PROTESTS at state levels greeted Tuesday’s announcement of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial nominees by the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
Saraki at plenary announced 21 names as contained in the ministerial list sent to him on September 30, saying the screening of the nominees would commence on Tuesday, October 13.
But from the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders came a petition to the Senate against the nomination of a former Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola. Indeed, CACOL’s petition had been dated Saturday, October 3, asking the Senate not to confirm Fashola “should his name pop-up as a ministerial nominee.”
“Visit the Lagos Fashola left behind before confirming his appointment as minister” is the title of the group’s petition in which read in part, “Howbeit, if the rumour making the rounds in some quarters, which has also been confirmed by some sections of the media, is anything to go by, we would say Nigerians’ hope for a true change has been dashed with the inclusion of some names that in a saner environment should not appear on the list, if integrity and honesty are the basis of the selection criteria.
“We are therefore constrained at this point in time to bring to your attention our critical reaction to the rumoured nomination of the immediate past governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, as a minister in the new government.”
The group therefore catalogued a number of fraud and corruption allegations, most of which it had before now levelled against Fashola.
Also, an anti-corruption group known as Integrity Group has petitioned the President and the Senate to protest the nomination of a former Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, as a ministerial nominee.
The group accused Amaechi of alleged fraudulent practices during his tenure as governor.
The group urged Amaechi to first clear his name over “allegations of fraud concerning the sale of state power plants and conversion of proceeds of $302m, unlawful payment of over N4bn to Clinoriv Specialist Hospital and unlawful enrichment of a firm, Messrs Collect Nigeria Ltd. with public funds amounting to over N1.5bn.”
Addressing newsmen in Abuja on Tuesday, the Publicity Director of the group, Mr. Livingstone Wechie, alleged that Amaechi was currently being investigated by anti-corruption agencies for unlawful enrichment and conversion of over N70bn state resources.
He added that the former governor had resisted efforts to make him to explain the circumstances regarding the money to the people of Rivers and that he failed to appear before the Justice Omereji-led Judicial Commission of Enquiry set up by Amaechi’s successor, Governor Nyesom Wike.
In Oyo State, the ruling All Progressives Congress asked on Buhari to revisit his nomination of a legal practitioner, Adebayo Shittu, claiming that the ministerial-nominee was not a team player in the party.
It was learnt that Governor Abiola Ajimobi was opposed to Shittu’s choice but the APC state secretary, Mojeed Olaoya, told one of our correspondents in Ibadan, the state capital, on Tuesday that the issue was between the nominee and the APC and not with the governor.
Responding to the opposition of his candidacy, however, Shittu said he contributed to the success of the party and that he had nothing against Ajimobi.
Olaoya said, “This is the party talking and not the governor. It was the party that wrote a letter to the governor asking him to convey our message on Shittu’s nomination to the President. We have published paid advertisement in the newspapers stating our position on Shittu’s matter.”
The party stated that despite the state’s contribution to President Buhari’s victory at the poll, it was not being adequately compensated. It stated in the advertorial that Shittu’s nomination had further compounded the political challenges being faced by the party because of the nominee’s “unacceptability among the people.”
Saraki said on Tuesday that the screening of the nominees, 21 in all, would commence on Tuesday, October 13.
He said this during Senate plenary after reading out the names of the nominees.
Spokesperson for the Senate, Dino Melaye, also told journalists shortly after plenary that the upper legislative chamber would in the interim called for the profiles and other documents on the nominees in order to ensure thorough screening.
He said, “While we want to expedite action, we also want to be very diligent and thorough in the screening of the ministerial nominees. We want to ask for the citation and profile of the nominees so that senators can study the resume of the nominees and this will guide us in asking questions and guide our deliberations when we start the screening.
“We want senators to have enough time to study submissions by the nominees so that relevant questions could be asked during the screening exercise. It is also from the Curriculum Vitae that we will be looking at possible portfolio that the President may be giving to the various nominees.
“The screening exercise would be taken live on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and it would not be influenced by political or religious affiliations.”
Fashola, Ogbeh, Amaechi…
Earlier in plenary, the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, had unveiled the much awaited nominees, reading out names that had been correctly speculated in the media.
Buhari’s 21 nominees, as read out by Saraki, 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).
Others are Mrs. Amina Ibrahim( Kaduna); Dr. Osagie Ehaneri (Edo); Emmanuel Kachukwu (Delta); Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti); Mr. Suleiman Adamu (Jigawa); Mrs. Kemi Adeosun (Ogun); Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu (Ebonyi); Ahmed Isa Ibeto (Niger); Ibrahim Usman Jibril ; Senator Hadi Sirika (Katsina); and Senator Udo Udoma (Akwa – Ibom).
Saraki said the nominees would be screened during plenary on Tuesday.
But the Minority Leader of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, who raised a constitutional point of order noted that it was constitutionally wrong for Buhari to send 21 names as ministerial nominees, instead of 36.
Saraki noted the observation of Akpabio and explained that the President had already noted in his letter that the complete list would soon be forwarded to the red chamber.
Buhari not for screening
Melaye denied reports that Buhari would be screened by the Senate since he had appointed himself as the petroleum minister.
He said, “We are not going to screen President Buhari but ministerial nominees. The insinuation that he would be screened as minister of petroleum is baseless and untrue. It’s a product of imagination of people with inordinate ambition.
Melaye, who said he could not ascertain whether the Senate had received any petition against the ministerial nominees, said all petitions received would be treated accordingly.
“I cannot say how many petitions had been received. Petitions on nominees will form basis for the screening,” he said, adding however that the Senate would be able to do a better job if the President would furnish it with the expected portfolio of the nominees.
Senator Jeremiah Useni, in an interview with journalists, said having only three women on the ministerial list was not good enough.
“I wish to see more women on the list. I believe that the President will be more gender sensitive in the next batch since he said the 21 names he sent is a partial list,” he said.
He also ruled out the possibility of giving special considerations to either serving or past members of the National Assembly whose names are on the list, saying “there is no rule on the issue of take a bow. The fact that the seventh Senate adopted a convention does not mean that the Eight Senate will adopt same.”
But the Senator representing Delta North, Peter Nwaboshi, in an interview with journalists, expressed disappointment that the list contained names of older men and women who had served as ministers about 36 years ago.
He said, “I think the youths of Nigeria should ask questions. How can people who served as ministers during the former President Shehu Shagari’s administration in 1979 be presented as ministers? I was a small boy when the particular nominee was minister about 36 years ago. You are bringing the person to be minister now.
“One would have expected that the younger generation would have been injected into the list. I wonder where we are going to in this country. When will the youths be given opportunity?
“We already know all the people in the list. They are governors who just finished their tenure after eight years. Is that the change they are talking about? It is left for Nigerians to judge.