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Gabonese get new hopes after years of unpaid pensions

There’s a new air of optimism among the seniors waiting patiently since dawn in Gabon’s capital Libreville to chase up pensions that were never paid.

Some say they’ve received nothing for years.

The general who ousted President Ali Bongo Ondimba in a coup on August 30 and is now transitional leader of the oil-rich, central African state has vowed to overhaul the pension system.

Leonie Oumtoma, a widow and grandmother, has lost count of the times she has queued at Batavia social security office, trying to find out when she will start receiving some money.

“I lost my husband in 2017. I submitted my documents in 2018, but I’ve since received nothing.

“Every time, I leave, I come back…,” she says. “I don’t even know how much I’m going to get.”

‘End the suffering’

The ousting of Bongo, 64, came moments after he was proclaimed winner in a presidential election — a result branded a fraud by the opposition and the military coup leaders, who have also accused his regime of widespread corruption and bad governance.

In a speech before hundreds of business leaders two days later, Oligui pledged to “end the suffering” of pensioners and the ill.

He announced that the private sector would “immediately” take over the management of state pension and health funds.

“I’m a widow but I haven’t received a penny of my husband’s pension for two years,” grumbles 57-year-old trader Henriette Nset.

There are thousands like her, say the opposition and civil society groups, who for years have raised the alarm.

One in three lives below the poverty line in Africa’s third-richest country in terms of per-capita GDP, according to the World Bank.

Gabon’s wealth from its abundant oil reserves and other natural resources is in the hands of a small elite.

Many saw the coup as an act of liberation from 55 years of Bongo family rule — 14 years under Ali Bongo, who took over when his father Omar died in 2009 after nearly 42 years in power.

‘Wants results’

Life expectancy in Gabon was 66 years old in 2021, according to World Bank figures.

“I’m forced to dip into my savings to meet the needs of my family,” says Francois Moussavou, 58, who has been waiting for his pension for two years.

Despite Oligui’s promises, the initially upbeat mood soon evaporates at Batavia social security office.

A “technical problem” forces it to close mid-morning.

Romaric Ngomo Menie, inspector general of the National Social Security Fund, says he is aware of the suffering and the president “wants results quickly because he cares about social protection”.

Like others, retired technician Aristide Mouanda, 57, who stopped working a year ago but has not received any pension payments, hopes for change under the new regime.

Oligui has promised to hand the country back to civilian rule with elections after a transitional period but has not set a date.

He has also set up a broad transitional government, met key figures and promised to help the country’s poorest.

But strikes by workers who complain they have not been paid for months already suggest the patience of the Gabonese may quickly run out.



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Agribusiness, Agritourism will Strengthen Food Security- FG

Dr Ernest Umakhihe, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, says investment in agribusiness and Agritourism, will strengthen food security in the country.

Umakhihe revealed this at the international Agribusiness and Agritourism investment forum on Friday in Abuja.

The permanent secretary was represented by Mr Adebiyi Michael, Director, Agribusiness and Market Development in the ministry.

He said that agritourism enhances the tourism industry by increasing the number of visitors to the area.

“Agritourism also provides communities with the potential to increase their local tax bases and new employment opportunities.

“Additionally, agritourism provides educational opportunities to the public, helps to preserve agricultural lands, and allows states to develop business enterprises,” he reiterated.

He said that the Federal Government had designed agricultural investment incentives to support high level private sector participation.

“While some of these incentives are in the form of tax holidays, exemptions and reliefs, there are some that leverage specific policies,” he said.

Umakhihe restated the ministry`s commitment in working with relevant stakeholders to build an agricultural and agribusiness economy capable of sustaining the country’s economy.

“I have no doubt that this forum will spur agricultural production which will ultimately contribute to growth and transformation in the nation’s economy,“ he said.

Also, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Sen. George Akume, urged security agencies to come up with strategies to make the initiative a success.

He was represented by Mr Okokon Etoabasi, a deputy director in his office.

In his views, Mr Masudur Rahman, Bangladesh High Commissioner to Nigeria described the initiative by the government of Nigeria as noble.

