…Kokori, Adedoja, Oyovbaire, Yesufu, Ozekhomhe, others speak
By Emma Amaize, South-Soth Regional Editor, Dayo Johnson, Jimitota Onoyume, Festus Ahon, Gabriel Enogholase, Egufe Yafugborhi, Harris Emmanuel, Chioma Onuegbu, Perez Brisibe, Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu, Rotimi Ojomoyela, Shina Abubakar, Daud Olatunji, Ola Ajayi, Omeiza Ajayi&Emmanuel Elebeke
NIGERIANS have expressed anger at the ongoing screening of ministerial nominees without portfolios, describing it as dangerous to national development.
They also faulted President Muhammadu Buhari for sending what was described as a blind list to the Senate, describing the action as discouraging.
Consequently, they were unanimous in dismissing the screening as inconsequential.
In the South-South, those who spoke to Sunday Vanguard blamed the Senators for not insisting on the inclusion of portfolios, describing the “bow and go” approach of the lawmakers as clownish.
The President had sent a 43-man list of would-be ministers last Tuesday, nearly two months after his inauguration.
Unlike during his first term when he appointed only 36 ministers, one per state, the President nominated one from each geopolitical zone in addition to the 36 from the states.
We need proper screening—Prof Oyovbaire
Leading the pack, a former Minister of Information, Prof Sam Oyovbaire, lamented that the failure to attach their portfolios did not give room for proper assessment of the nominees.
He said: “Every parliament, works out its own way of dealing with these matters. Ideally, there has been an argument over the years even as far as the Second Republic that ministerial nominees should have their portfolios attached to their appointments. A proper screening exercise can only come through that.
“It is disappointing. It would have been interesting to know if the returning ministers are returning to their former ministries. That would have made it possible for the senators to scrutinise their record. The most disappointing of it all is the clownish process of Ministerial screening of taking a bow, which for me shows that they are not doing anything. Therefore, this takes a bow and go approach is the most disappointing part of the exercise.”
President ought to have attached portfolios—Kokori
Ex-Secretary-General, National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, Chief Frank Kokori, said: “The senators have always insisted that portfolios be attached to the ministerial nominees, which is what is done in a normal situation so that such nominees would be screened in their areas of strength.
“If you do not screen them in this regard and just bring somebody, who knows nothing about a particular ministry, just like the case of Ngige, a medical doctor who was appointed to head labour, the ministry would suffer.
“The APC is in the majority in the Senate could have been able to advise him strongly on the need to attach portfolios to the nominees.
“The President should have attached portfolios to each nominee.”
On his part, a former governorship aspirant in Delta State, Chief Sunny Onuesoke said: “It is quite amazing and the western world calls it blank screening. The screening exercise is just a formality but it is important to ask if those nominated are qualified.”
Attaching portfolios will create problems—Ugolor
However, Executive Director, African Network for the Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, Rev David Ugolor, disagreed with those, who faulted the President.
He said: “Let us be frank, it is easier to say why the President is not attaching portfolios to the nominees. If he had done that, it would have created problems for him. You know how treacherous some people are in this country.”
Bow and go, anti-prosperity—Igbini
Also, National President, Vanguard for Transparent Leadership and Democracy, VATLAD, Comrade Emmanuel Igbini said: “The Senators’ practice of “bow and go” is a threat to prosperity, growth, development and security. It gives room for the appointment of mediocre.”
Legal Adviser of Inter-Party Advisory Council, IPAC, in Akwa Ibom State, Mfon Peters argued that: “The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria did not say that governors or the President must attach portfolios before the nominees are screened.
“In fact, it is safer to assign portfolios after the screening because one can be disqualified during screening. The issue of whether it is right or wrong to screen a commissionership and ministerial nominee without attaching portfolios does not arise.”
Governance reduced to comic show—Odumakin
Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr Yinka Odumakin, said: “There have been suggestions to the effect that portfolios should have been attached to nominees for proper grilling which have been ignored.
“The only disappointing aspect of it is that it took months to shop for a list.
“It shows that governance is not as serious as a Night of a Thousand Laughs show.”
Screening is not an examination—Prof Adedoja
Reacting, former Minister of Sports, Prof Taoheed Adedoja said the President has fulfilled the constitutional provision by sending the names of nominees to the National Assembly.
