How Buhari’s ministerial nominees performed at Senate screening

As Senate confirms President Buhari’s 43 ministerial nominees, here is a highlight of their screening at the upper legislative chamber.

Aregbesola at Senate screening

The Senate on Tuesday, July 30, 2019, confirmed the nomination of 43 Nigerians as ministers in President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet.

The confirmation is sequel to a letter informing the upper legislative chamber of their nomination by President Buhari on Tuesday, July 23, 2019.

Lawmakers at the Senate had suspended their rule of meeting between the hours of 10am and 2pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays to screen the ministerial nominees.

Describing the screening as an important national assignment, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, urged his colleagues to suspend all other engagements to attend the screening exercise.

Similarly, the Senate spokesperson, Adedayo Adeyeye, had promised that the the screening would be thorough as ministerial nominees, especially those who were returning, would be asked to account for their stewardship.

This was, however, not the case in most instances.

Pulse checks revealed that a total of 24 ministerial nominees were asked to take a bow without being asked any question by the lawmakers.

While the Senate rule book permits former members of both chambers of the National Assembly from being screened by their colleagues, Lawan, against its rules, extended the privilege to former members of State Houses of Assembly and female ministerial nominees.

We are extending this privilege of bow and go to female ministerial nominees because we are a gender sensitive Senate,” Lawan said.

Also, nominees who are “well known friends” to President Muhammadu Buhari and some members of the National Assembly were also asked to take a bow.

The 24 nominees who enjoyed this rare privilege are; Chris Ngige, Hadi Sirika, Muhammad Bello, Gbemisola Saraki, Pauline Tallen, Sharon Ikeazor, Lai Mohammed, Rotimi Amaechi, Timipre Sylva, Zainab Ahmed, Godswill Akpabio, Sa’adiya Umar Farouk and Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo.

Others include; Dr. Ramatu Aliyu, George Akume, Olorunnimbe Mamora, Tayo Alasoadura, Maryam Katagum, Abubakar Aliyu, Mustapha Shehuri, Ambassador Zubairu Dada, Emeka Nwajiuba, Saleh Mohammed and Maigari Dingyadi.

Here’s how other ministerial nominees performed during the screening.

Aregbesola, the ministerial nominee from Osun, used the opportunity to speak on some misconceptions about the state’s nonpayment of salaries.

“On the issue of non-payment of salary, it is untrue that we didn’t pay salaries and this can be out of ignorance and mischief.

“Just like other states in the country in 2014, Osun State felt impacts of the economic recession. But we were able to manage the situation.

“From July 2015 to July 2018, we paid full salary to all civil servants from levels 1 to 7, who constituted 72% of the workforce.

“Within the same period of time, all levels 10 to 12 workers got 75% of their salaries, while from level 13 and above including all political office holders were paid 50%.

“This was because we invested heavily in infrastructure. But today, we have cleared all that and my successor is doing his best in prompt payment of salary,” he said.

Aregbesola also proposed that the rich should be pay more taxes that would be used to finance projects across states in Nigeria.

There’s a limitation to what we can do about multiple taxation at the federal level. But we can make the rich and the wealthy do the proper thing.

“I will create privileges tax for those who are wealthy and rich in Nigeria. I will advocate a just taxation system that will bridge the gap between the rich and the poor in the society,” he said.

Senator Elisha Abbo, who was recently caught on camera assaulting a woman in a sex toy shop, also appreciated Aregbesola for donating his one-month salary to his election in Adamawa state.

Fashola served as the minister for power, works and housing. A lawyer by training, the former Lagos State Governor said the ministry focused on the completion of projects abandoned by the previous administrations.

He said that the limited budget allocation for execution of critical infrastructure had resulted in government borrowing from multilateral corporations to fund the budget.

Fashola said that there was the need to explore other means of funding like raising infrastructure bond up to the tune of N10 trillion where Nigerians could also subscribe to the bond for critical infrastructure in the country.

He also said that there was the need to cash-back the budget to fund critical projects.

Fashola however said that in spite of the challenge of funding, his team had left the power, works and housing sectors better than they met it in 2015.

This, he said had resulted in the construction of some critical infrastructure on roads, housing and power.

He said that the ministry had secured the release of 720 stranded containers containing transmission equipment.

Onyeama served as minister of foreign affairs during President Buhari’s first term in office.

Within this period, Nigerians outside the country were exposed to several inhuman treatments suck as slavery in Libya and xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

He identified mutual distrust between Nigerians and South Africans as a contributing factor to the attacks witnessed in the past.

Onyeama told the Senate that his ministry intervened promptly at all of these times adding that there is a need for better engagement between President Buhari and presidents of other countries as means of improving Nigeria’s relation with other countries.

The minister said Nigeria would need to review its foreign policy as regards the treatment meted out to citizens outside the country.