“This synergy will help if Nigeria and Bangladesh collaborate and both countries will benefit immensely,“ he said.

On the 50 hectares of land given to Bangladesh, he said that his country will ensure that both countries benefit in terms of job creation, rural development, and human resource development.

Mr Guy Adoua, Deputy Country Director, World Food Programme, Nigeria (WFP), said that other countries should learn from the Nigeria experience.

“I work for WFP and I think we have something to learn and to share from this experience,” he said.

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Gabon coup: General Nguema sworn in as interim president

Gabon’s new military leader was sworn in as the head of state on Monday, less than a week after ousting the president whose family had ruled the Central African nation for more than five decades.

General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema took the oath in the presidential palace in front of a packed, boisterous room of government officials as well as military and local leaders in Gabon’s capital Libreville. Oligui, a cousin of the ousted President Ali Bongo Ondimba, served as a bodyguard to his late father and headed the republican guard, an elite military unit.
Speaking to a standing ovation on Monday, Oligui said the military had seized power without bloodshed and promised to return power to the people by organising free, transparent and credible elections.

“With the new government, made up of experienced people, we’re going to give everyone a chance to hope,” he said.
The mutinous soldiers who toppled Bongo last week said he risked leading the country into chaos and they then “unanimously” designated Oligui president of the transitional committee. Bongo, who had been president for 14 years, was ousted hours after being declared the winner of a vote that was widely seen as rife with irregularities and lacking transparency.

While the coup was celebrated on the streets of Gabon, it drew condemnation from the African Union and the international community.

The speedy swearing-in of Oligui will create perceptions of legitimacy and consolidate his power to deter potential opponents from challenging his rule, said Maja Bovcon, senior analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, a risk assessment firm.

“It is also likely intended as a means to restore investor confidence by conveying the message that he will not waste time in returning to business-as-usual and democratic rules,” she said. However, the fact that he plans to rewrite the constitution and electoral code means that the transition period will likely take months if not years.
Bongo had served two terms since coming to power in 2009 after the death of his father who ruled the country for 41 years, and there was widespread discontent with his family’s reign. Another group of mutinous soldiers attempted a coup in 2019 but was quickly overpowered.
Gabon’s opposition candidate, Albert Ondo Ossa, has yet to comment on the inauguration but told Al Jazeera on Friday that he won the election and the coup was a disappointment.

“It was a palace revolution, not a coup d’etat. This is a family affair, where one brother replaces another,” he said.

Ossa, an economics professor presented by six opposition parties under the alliance Alternance 2023, garnered 30 percent of the votes while the incumbent got 64 percent.

The former French colony is a member of OPEC, but its oil wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few — and nearly 40 percent of Gabonese aged 15 to 24 were out of work in 2020, according to the World Bank. Its oil export revenue was $6bn in 2022, according to the United States’ Energy Information Administration (EIA).


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OPINION: African Climate Summit: An opportunity to decolonize Africa’s energy

African and international leaders will attend the African Climate Summit from September 4 to 6 in Nairobi, Kenya. They will deliberate on Africa’s unified position on the climate crisis ahead of COP28, the global climate talks, in December and develop the Nairobi Declaration for green growth, a blueprint for Africa’s green energy transition.

COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber, who serves as CEO of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (ADNOC), will also be in attendance

Oil Change International data shows the growth in oil and gas production in the United Arab Emirates is poised to be among the world’s largest in the next few years and ADNOC is expected to see the second biggest growth among fossil fuel companies. Because of this, all eyes will be on Al Jaber to ensure he will set aside the short-term interests of the oil and gas industry and deliver transformative action at COP28 as promised.

To us, that means a just and equitable energy transition for Africa, phasing out all fossil fuels and bringing an end to the exploitation of our land, resources and communities by Global North countries.

This year, African civil society organisations sent letters to the CEOs of BP, Chevron, Exxon and Shell, among others, warning these companies against investing in the drilling activities of Reconnaissance Energy Africa (ReconAfrica) in the Okavango Basin in Namibia and Botswana.