He said: “If he attached portfolios, some people might use it against him. There is nothing wrong in him doing so. It is a matter of discretion, though discretion, at times could be wrong.
“The Senate’s responsibility in this Ministerial screening is to screen the nominees sent by the president. If the President did not attach the portfolios of the nominees, the Senate cannot send the list back to him because he has done what the constitution demands.
“Screening is not an examination or a test but an interaction. If a senator is nominated, he has two advantages. One, the nomination by the President means he is a good person.”
Executive Director, Centre for Human Rights and Ethics in Development and the President of Voters’ Assembly, Comrade Mashood Erubami said: “President Buhari has not breached any law by not attaching portfolios. If the nominees were without portfolios, he did not breach any law.”
We’re expecting nothing from the ministers—NANS
Public Relations Officer of the National Association of Nigerian Students NANS, Azeez Adeyemi said: “This is a clear affirmation that the sincerity of purpose, love for the nation’s progress and genuine interest of the masses are not part of the vision of our country’s leader.
“It saddens the heart of Nigerian students that the change we clamoured for has suddenly evaporated in the hands of the supposed change agents. Obviously, on the average, Nigerian students won’t be expecting a commendable performance from the ministers, as it is glaring that the idea behind the nominations is to compensate the President’s allies.
“Bow and go, is best described as a total mockery of the nation’s integrity.”
Secretary of the Labour Party in Ogun State, Sunday Oginni said: “The screening is a charade and mockery of democracy. The whole exercise is to share the wastage of national resources and time.”
Similarly, the Coalition of Public Interest Lawyers and Advocates, COPA, said the screening of ministerial nominees without any portfolio attached to them encourages mediocrity.
Convener of the forum, Pelumi Olajengbesi stated this in a chat with Sunday Vanguard.
The constitution should be amended—Adeyanju
On his part, Convener, Concerned Nigerians, CN, Prince Deji Adeyanju, said there is nothing unconstitutional about President Buhari’s action.
Adeyanju said: “To be fair to President Muhammadu Buhari, he is not the only President who has been doing this. In fact, it has become a norm for Presidents to attach portfolios to ministerial nominees. The constitution can be amended for that purpose.
“ I am calling on the National Assembly to amend that section of the constitution that talks about nominees for ministerial positions so that the President would be attaching portfolios to the nominees.”
They are taking Nigerians for granted—Prof Ekpo
A professor of Economics and former Director-General of West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management, Prof. Akpan Ekpo said: “It would have been the best to attach portfolio to the appointments so that the senators would know whether they are qualified and the kind of questions to ask.
The issue of taking a bow and leaving makes a mockery of our democracy. Proper interrogation is necessary. The matter of taking Nigerians for granted should stop.”
Speaking on the subject, Country Director of DAI, an international development company, Dr Joe Abah, said it is incumbent on the Senate to demand that portfolios are attached to the nominations.
“If they have not demanded that, the country cannot blame the President for not attaching portfolios. The role of a minister is more of a managerial role. A nominee doesn’t have to be a doctor before he is appointed as the Minister of Health.”
Square pegs will be in round holes——Ozekhomhe
Lending his voice, a human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhomhe, SAN, said: “Portfolios should be attached to ministerial positions so as to give room for close scrutiny. We have had situations in the past where medical doctors were assigned labour portfolios while lawyers were made ministers of Works, Housing.
Engineers were made ministers of Education, while teachers were appointed ministers of Aviation.”
Also speaking, co-founder of the Bring Back Our Girls Campaign, Aisha Yesufu said the list did not elicit hope of the bright future Nigerians desperately want.
We’re not a serious nation—Yesufu
She said: “I think they derive joy seeing the nation in this level. Apart from the portfolios, the list itself does not inspire hope. To find a list peopled by characters paying loyalty to a political party rather than displaying the ability to do the job is unfortunate. I mean, we are not a serious nation. It is not about whether portfolios are attached, it is about whether those on the list are supposed to be there in the first place. Are they the kind of people Nigerians need today? Do you even call that screening? It is a shamble. Who is being screened there? Is it the former minister who said his achievement was that they were able to make nutritious biscuit?”