By Clifford Ndujihe, Henry Umoru, Ola Ajayi, Dapo Akinrefon, Charles Kumolu, Emman Ovuakporie, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Joseph Erunke, Peter Okutu & Agaju Madugba
ABUJA—CONTRARY to the plea of President Muhammadu Buhari for expeditious screening and confirmation of his ministerial nominees, the senators are not in a hurry to do so. They are asking for the citation and resume of the 21 nominees to ensure “due diligence.”
Consequently, Nigerians, who expected the nominees to be screened today, will have to wait till next Tuesday when the exercise will begin. The senators said the three-day screening will hold between October 13 and 15.
The legislators took the decision after Senate President, Bukola Saraki unveiled the first batch of the nominees, which had 21 names as forwarded to the Senate President last Wednesday by President Buhari.
The nominees include: Abubakar Malami (SAN), Kebbi; Abdurahman Bello Dambazzau, Kano; Aisha Jumai Al Hassan, Taraba; Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Kwara; Babatunde Raji Fashola, Lagos; Adebayo Shittu, Oyo; Solomon Dalong, Plateau; Senator Chris Ngige, Anambra; Rotimi Amaechi, Rivers and Chief Audu Ogbeh, Benue.
Of particular interest among the nominees is Mr Audu Ogbeh. In the Second Republic under President Shehu Shagari, late Dr Olusola Saraki, as Senate leader was part of the senators that screened Audu Ogbeh. 36 years later, the late Saraki’s son is presiding over the Senate that will screen Audu Ogbeh again for yet another ministerial slot.
The rest are Mrs. Amina Ibrahim; Dr. Osagie Ehaneri, Edo; Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, Delta; Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti; Engr. Suleiman Adamu, Jigawa; Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, Ogun; Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Abia; Ahmed Musa Bello Ibeto, Niger; Ibrahim Usman Jubrin, Nasarawa; Senator Hadi Serika, Katsina and Senator Udo Udoma, Akwa Ibom.
Senate President Saraki, who opened the sealed envelope at exactly 10:45am, told the lawmakers that the President sent the list to him through the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, adding that the list contained the first batch of nominees.
Buhari’s nomination letter
President Buhari’s letter to Saraki read: “In accordance with Section 147(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, I have the honour to forward the attached partial list of ministerial nominees for Senate confirmation. The list of the remaining nominees will follow shortly.
“It is my hope that this exercise will receive the usual kind expeditious consideration of the distinguished members of the Senate of the Federal Republic.”
Senator Saraki, who disclosed that the Senate would commence screening on Tuesday, October 13, said that President Buhari had told him that subsequent names would come shortly.
This came as senators, who were sharply divided over the list said they would do a thorough screening and called for the curriculum vitae of the nominees.
Meantime, President Buhari, yesterday, reached out to senators elected on the platform of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and pleaded for soft-landing for the nominees, whose nomination elicited mixed reactions in the polity.
Also, the Senate said it would not screen President Buhari, if he chose to function as Petroleum Minister, as a senator, Mao Ohuabaunwa threatened early in the week.
Those who expressed mixed views on the nomination include the PDP, which said there is nothing to be excited about the list; the Pan-Yoruba Socio-political Organisation, Afenifere; Second Republic Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa; and former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav.
List divides senators
Soon after Saraki read out the names, Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio observed that the list was not constitutional because the constitution stipulates that each state must have a nominee, adding that the nomination was not the expected change because the partial submission of the list does not augur well.
Senator Akpabio, who moved a point of order, however, commended the President for being a man of his words and submitting the list as stipulated and urged the President to comply with the provisions of the constitution.
No surprise yet – Bwacha
Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, deputy minority leader, said: “Except when we see the second batch, for this first list, I haven’t seen surprises here.”
No change here – Ohuabunwa
For Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, PDP, Abia North: “Well, the impression we were given was not exactly what we saw because the impression was that they were going to bring new people and maybe some that we have never heard of or seen. But I found out that the list is also whole lot of people that have been around, people we know, those who have been in the political circle. It could be part of the change.”