ReconAfrica’s projections of 120 billion barrels of recoverable oil could produce a “carbon gigabomb” of 51.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to one-sixth of the world’s remaining carbon budget – an amount we simply cannot afford to extract. The drilling operations have already caused significant legal, social and environmental issues, including destroying forests and crops and risking the destruction of one of the richest biodiversity hotspots on earth. Biodiversity hotspots sustain livelihoods and critical ecosystems. Extraction in these hotspots threatens livelihoods and species survival across the continent.

BP’s big new gas plans in West Africa pose climate and biodiversity threats in Senegal, and lucrative contracts with ENI, ExxonMobil, BP, Shell and Total threaten Mozambique.

Africa’s leaders must take heed that our communities cannot risk a repeat of the devastation the fossil fuel industry brought to the Niger Delta. The neocolonial model of extracting and exploiting Africa’s resources at any cost must stop.

The African Climate Summit should be an opportunity to chart the continent’s direction towards an equitable and sustainable future that protects our people and communities, and to prepare a coordinated front from African leaders to call for a fast and fair phase-out of all fossil fuels at COP28.

Yet the summit agenda appears to have been hijacked. The focus is on fossil fuel promotion instead of clean energy solutions and carbon credits instead of a just transition towards renewables. Pushing for fossil fuels will continue to allow Global North countries to exploit our continent’s resources and threaten our future.

More than 500 civil society organisations issued an urgent call to reset the focus of the Africa Climate Summit from Global North and corporate interests to one of African priorities, such as a just and equitable phase-out of all new fossil fuel projects.

Every new fossil fuel project is incompatible with a liveable future. According to the International Energy Agency, respecting the 1.5C warming limit and securing a liveable future means there can be no new coal, oil or gas.

It is a myth that fossil fuels support development. Fossil fuels neither equal energy access nor do they equal jobs or profit. The resources and profits from fossil fuel extraction in Africa have always been exported to the richest countries, leaving our communities with nothing but pollution, increased inequality, eroded governments, and growing militarization.

Africa – the continent suffering the worst of the climate crisis but having the highest renewable energy potential – does not need new fossil fuels or false and unproven technologies that allow rich countries to continue to burn fossil fuels. African leaders must listen to the African people, who want a just transition to 100 percent renewable energy.

With 600 million Africans lacking access to clean, modern energy, we say scaling up cheap, decentralised, renewable energy is the fastest and best way to end energy exclusion and meet the needs of Africa’s people.

Shifting to renewable energy and phasing out fossil fuel reliance will permanently bring down soaring energy costs and increase energy security. Renewable technologies are more affordable, can be scaled up more rapidly and do not introduce further volatility through increased climate damage, fiscal instability, and stranded asset risks as global gas demand drops. They can also be community-led and -owned and can better reach rural communities.

This is the only effective route to achieving a more secure, prosperous future – for Africa and the world. As African leaders gather at the Africa Climate Summit and head towards COP28 talks in Dubai, they must act with the integrity and leadership required to ensure a sustainable future powered by clean energy.

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INSECURITY: Why Terrorism Remained Persistent in Northeast – Solomon Arase

The Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), Solomon Arase, says the military officers deployed to areas where terrorists operate freely, particularly North East, lack training and knowledge to gather evidence against the criminals, hence the increasing rate of their activities.

Arase, a former Inspector-General of Police, also faulted the practice where arrested bandits are released and reintegrated into society without proper profiling, noting that most of them eventually return to the crime, creating more harm for the region.

He, however, demanded that the police take over the fight against terrorism and other crimes from the military, arguing that officers of the force were trained to secure crime scenes, gather evidence and prosecute criminals which is different from the standard operating procedures for the military.

Arase was quoted to have stated these in Abuja when he played host to the police advisor, Lake Chad Basin Support Framework of the United Kingdom High Commission in Nigeria, Elizabeth Macleod; leadership of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms led by its Director-General, D.I. Arabi and a delegation from the NTA News 24 led by its General Manager, Fatima Abbas Hassan.

The PSC boss, in a statement issued by the spokesman of the commission, Ikechukwu Ani, on Sunday, advised the federal government to reduce the military component of the war against insurgency and allow the police, the lead agency in internal security to lead the battle.