Keyamo, a senior advocate of Nigeria, also served as the spokesperson of President Buhari’s second term campaign.

Arguably one of the most questioned nominees, Keyamo said President Buhari and late Gani Fawehinmi are his mentors.

He expressed his intention to “unbundle” the Supreme Court to make for faster dispensation of Justice if made the Attorney General of the Federation.

Experts however have concerns over Kayamo’s claim to independently do so even as the attorney general.

At the public hearing, Senator Dino Melaye asked Keyamo to recite the second stanza of the national anthem.

Lawan rejected Melaye’s request, saying it was not a question.

During his first term as minister of science and technology, Onu said Nigeria would begin to produce pencils in 2018. Sad to say that Nigeria still export pencils from China and other countries in 2019.

At the screening, Onu said Nigeria will be as technologically advanced as China in the next 30-years.

We started something because the economic recovery and growth plan of our country is one that has recognised science, technology and innovation as being at the centre of all economic activities in the country,” Onu said.

We had tremendous responsibility, and working with our colleagues at the federal executive council, we were able to bring into existence a revolutionary executive order number 5. 

“By that executive order, once fully implemented, Nigeria will have an economy that is innovation driven, and in the next 30 to 50 years nobody will imagine the level of development in our country. We would just be like China is today in terms of advancement. Those who travel to China 30 years ago know the implications of what I am saying. Definitely it will take a lot of time.

“Most countries that are funding science and technology appropriately don’t do that through budgetary allocation. They do extra budgetary methods. So the national research and innovation fund is an extra budgetary fund that can help fund research and innovation, not just in the federal ministry of science and technology but throughout the country, in our universities, research institutes, including private sector research establishments. So definitely, the national research and innovation bill when signed and implemented will be very helpful,” he added.

Dare is the Executive Commissioner (Stakeholder Management) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

Most political watchers say Dare would head the ministry of communications.

At the screening, Dare said the technology available cannot allow for the phone lines of kidnappers to be tracked until after the fact.

The issue of kidnapping worries us, not just as regulators but also as citizens of this country and we have watched across the country how we have seen a spike in the level of kidnapping,” he said.

The starting point really is that to arrest kidnapping, it is a collaborative effort because the NCC as a regulator, without making any excuses, does not have prosecutorial powers.

“But we do have what we call the sim registration database, a database inclusive of 172 million subscribers in this country. It is expected to have every SIM card registered with the necessary information and data — biometrics as the case may be.

Every SIM card in use is connected to the network. So, yes, it is possible to trace the kidnappers — but until kidnapping occurs; until that phone call is made, there is no real-time surveillance or software to be able to monitor 172 million lines round the clock,” he added.

Malami served as the minister of justice and attorney general during President Buhari’s first term in office.

Malami said he disobeyed court orders granting freedom to some Nigerians in the interest of the public. Former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki and leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim El-zakzaky are some individuals granted freedom by the court but still in captivity.

I concede that I have a responsibility as AGF to protect individual rights but looking at the provisions of Section 174 of the constitution, I want to state further that the Office of the AGF is meant to protect public interest,” Malami said in response to a question by Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe.

And where the individual interests conflicts with the public interest of 180 million Nigerians that are interested in having this country integrated, public interest must naturally prevail and I think that position has been stated by the apex court in the case of Asari Dokubo Vs Federal Republic of Nigeria that when an individual interest conflicts with public interest, the public interest will naturally prevail,” he added.

Agba told lawmakers that Nigeria operates obsolete oil laws made to service the interest of foreigners.

He believes that oil bunkering is not a crime.

Nigeria operates obsolete oil laws and that is creating serious problems because we still operate OIC laws which were meant to service oil business interest of foreigners," he said.

“Our pipelines are as old as our refineries. Crude oil is corrosive and when pipeline becomes old it cannot withstand the pressure of oil pumping and that is why we have cases of explosion.

“Crude oil production is capital intensive which cost about $20 million for three or four cargoes and no Bank in Nigeria could give out that kind of loan.

“Bunkering is not a crime, but the term has been wrongly used. Bunkering is a legitimate oil activity.

“Topping is also wrongly used and it is not wrong to do toppings. Topping of oil is done in the presence of 19 agencies and you cannot compromise all of them,” he said.

At the end of the screening, Lawan put their confirmation request to a voice vote. Lawmakers present agreed that all nominees should be confirmed as ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Votes and proceedings of the day were adopted for onward transmission to the executive who will post each minister to the appropriate ministries.

While appreciating his colleagues for the work done, Lawan urged them to cooperate with the Senate in the task of nation building.

”We will take our oversight duties very seriously. While we will not be frivolous, we will be stiff. I urge all those who have been confirmed as ministers to always show up for budget defense and other engagements,” he said.

President Buhari is expected to announce the postings of ministers in the coming days.

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