March 30, 2010

Ministerial screening: I’ll bring hope and energy – Yar’Adua

 Ministerial nominee, Murtala Yar’Adua (right) with Senator Ibrahim Ida (left) shortly after his screening at National Assembly,Tuesday.

By Emmanuel Aziken & Inalegwu Shaibu

ABUJA— PRESIDENT Umaru Yar‘Adua’s nephew, Murtala Yar’Adua, Tuesday, said he would bring hope and the energy of youth to the government of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan which was ushered in to replace that of his ailing uncle.

Alhaji Yar’Adua’s was one of the 23 nominees screened by the Senate during which the much expected showdown between senators and one of the nominees, Senator Sanusi Daggash was averted by the profuse apologies of Daggash over his alleged past indiscretions.

One more nominee, Dr. Idi Hong a former minister in the just dissolved cabinet was presented yesterday.

There were confusing signs concerning the fate of two of the nominees, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, a former Minister of Finance and subsequently of National Planning from Kano State and Alhaji Umar Aliyu from Taraba State.

Dr. Usman was stepped down from screening, yesterday, reportedly on the orders of the Presidency. Special Assistant to the President, Senate, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, however, asserted last night that none of the nominees had been formally withdrawn by the Presidency.

Former ministers in the just dissolved federal cabinet expectedly faced tough questions on their achievements in office. Mr. Nuhu Wya and Remi Babalola, erstwhile ministers of State of Power and of Finance, in their screening admitted their inability to meet the set 6,000 MW of electricity.

Those screened were Senator Akinlabi Olasunkanmi, Osun, Hon. Isa Bio Ibrahim, Kwara, Elder Peter Godsday Orubebe, Delta, Nuhu Somo Way, Kaduna, Henry Odein Ajumogobia, SAN, Rivers, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, Bayelsa, Mr. John Odey, Cross River, Aderemi Babalola, Oyo, and Mr. Humphrey Abbah, Kogi.

Others were Mr. Chukwuemeka Ngozichineke Wogu, Abia, Josephine Anenih, Anambra, Mr. Labaran Maku, Nasarawa, Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, Edo, Alhaji Suleiman Bello, Zamfara, Alhaji Muritala Yar’Adua, Katsina, Sen. Sanusi Dagash, Borno, Sen. Bala Mohammed, Bauchi, Hon. Nduese Essien, Akwa Ibom, Mrs. Josephine Tapgun, Plateau, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, Kogi, Navy Capt. Earnest Olubode, Ekiti, Capt. Emmanuel Iheanacho, Imo, and Sen. Jibril Martins Kuye, Ogun.

Murtala Yar’adua (right) chatting with Mohammed Buhari Yar’Adua (middle) and Umar Yar’Adau shortly after his screening at the National Assembly.

A number of the nominees who had served in the National Assembly were given the courtesy of bow-and-go after giving a brief of their projections in office.

The 40-year old Murtala Yar’Adua who was nominated for a ministerial position allegedly against the wishes of some elements close to President Yar‘Adua faced the Senate screening for eleven minutes.

Reflecting the fracture within the extended Yar‘Adua political family, the younger Yar‘Adua was escorted to the Senate screening by an enthusiastic crowd including family members, friends and officials of the Katsina State government who repeatedly hailed him as Tafidan, the traditional Katsina title he inherited from his father, the late Gen. Shehu Musa Yar‘Adua, the number two man in the military administration of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo.

Asked to explain what he would bring to the government, Yar‘Adua who said he was bringing hope to the administration deposed: “The energy of youth is very important. Around the world a lot industrialists and senior people running conglomerates are actually our age mates. A lot of our friends and colleagues are in private industry and I believe that I can draw a lot of experience and advise new ways of doing old things.”

He elicited a bout of laughter from several senators apparently in reference to his uncle’s cabinet. Apparently responding to the laughter, he clarified: “There is nothing wrong with the way things have been done, I think energy is what we need.”

Yar‘Adua also touched on the banking reforms which he endorsed as an attempt to save the country’s financial system and the spate of sectarian conflicts in the country which he centred on poverty and ignorance.

He added: “On conflict resolution, I believe that everything has to do with social problem, poverty, especially leads to discontent, people blame each other or their neighbours for their problems, it is not new to Nigeria. A lot of it has to do with education, it depends on what you were taught. Government has to get involved in the system.”

The former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Odein Ajumogobia, SAN, tasked on the past cabinet’s inability to address the supply of petroleum products to the country put the blame on failure to resolve the issue of deregulation. He said: “Nobody is going to invest his money in an enterprise that he cannot see how he will get a return. ”

Power supply situation
Architect Nuhu Somo Way, former Minister of State for Power noting the failure to meet the 6,000 MW set by the government, said: “I met a programme of 6000 megawatts project and we were assigned to pursue this programme to ensure that it is executed. By the grace of God, we were able to improve the power situation in the country to a level which is not commensurable to the mandate.

“We were faced with a challenge of what we could not control, that is the source of fuel and this source of fuel is gas. I am not trying to put a blame to anybody, I am just trying to say that we did rehabilitate our plants and got up to 5200 available generation capacity as at the end of December, last year. But we had stranded facility of 1500 megawatts due to inadequacy of gas. This inadequacy of gas cannot be blamed on a single source. We know the challenges we went through, they are challenges of security, vandalism, challenges of inadequate funding contributed to some of the issues that militated against our achievement of 6000 megawatts.”

Following the screening of the returnee proposed ministers, the Senate commenced the screening of the fresh nominees which were sometimes interlaced with political humour. The first fresh nominee screened was Mr. Emeka Wogu, a member of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission from Abia State who, like most of the other fresh nominees promised to help the Acting President in realizing his agenda.

The expected confrontation between senators and Senator Daggash turned into an anti-climax as Senator Daggash offered profuse apologies to the lawmakers over his role in the face off between him and the Senate during his earlier stance as Minister in the first cabinet of President Yar‘Adua. Daggash was alleged to have accused senators of padding their budget and at the same time padding the budget of his own Ministry of National Planning.

But as he stepped in for his screening yesterday, Daggash said: “Having found myself in the deep end of an arm of government which operates slightly differently from the legislative branch, I tried to learn the ropes, I found myself that I went into that arm of government as a senator with the respect and dignity of this office and I felt I had to maintain that. Certain misinformation, happenings and so on, but yes, I stood, I took it as a man and the bottom line is that anybody is in a position to err.” Following, his submission, he was asked to bow and go.