Arase said, “The police are properly trained for internal security and leading the battle will curb the activities of the terrorists in the North East. More convictions of these criminals in the North East would serve as a deterrent to others and eventually reduce the spate of crime and criminality in the region.”

“The military deployed to the troubled regions in the North East have no such training and this has resulted in a low rate of prosecution of offenders and a conviction rate less than five per cent”, the statement read.

The former IGP lamented that the problem of the counter-insurgency mission in Nigeria was a lack of inter-agency collaboration and intelligence sharing between the security agencies, adding that the conviction rate of less than five per cent was disproportional with arrests and it does not send the right signals.

Speaking earlier, the police advisor, Macleod had informed Arase that she was based in Maiduguri, Borno State and that the project was to assist the Nigeria Police in Borno State in tackling the insecurity in the state. It was also noted that the project was funded by the United Kingdom High Commission in Nigeria and implemented by Adam Smith International.

In his reply, the PSC chairman said the commission would be happy to collaborate with the Support Framework and have officers of the Nigeria Police Force benefit from what they are doing in the North East.

He also reiterated that the Police Recruitment Board will soon be inaugurated, maintaining that the commission and the police are not working in unity for the overall benefit of national security, adding that all modalities were already in place for the commencement of the recruitment.



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Nigeriens set to evict France ambassador, troops from country

Large demonstrations occur outside a French military base in Niger’s capital, Niamey, as pressure mounts on France’s ambassador and soldiers to leave the country.

Niger’s military government, which seized power on July 26, has accused French President Emmanuel Macron of using divisive rhetoric in his comments about the coup and seeking to perpetrate France’s neocolonial relationship with its former colony.

Sylvain Itte, France’s ambassador, remained in Niger despite a 48-hour deadline to leave the country more than a week ago, a decision Macron said he “applauds”.

Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from Niamey, said demonstrators – expressing frustration there is still a French presence in the country – were beginning to take matters into their own hands.

According to security personnel, the protest was scheduled to begin at about 3pm (14:00 GMT). Still, thousands of demonstrators had gathered by 10am (09:00 GMT), taking police and security forces by surprise.

Idris said the protests that have taken place over the past few days have been “relatively calm and organized”. But earlier on Saturday demonstrators were seen “breaking the barriers set up by the security forces, the police and the military”, and approaching the army base with some “trying to gain access forcefully”.

The military has since reinforced the area around the French base, containing about 1,500 French troops, and warned against forceful entry and the repercussions.

‘I speak every day to President Bazoum’: Macron
Niger’s military regime has accused Paris of “blatant interference” by backing the country’s deposed President Mohamed Bazoum

Comments by Macron in support of Bazoum “constitute further blatant interference in Niger’s domestic affairs”, military spokesman Colonel Amadou Abdramane said in a statement on nationwide TV.

Macron said on Friday he spoke daily with Bazoum after he was removed from power in the coup.

“I speak every day to President Bazoum. We support him. We do not recognize those who carried out the putsch. The decisions we will take, whatever they may be, will be based upon exchanges with Bazoum,” said Macron.

The Sahel state is also embroiled in a standoff with the West African bloc ECOWAS, which has threatened to intervene militarily if diplomatic pressure to return Bazoum to office fails.

On Monday, Macron said: “I call on all the states in the region to adopt a responsible policy.”

France, he said, “supports [ECOWAS’s] diplomatic action and, when it so decides, [its] military” action, he said, describing this as “a partnership approach”.


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GABON: Jubilations as hundreds celebrate in Libreville after soldiers seize power

Hundreds of people have celebrated in the centre of Gabon’s capital, Libreville, after a group of senior military officers said they had seized power.

The mutinous soldiers also put the president under house arrest on Wednesday, hours after he was declared the winner of an election that would have extended his family’s 55-year rule in the oil-rich Central African nation.

International observers, however, criticised the vote, in which Bongo had sought his third term.

Within minutes of the announcement of the election result, gunfire was heard in the centre of Libreville. Later, a dozen uniformed soldiers appeared on state television and announced that they had seized power.

Soon after, crowds poured into the streets. Shopkeeper Viviane Mbou offered the soldiers juice, which they declined.

