By Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA – A ministerial nominee from Cross River State, Pastor Usani Uguru, stirred controversy on the floor of the Senate, yesterday, when he appeared for screening.
The nominee, who had while in his introductory remark, told the Senate how he had traversed the various parts of the country besides building relationships among people across Nigeria, was swiftly asked whether he had done it under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP platform.
But the nominee, probably overwhelmed by his nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, quickly denounced the PDP which he was alleged to be a member in the past by saying “God forbid” thus causing uproar on the floor following strong concerns raised by senators of the PDP fold.
The senators of the opposition party had viewed the nominee’s remark about their party to be uncomplementary.
To save himself from the sledge hammer of the Red Chamber, Pastor Usani Uguru quickly retracted his remark and followed it with apology.
But his plea did not save him, as the Senate minority leader, Godswill Akpabio, cited Order 14 of the Senate standing rule pointing out that the privileges of PDP had been breached by Uguru’s remarks.
Akpabio noted that it was unfortunate that Pastor Uguru could see the PDP as a forbidden thing long after he had served the PDP administration as a commissioner in the National Copyright Commission.
He stressed that many current senators including the Senate President had all at one point or another served in different capacities under the PDP before defecting to the APC.
In a bid to halt the tension that was a leading rising as a result of the matter, the Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, asked Akpabio to take his seat adding that his point had been made and noted.
Saraki quickly turned to the nominee and asked for his reaction.
At this point, Pastor Uguru said: “I am extremely sorry”
After the apology by Uguru, other PDP senators took their turns to expose the loop holes in his resumé.
Raising another point of order, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, PDP, Abia North, drew the attention of his colleagues that the nominee did not comply with the law on tax payment because all his tax clearance as contained in his curriculum vitae were obtained on the same day.
“All the tax clearance the man submitted to the Senate are obtained on the same day, the same date and at the same time. Mr Senate President, we should not ignore this. We should find out why tax clearance for a number of years were obtained on the same day and submitted to the Senate . I am a Christian, and this is submitted by a Pastor not a Malam. And we as Senate should not ignore this anormaly.”
Saraki however ruled Ohuabunwa out of order pointing out that he ought to have put it as a question to the nominee.
Before the end of Uguru’s screening, Senate Majority leader, Mohammed Ali Ndume and Senator Ehinnanya Abaribe openly disagreed over Uguru’s alleged non-compliance with the law on asset declaration.
Abaribe had drawn the attention of the Senate to the fact that Uguru’s had not complied with the section 120 of the Senate rule which states that ’no nominee would be confirmed until he had shown proof of compliance with the asset declaration law.’
But Ndume rose in disagreement explaining that the nominee could declare his assets even after confirmation by the Senate.
Earlier, Professor Isaac Adewole, current Vice Chancellor of Ibadan, who was the first to be screened, said he had been in public service for over 30 years as a doctor, obstetrician public health activist, teacher and Vice Chancellor of Nigeria’s premiere institution, University of Ibadan.
“I have been largely preoccupied with the reposition of the nation’s health and education systems as a platform for human development, “he said.
Answering questions on problems of the country’s health sector and how it can be repositioned, he said:” Our major concern is that our health indicators are worrisome.”
“Over 40,000 women die during pregnancy and delivery yearly and we lose some 800,000 children from largely preventable causes every year.
“We are the largest contributor of HIV in new born globally.”
He added: “A foremost reproductive health expert Prof. Oladipo once asked why we treat our women and children as disposables.
” We must take a conscious decision to improve the health status of our women and children and by extension our men.
“Together with colleagues in the health profession I have dedicated my life to the prevention of maternal and infant mortality, HIV AIDS and cancer.
“I have functioned as a VC for the last five years to the Glory of God, University of Ibadan has witnessed a massive transformation under my watch.
“I will always like to refer to the universities as our nation’s heritage, we have been able to raise the bar of excellence.”
Mrs Zainab Samsuna Ahmed, a nominee from Kaduna State, who was asked to recite National Pledge, mixed up the second line as, instead of to say “to be faithful, loyal and honest, rather said ” to be loyal, faithful and honest. ”
The Senate screened a total of six nominees yesterday. Those screened were Adewole Isaac Folorunsho, Bawa Bwari, Geoffrey Onyema, Zainab Ahmed, Mansur Mohammed Dan Ali and Usani Usani Uguru.
five of the remaining nominees are billed for screening today.
A total of 31 ministerial nominees have so far been screened by the Senate out of which 18 have been confirmed.