By Henry Umoru
THERE is nothing stopping President Muhammadu Buhari from forming his cabinet now. The Senate, yesterday, confirmed his 43 ministerial nominees for appointment. The lawmakers are expected to forward the list to President Buhari today for the assignment of portfolios and swearing-in as minister.
While confirming the nominees as ministers-designate, the Senate asked them to be prepared to work in synergy with the Upper Chamber and exhibit a relationship that would be based on mutual respect and truth.
The Senate said it will not be frivolous and would be very serious and stiff in the area of oversight in the course of its assignment.
Speaking after the confirmation of the nominees, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, who said budget implementation in the country is in chaos and tatters, said that as they prepare to face the issue of budget, the Senate expects that the 2020 appropriation bill gets to National Assembly by end of September or first week of October.
According to him, if the National Assembly gets the Appropriation bill early enough, it would work on the budget and and pass it before Christmas.
Lawan said: “The Senate has demonstrated clearly that we are set to work for Nigerians, given the extension of time that ordinarily would have been part of our recess. We stayed back to do this job for our country. We have finished this very important national assignment and to the glory of God, Nigeria has a Senate and indeed a National Assembly that is prepared to take Nigeria to the next level.
Message to ministers-designate
“For those that have been confirmed by this Senate, the message is that they must be prepared to work with this Senate. We are going to engage them in our oversight and other legislative activities. What we want to achieve is to have a relationship that is based on mutual respect and truth.
“While we are not going to be frivolous, we are going to be firm, we are going to be serious with our oversight. Oversight is the only way we can ensure that the legislation we make particularly the budget that we pass is implemented particularly.
“I want to congratulate President Buhari for nominating Nigerians of great quality. We expect to face the budget, it is our desire and hope that the Appropriation bill 2020 be presented to this National Assembly by end of September or latest, the first week of October.
“It is our determination and resolve that we are able to work on the budget and before Christmas, we should be able to pass the budget provided it is in the National Assembly by September or first week of October.
“It is doable, it is achievable and we believe that Nigeria should return back to the January-December budget cycle. Let our economy have predictable parameters. Our budget implementation is in chaos, is in tatters and I believe that together with the executive, we will return it to that which is predictable and good for business.”
How nominees were cleared
The screening exercise, which commenced on Wednesday, barely 24 four hours after the President sent the list to the Senate, ended yesterday, five days after, with all of them at the hallowed chamber for event. Those screened yesterday before they were all confirmed were immediate past Minister of Information and Culture, Chief Lai Mohammed from Kwara State; Sabo Nanono from Kano State; and Engr. Saleh Mamman from Taraba State.
Twenty of the nominees were asked to take a bow and go and saved from the rigours of serious scrutiny and questioning by senators.
Take a bow and go nominees
The 20 nominees who took a bow and left were Abubakar Aliyu (Yobe), Otumba Niyi Adebayo (Ekiti), Chris Ngige (Anambra), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), George Akume (Benue), Emeka Nwajiuaba (Imo), Olorunnimbe Mamora (Lagos), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Tayo Alasoadura (Ondo), Mustapha Baba Shehuri (Borno), Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa), Muhammadu Musa Bello (Adamawa), and Hadi Sirika (Katsina).
Also excluded from scrutiny were seven female nominees: Zainab Ahmed (Kaduna), Sharon Ikeazor (Anambra), Ramatu Aliyu (Kogi), Sa’adiya Farouk (Zamfara) and Pauline Tallen (Plateau State), Senator Gbemisola Saraki (Kwara), and Ambassador Maryam Katagum (Bauchi).
It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had last week Tuesday released the long-awaited list of 43 ministerial nominees to the Senate for screening and subsequent confirmation.
Yesterday which was the last day of the screening, three nominees were screened and they were the Immediate past Minister of Information and Culture, Chief Lai Mohammed from Kwara State; Sabo Nanono from Kano State and Engr. Saleh Mamman from Taraba State.
FCT Indigenes petition Senate over exclusion
Meanwhile, indigenous inhabitants of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, on the banner of Coalition of FCT indigenous Associations have petitioned the Senate over their exclusion from the ministerial list by President Buhari.
The Senate has directed its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition to look into the FCT petition and report back at Plenary.
Senate’s resolution was sequel to a petition by the original inhabitants of the FCT and presented by Senate Minority Chief Whip, Senator Philip Tanimu Aduda, PDP, FCT.
Speaking briefly on the petition, Senator Aduda recalled a subsisting Court of Appeal ruling directing the Federal government to ensure the inclusion of an indigene of FCT in ministerial appointments.
According to him, there has not been any counter appeal by the Federal Government to fault the FCT appeal for a ministerial slot for original inhabitants of the FCT.
The petition, signed by Leader, Coalition of FCT indigenous Associations, Ezekiel Dalhatu Musa, was titled: “A Petition On Gross Violation And Utter Disregard For The Constitution In Appointment Of Federal Ministers By President Muhammadu Buhari”
The petition read: “We have fallen once again as a nation and once again join the league of totalitarian states with the inactions of Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari.
“Recall that the non-inclusion of an FCT native in the ministerial appointments since our current democratic dispensation has been a matter of national discourse with some citing constitutional lacuna as the factor responsible for the non-appointment of an FCT native as Minister into the Federal Executive Council…
“Our advocacy on the inclusion of an FCT native has been a loud agitation and we write to inform the exhorted National Assembly as the people’s assembly to wade into our ceaseless calls to Mr. President to appoint one of our own into the highest decision-making council in this country.
“Even though our belief holds that the President could appoint any of us as a minister into his cabinet requires just political will and demonstration of equity and fairness to the Abuja Original Inhabitants, we have gone legally and lawfully to garner more constitutional backing by challenging the perceived lacuna and a Court of Appeal, which is of competent jurisdiction to hear this matter. It granted judgement mandating the President to as a matter of justice appoint an FCT native immediately into his cabinet since 15th January 2018 while the President has been served this Judgement by the Court of Appeal since 22nd March 2018 but yet the President has not complied with the judgement.
“We are once more seeking your intervention and the intervention of the highly revered Senate of the FRN to come to our aid because we are perceiving hatred against us from the President who is supposed to be a father to all.
“A prompt appointment of an FCT native into the Federal Executive Council as Minister will not tear nor under-develop this country but will rather enrich and strengthen our democratic belief as a nation.
“We have kept peace with everybody in this city and we don’t intend to change the status because we are a lawfully enlightened people and we appeal to you as the number three citizen and representative of the people to come to our aid and prevail on Mr. President to appoint an FCT native as a minister.’’
In his remark, Senate President Lawan referred the petition to Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, urged it to look into the complaint.
It would be recalled that Senator Aduda had at the commencement of the screening of the 43 ministerial nominees on Wednesday, July 24, 2019 protested the exclusion of indigenes of the territory from the ministerial list.
Aduda had expressed his protest through a point of order backed by Order 43 of the Senate Standing Orders, to make personal explanation on the exclusion of the FCT from the ministerial list.
He had equally cited Section 299 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), to have mandated the recognition and treatment of the FCT as one of the states of the Federation.