“Long live our army,” said Jordy Dikaba, a young man walking with his friends on a street lined with police.

Later, Bongo pleaded for support, appearing in a video showing him sitting in a chair with a bookshelf behind him. He said he was in his residence and his wife and son were in different places.
Hundreds of people celebrate the military's intervention as France - Gabon's former colonial ruler, which has troops stationed in the African nation - condemned the coup. [Reuters
Hundreds of people celebrate the military’s intervention as France – Gabon’s former colonial ruler, which has troops stationed in the African nation – condemned the coup. [Reuters
Opponents say the Bongo family has done little to share the state's oil and mining wealth with its 2.3 million people during its more than half a century in charge of Gabon. Violent unrest broke out after Bongo's disputed 2016 election win, and there was a foiled coup in 2019. [Reuters]
Opponents say the Bongo family has done little to share the state’s oil and mining wealth with its 2.3 million people during its more than half a century in charge of Gabon. Violent unrest broke out after Bongo’s disputed 2016 election win, and there was a foiled coup in 2019. [Reuters]
"I am marching today because I am joyful. After almost 60 years, the Bongos are out of power," says Jules Lebigui, an unemployed 27-year-old who joined the celebrations on Libreville's streets. [Reuters
I am marching today because I am joyful. After almost 60 years, the Bongos are out of power,” says Jules Lebigui, an unemployed 27-year-old who joined the celebrations on Libreville’s streets. [Reuters  
People display Gabon's flag as they celebrate the coup in Akanda, Gabon. [EPA]
People display Gabon’s flag as they celebrate the coup in Akanda, Gabon. [EPA]  
The military officers who carried out the coup call themselves the Committee of Transition and the Restoration of Institutions. They said Gabon faces "a severe institutional, political, economic and social crisis" and the August 26 election was not credible. [Reuters]
The military officers who carried out the coup call themselves the Committee of Transition and the Restoration of Institutions. They said Gabon faces “a severe institutional, political, economic and social crisis” and the August 26 election was not credible. [Reuters]
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Gabon: General Nguema named transitional leader after coup

General Brice Oligui Nguema, leader of Gabon’s elite Republican Guard – the unit in charge of the president’s security – has been named as the country’s transition leader.

The notification on Wednesday came hours after the announcement of a military takeover on state-run television that itself followed the electoral commission’s declaration of a win for President Ali Bongo in Saturday’s election

Bongo had won 64.27 percent of the vote, a contested victory in an election the opposition said was a “fraud orchestrated” by Bongo and his supporters. Leading opposition candidate Albert Ossa, who represented a merger of six parties, came second with 30 percent of the vote.

Nguema is one of the most influential and enigmatic figures in the country and is believed to be related to the deposed president. As the son of a military officer, he was inclined to join the military from a young age and trained at the Royal Military Academy of Meknes, in Morocco.

His military skills were noticed by members of Gabon’s former President Omar Bongo’s Republican Guard.

Nguema then served as Bongo’s “aides-de-camp” or military assistant to a commander in the guard, until the former Gabonese leader’s death in 2009.

When Omar Bongo’s son Ali Bongo rose to power in October 2009, Nguema was sent to Morocco and Senegal for diplomatic missions, but returned to Gabon in 2018. A year later, he took over as the head of the guard.


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Gabon: Military officers declare coup, arrest President Ali Bongo

Military officers in oil-producing Gabon said they had seized power on Wednesday and had put President Ali Bongo under house arrest, stepping in minutes after the Central African state’s election body announced he had won a third term.

The officers who said they represented the armed forces declared on television that the election results were canceled, borders were closed and state institutions were dissolved, after a tense vote that was set to extend the Bongo family’s more than half-century in power.

One of the officers, Brice Oligui Nguema, who in a video appeared to be hailed as their leader, told French newspaper Le Monde that he and other generals would meet on Wednesday to select someone to head the transitional government.

Hundreds of people on the streets of the Gabonese capital celebrated the military’s intervention, while France, Gabon’s former colonial ruler which has troops stationed in the African nation, condemned the coup

If successful, the Gabon coup would be the eighth in West and Central Africa since 2020. The latest one, in Niger, was in July. Military officers have also seized power in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Chad, erasing democratic gains since the 1990s.