Nominees ‘re capable people – Alimikhena
Deputy Majority Whip, Senator Francis Alimikhena, APC, Edo North, said: “I believe that they are capable Nigerians that are recommended by the president. So, I wish them good luck, they are the people that will handle the country for us.”
Buhari has done due diligence – Rafiu
Senator Ibrahim Adedayo Rafiu, APC, Kwara South: “Definitely, the names are not expected to be ghosts, they are expected to be Nigerians, who have track records. Due diligence has been done by the President to bring the list to the Senate. We will do our own here by screening them to the hearing of the nation and we believe objectivity and capability will be the key points in the interest of Nigerians.”
It’s not worth it – Nwaboshi, Odia
Also contributing, Senator Peter Nwaboshi, PDP, Delta North said: “It’s not worth it. You can understand that it’s not worth the waiting, recycling of old hands! I know one of them was a minister when I was a young boy and is now on the list. It’s not worth the waiting. ”
Senator Clifford Odia, PDP, Edo Central spoke in like manner. He said: “For me, it is not worth the waiting because most of the names that he sent to us are all known to us. So,he (Buhari) didn’t need to spend all this time to bring to us names that we already know.”
Senate’ll be rigorous – Melaye
Addressing Journalists, Chairman, Senate Ad- hoc Committee on Media, Senator Dino Melaye, APC, Kogi West, who declared that the Senate will not screen President Buhari as petroleum minister, said that the screening of ministerial nominees will be from October 13 to 15.
“I want to use this opportunity to disabuse the minds of rumour mongers. Some are saying since the president will be the petroleum minister, so he will be summoned and screened. I want to say this is baseless and untrue. It is only product of imagination,” he said.
Melaye, who promised a rigorous screening of the ministerial nominees said that the legislators could not carry out the exercise immediately because senators wanted to ensure due diligence, adding, “we are going to ask for the citation and profile of the nominees to be submitted to the Senate and as from tomorrow (today) or Thursday, the senators are going to study the resume of the nominees to guide us in our deliberations for the screening.
List not exciting – PDP
Meanwhile, the national leadership of the PDP said, yesterday, that there was nothing exciting about the list. In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, the PDP said: “By a mere look at the list, one can tell that there is nothing to be excited about, especially considering the length of time it took the President to come up with it. Looking at the list, it is hard to put a finger on why it should take any serious-minded and focused government, six months after its election to assemble such a regular team.”
Buhari begs PDP senators as Tambuwal leads Lai Mohammed to Saraki
Worried that some of his nominees may not scale through the Senate screening, President Buhari,yesterday, begged PDP senators for a soft landing for the nominees.
The President, who is said to be highly disturbed that without personal intervention, some of his party chiefs instrumental to his success at the presidential election would be frustrated during the screening exercise, asked his Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, to immediately reach out to the PDP senators.
The development came just as the APC National Publicity Secretary and ministerial nominee, Alhaji Lai Mohammed engaged former Speaker of the House of Representatives and current governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal to meet Senate President Saraki on the issue.
It was gathered that Lai Mohammed was led by Tambuwal to Saraki on Monday night at his Maitama, Abuja residence.
The President’s emissary, Ita Enang reached the senators of the opposition party through their Minority Leader, Godswil Akpabio, yesterday evening.
The duo, who hail from Akwa Ibom State, after the meeting, briefed newsmen where they said the meeting was aimed at forging a common ground for the success of the ongoing APC-led federal administration.
Speaking during the press briefing, Senator Akpabio said: “We will do our best to ensure robust debate, fine-tune the policies of the APC administration to better the lots of Nigerians and to ensure that Nigeria gets out of the current economic doldrums. So far, on a personal note, I am impressed with the list that was sent by the President. I believe that he has kept to his word by ensuring that we soughtt out a lot of people of integrity that can salvage the country. But of course, the Senate will still do its work of screening and re-screening, and I pray that more than 70 or 80 percent of the list should pass through.”
