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Screening By Guesses

THE demand that portfolios should be attached to nominees for ministerial positions is a legitimate demand that falls firmly in line with the spirit of the 1999 Constitution, which insists that Ministers should be appointed to reflect the geographical, ethnic and other colourations that make Nigeria the vivacious country it has remained.

When the Senate goes on rigmaroles in the name of screening, neither the Senate nor the public is able to benefit from the ability to ask pertinent questions that can help in arriving at reasonable decisions about the candidate’s suitability.

Anyone resting on the Constitution to justify the non-inclusion of nominees’ portfolios is being legalistic without sparing a thought about the workability of the government, in order to achieve the constitutional provision in Section 14 (2) b,
“The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. The precedent set since 1999 is not helpful.

How could the Senate ensure balance in the composition of the Federal Executive Council that Section 14 (4) of the Constitution envisaged? Too much power is awarded the President when he gets blank approvals for his Ministers and portfolios he allocates to them.

Nigeria did not come into existence in 1999. Former President Shehu Aliyu Usman Shagari (1979-83) attached portfolios to nominees, even for ambassadorial positions, he included the proposed stations.

Was that not how we knew a Russia-bound diplomat who knew only the old national anthem? Alhaji Shagari set a better precedent.

How can the Senate screen nominees’ suitability for positions when they do not know what briefs the President would assign to them? What is the point of conducting a screening exercise when the Senate cannot ask basic questions? We saw that again with the screening of two ministerial nominees to replace those who left the cabinet.

The Senate should impress it on the President, in future, to disclose the portfolios for nominees and stations of ambassadorial nominees. The Senate would then drill them along the lines of their expected responsibilities to Nigerians.

Sports is a veritable example. Sports Ministers since 1999 have lamented that they would have wanted to be elsewhere.

They all come to sports to learn, during which they do more damage than their successors can ever repair.

With all the hype about transparency, a ministerial list that does not disclose portfolios has too much to hide for the Senate to play along. What does the President have to hide? Why should the Senate encourage him?

In the Oath of Allegiance, our senators and the President swore to, they all promised to work for the well-being of Nigerians. It is time to act beyond the words. The Senate should lead the way.


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