“I am marching today because I am joyful. After almost 60 years, the Bongos are out of power,” said Jules Lebigui, a jobless 27-year-old who joined crowds in Libreville.

The officers said they had detained Bongo, who took over in 2009 from his father Omar, who had ruled since 1967. They also said they had arrested the president’s son, Noureddin Bongo Valentin, and others for corruption and treason.

Opponents say the family has done little to share the state’s oil and mining wealth with its 2.3 million people. Violent unrest had broken out after Bongo’s disputed 2016 election win and there was a foiled coup attempt in 2019.

The Gabon officers, calling themselves The Committee of Transition and the Restoration of Institutions, said the country faced “a severe institutional, political, economic, and social crisis”. They said the Aug. 26 vote was not credible.

Republican Guard chief Nguema told Le Monde a leader had not been chosen but a meeting would be held on Wednesday to decide.

“Everyone will put forward ideas and the best ones will be chosen, as well as the name of the person who will lead the transition,” he said.

Television images showed a man who appeared to be Nguema held aloft by soldiers shouting “Oligui president”, using one of his names.

There was no immediate comment from Gabon’s government.

Reuters Graphics Reuters Graphics
Reuters Graphics Reuters Graphics
Gabonese military officers announce they have seized power
Gabonese military appeared on television as they announced that they had seized power following President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s re-election. Gabon 1ere/via REUTERS Acquire Licensing Rights


Bongo, 64, was last seen in public casting his vote on Saturday. Before the vote, he had been seen looking healthier than his more frail television appearances after his 2018 stroke.

“We condemn the military coup and recall our commitment to free and transparent elections,” French government spokesman Olivier Veran said.

The coup created more uncertainty for France’s presence in the region. France has about 350 troops in Gabon. Its forces have been kicked out of Mali and Burkina Faso after coups there in the last two years.

Unlike Niger and other Sahel countries, Gabon, which lies further south on the Atlantic coast, has not had to battle destabilising Islamist insurgencies. But the coup is a further sign of democratic backsliding in the volatile region.

The African Union’s Peace and Security Council chair called for a meeting on situation with Burundi, Senegal and Cameroon,

China called for a peaceful resolution and Russia said it hoped for a swift return to stability.

“With the coup leaders claiming to represent all factions of Gabon’s security apparatus, Mr Bongo is not expected to be able to suppress the uprising,” wrote Rukmini Sanyal, an analyst at Economist Intelligence Unit, citing “widespread public discontent” against Bongo, his family and his ruling party.

Gabon produces about 200,000 barrels of oil a day, mainly from depleting fields. International companies include France’s TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA) and Anglo-French producer Perenco.

French miner Eramet (ERMT.PA), which has large manganese operations in Gabon, said it had halted operations.

A lack of international observers, the suspension of some foreign broadcasts and a decision to cut internet service and impose a night-time curfew after Saturday’s election had raised concerns about the vote’s transparency. Bongo’s team rejected allegations of fraud.

On Wednesday, internet access appeared to be restored for the first time since the vote.

Shortly before the coup announcement, the election authority had declared Bongo the election winner with 64.27% of the vote and said his main challenger, Albert Ondo Ossa, had secured 30.77%.

Gabon’s dollar-denominated bonds fell as much as 14 cents on Wednesday before recovering around 2 cents of the losses.

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Photo News: President Tinubu Presides Over Inaugural FEC Meeting

President Bola Tinubu, on Monday, presided over the inaugural meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja

The meeting, which commenced around 12:10 p.m., was attended by Vice President Kashim Shettima; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Sen. George Akume; and the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan.

Others attending the meeting include the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila; the new ministers as well as other top government functionaries.

As written in the Ministers’ Statutory Powers and Duties Act, the council’s role is to serve as an advisory body to the President, who serves as the FEC chairman.

Recall that President Tinubu inaugurated 45 ministers to serve as members of his cabinet last Monday.

See some of the photos from the meeting below.

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