On his part, Senator Ita Enang said: “Part of our job is to reach out to all the sections. And the past is gone, this is a new beginning.”
Buhari didn’t tell me I’ll be minister – Fayemi
Former governor of Ekiti state, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, yesterday, said that President Buhari, despite their closeness, did not tell him he would be nominated as a minister.
The former governor, who was Director of Research and Strategy in Buhari’s campaign team during the 2015 electioneering period, however, told newsmen at the national Secretariat of APC, that he was surprised by his nomination.
Asked whether the nomination came to him as a surprise, Fayemi said: “Well, to the extent that I was not told by the President that I was going to be on his list, yes, it came as a surprise. The President is a surprise master, let me put it that way. He did not tell anyone to the best of my knowledge and I would have thought that I was in a vantage position to know more than others, I was with him for five days before then, I was with him in New York at the United Nations General Assembly and he never uttered a word about his list to me or to anyone else. We came back to Nigeria together, I was with him till 4pm on the evening he submitted the list to the President of the Senate and I didn’t have any clue of what was going to happen. So, to that extent I was pleasantly surprised.”
Senator Onwe kicks
The senator who once represented Ebonyi Central at the National Assembly, Senator Emmanuel Onwe, pooh-poohed the list, insisting that the President short-changed the South-East.
His words: “In spite of the uproar that greeted the lopsidedness of his initial rash appointments which saw the South East missing even from the margins of consideration, President Buhari has yet again come up with a ministerial nomination list that screams inequity and Igbo discrimination. Would we be wrong in concluding that the Civil war vendatta is yet to be laid to rest? All lovers of the Republic must now stare from the state of indifference and declare the truth.”
I am disappointed — Balarabe Musa
Speaking on the issue, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, said he was disappointed at President Buhari’s ministerial list because there is nothing spectacular about the names.
“Why did it take the President four months to come up with these names? I believe this is the question that many informed Nigerians should ask. These are the same old names, ordinary Nigerians who the President knows and he must have even met them several times. So, what is particular about them that he wasted so much time in appointing them ministers?”
Some are poster boys of corruption—Odumakin,
Spokesman of Afenifere, Mr Yinka Odumakin described some of the nominees as poster boys of corruption.
“Nearly everybody on that list has been involved one way of the other, at one level or the other since 1999, quite a few of them have serious allegations against them. In fact, some of them are poster boys of corruption. We hope that those who would do the screening will do a thorough screening. If we are fighting corruption on one hand, then those who have been portrayed to be corrupt should not be promoted to higher responsibility.”
It’s an exhibit of the best in the system — Ogunlewe
However, former Minister of Works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe hailed the list, saying: “You cannot have it better, in terms of individual pedigree and the character of the individuals on the list. In fact, I associate myself with that list. It shows an exhibit of the best in the system and one cannot run away from that, not minding the possibility of anti-corruption stance of Mr President. Some of these people cannot be excluded from the anti-corruption crusade because they just left public office and they still have a lot of questions to answer.”
It’s a good team—Tsav
Also speaking, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav said: “I think it is a good team even though there are a few nominees who are alleged to have been engaged in corrupt practices, especially corrupt enrichment. Our laws state that every accused person is presumed innocent until the contrary is proven. The same could apply to the few listed here after all, they may even repent.”
Buhari assembled analogue ministers, betrayed youth – LP
National Chairman of the Labour Party (LP) Alhaji Abdulkadir Abdulsalam, said he is disappointed with the list because most of the names on the list are analogue people who have nothing to contribute.
The LP boss also wondered why President Buhari could not fulfill the promise he made to the Nigerian youth during the electioneering campaign, said: “For us in Labour Party, we do not see anything that resembles change as far as the ministerial team is concerned. Imagine bringing someone who served in the government of the late Sarduana of Sokoto to serve as minister in 2015, Buhari has nothing to offer Nigeria.