olusegun) Aganga are the oldest serving ministers, others are just a few weeks old, they came almost at the time of the elections.
“But one thing is clear: I enjoyed working with all of you. I’m very pleased with all of you. I want to thank all of you for your various contributions to the development of our country.
“I want to thank those that have been with us – the advisers, senior special assistants, the secretariat, other senior government functionaries including the media that covered proceedings every Wednesday.
Expressing satisfaction with his self appraisal of his government’s achievements, President Jonathan ran through some of the major areas he believes, his government did exceedingly well.
“As a cabinet we have tried our best, I believe we have done well under a very difficult situation. There was a lot of criticisms, people said different things at different times, some of those who made some statements know they were purely political.
“I always insist that we have been here for five years and some months including the time I was an acting president.
“I have always thrown the challenge that those who criticise us should compare what we have done in the various sectors to what others had done. I may not need to enumerate them, but if you look at the rail system and what we have done within this period, the oil sector where there were many attacks, one good thing we did was the Nigerian Content Law that revolutionised the oil industry.
"There were a lot of fabrications going on in Lagos and other places but it was never like this before. Nigerians are playing key roles in the oil sector, people sometimes forget this. Even with that maybe we have offended some people but the Nigerian local content has really helped so many Nigerians, to play big in the oil sector.
"The agriculture, power sectors and maybe in foreign relations like the minister of foreign affairs mentioned, from 1960 to date, we have been members of the security council as non-permanent members five times out of these five times, two times was with the five years of our administration.
"We have been an independent nation for fifty-five years and we have been in the United Nations Security Council as non-permanent members five times, two within this administration. That shows clearly that the rest of the world appreciates our little contributions to global issue.
"In education, the road system, we have added Kasambilla to our dams, we have done wonderfully well in sports within this period, Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and of course the financial inclusion within this period is more than ever before.
"I can go on and on and mention almost all the sectors. So I believe we have done our best and Nigerians will continue to assess us.
"Even though we operated under an extremely difficult situation, maybe because politics in Nigeria is just maturing, we witnessed the longest ASUU strike. I don't think we have ever witnessed a strike that lasted for six months and we believe that that strike was partially politically motivated, otherwise lecturers cannot troop out for six months.
"There were the terror attacks, we know Boko Haram predates this administration but immediately after the elections, I believe because of local and external factors, they became very vicious, extremely destructive, killing people and destroying properties."
The president noted that the fuel scarcity that persists, was clearly an act of sabotage.
He stressed that his government has few days to go, and as such not the time to expect massive strikes, "using marketers and unions, unions asking for increase in salaries at a time oil price have dropped and volumes have dropped."
Jonathan added that none of the International Oil Companies (IOCs) is increasing salaries, but Nigeria's labour unions wanted 11 per cent increase in allowances and went on strike.
"There was 21 days reserve in this country, it is not as if we had no products but they just refused to lift. Diesel was deregulated long ago, so the issue was not the product but people who felt they must bring this government to its knees even when they know that we had few days to leave.
But we thank God we are getting over it and God will see us through."
The president, who further said some people are calling for the probe of his government, noted that "I agreed that in Nigeria there are a number of things we will probe, even debts owed by states and the nation from 1960 up to this time they say it is Jonathan's administration that is owing all the debts."
He said he was of the belief that anybody calling for probe must ensure that these probes are extended beyond his administration, otherwise it will amount to witch hunting.
"If you are very sincere then it will not just be the Jonathan's administration that should be probed.
"A number of things have gone wrong and we have done our best to fix them. The Attorney General is aware of massive judgments debts, if we aggregate all of them it is almost going to $1 billion. How did we come to this kind of huge judgment debts? These issues should be probed. How do you allocate our oil wells, oil fields, marginal wells and all that do we follow our laws? All these should be probed. And I believe all these and many more areas should be looked at.
"So for members of council, I have worked with you and I'm quite pleased. For the past five years, for those of you like the Attorney General that has been with us from the beginning and those who joined lately, we have worked together and to me it was quite fulfilling. We had many challenges no doubt about that but with God on our side we have been able to navigate up to this point, because 29th of May that is Friday this week, we have been together. Surely we are not just going to disperse we are still Nigerians and we will still continue to interact.
"I believe even after leaving office we may even interact even more for the interest of our nation. So I thank all of you for working with me and the Vice-President to build our nation within this period that Nigerians gave us the opportunity to do so.
"I believe that your involvement is not a waste, in fact listening to you I see some of you also have that kind of fulfillment and that is the essence of life. So once again thank you for working with us to achieve what we did within this period.
"We remain grateful to all of you, we will remain friends and colleagues.
"We will formally dissolve the cabinet tomorrow but today the cabinet has not been dissolved because ministers are yet to hand over and that ceremony will come up tomorrow, and you will come for tomorrow's dinner as ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
"We will probably have a little meeting here where we will formally dissolve the cabinet but all these programmes coming up tomorrow you have to attend as ministers.
But conspicuously absent at the valedictory session, were Ministers of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, State for Federal Capital Territory, Ms. Jumoke Akinjide, and that of Health, Kaliru Alhassan.
The meeting which was presided over by the president, saw Vice-President Namadi Sambo opening the floor of the valedictory session and followed by the ministers who poured encomium on the leadership style of Mr. President.