Crisis is brewing within President Buhari’s Federal Executive Council between two ministers, the Minister of Transport Rotimi Amaechi and the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika SIGNAL can report.
An informed source familiar with the details who did not want to be named disclosed to SIGNAL on Wednesday that both ministers were close to exchanging blows on Monday in what would have been a case of two-fighting but for the timely intervention of aides and civil servants who witnessed the altercation.
Sirika, according to the source is said not to be ready to take orders from Amaechi who as Minster of Transport is also the senior minister of Aviation and Sirika’s direct boss. Amaechi, not taking the signs of insubordination from the junior minister lightly, is said to be determined to put Sirika where he belongs.
Sirika on his part is said to be spoiling for war, ready to slug it out with Amaechi considering the fact that he sees himself as the President’s man. Sirika is President Buhari’s kinsman and served as a Senator representing the President’s Katsina North senatorial district.
“It’s all about power tussle. Sirika thinks Amaechi is overstepping his boundaries and should mind his business as Transport Minister. But Amaechi is also in charge of Aviation. He is the senior minister, while Sirika as Minister of State for Aviation is junior minister. But Sirika sees himself as the President’s guy. So, he refuses to take directives from Amaechi and now Amaechi is feeling undermined. This has led to a big power play between both men. It is becoming so messy that even the official portraits of both ministers are missing at the airports. That’s why Amaechi was doing maritime summit in Lagos while Sirika was doing aviation in Abuja”, the source told SIGNAL.
SIGNAL contacted Yakubu Datti, the General Manager, Corporate Communications, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) on Wednesday for comments. When asked why the portraits of both ministers were missing at the federal airports across the country, Datti told SIGNAL, “We are awaiting the official portraits of the ministers. They are yet to send them in to us.”
Pushing further, our reporter asked Datti if the reason for the missing portraits was connected to reports of an ongoing power tussle between both ministers. At this point, Datti replied, “The portraits are there. Amaechi’s portrait is at the airport. It is only that of the Minister of State that is not there.”
“But you just said you were awaiting the portraits?”, our reporter fired back. “I have a right to make a mistake. I am not God. Or is this an examination?”, Datti queried.
“You have a right to make mistakes, but as journalists, we have a right to ask questions and make clarifications. So, why are Sirika’s portraits not at the airports side by side with Amaechi?”, our reporter asked Datti.
“It is one ministry with one permanent secretary. So it is only the portrait of the senior minister that should be there”, he replied.
However, investigations by SIGNAL reveal that the standard practice is to have the portraits of both ministers at the airports.
Both portraits were still missing at the airports at the time of filing this report.
Meanwhile, civil servants in the aviation sector are said to be embarrassed on behalf of both principals who have displayed little or no concern in making their squabbles a matter of public spectacle.
“It is a shame. Both ministers are embarrassing themselves publicly. It is a mess. And President Buhari on his part has been silent over this issue. He should call them to order immediately. The aviation and transport sectors are very key sectors of our economy. We can’t continue to have two adults who should know better fighting over the pettiness of who is in charge or control of what. When two elephants fight, unfortunately, it is the ground that suffers. Nigerians are the ones who will bear the brunt over this unnecessary squabble”, a senior government official who did not want to be named, told this newspaper.
Efforts to reach the ministers involved proved abortive at the time of filing this report. Presidential spokespersons, Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina did not take their calls when SIGNAL contacted them for comments.