ADVERTISEMENT

Nigerian Senate's ministerial screening is a joke — one change can fix it

The National Assembly needs to create a more rigorous system for screening ministerial nominees.

Senate President Godswill Akpabio (left) and his fellow senators have conducted a ministerial screening that's painfully unsatisfactory [Tope Brown]

When he made his appearance before the Senate for possible confirmation of his nomination, Bello Mohammad, a former Sokoto State Assembly lawmaker, faced four questions from senators.

The first question concerned the welfare of Hajj travellers, on the presumption that he'll eventually become the Minister of Foreign Affairs; the second question presumed he'll become the Minister of Defence; and the third question was about energy, presuming he goes on to become the Minister of Power.

This unfocused line of questioning affected most of the other nominees except in a few cases where the profile of the nominee was an overwhelming indication of where they'll end up.

ADVERTISEMENT

The first problem is no one inside that Senate chamber, neither the senators interviewing the nominees for an important job nor the nominees themselves, knew exactly what they were doing there. Like all presidents before him, Tinubu submitted a list of ministerial nominees without clearly stating the specific ministries he intends to assign them.

The second problem is the entire set-up of the process itself is, to put it delicately, a mess.

Nominees are typically screened by a Committee of the Whole which involves all 109 members of the Senate. For this week's screenings, senators from the states of the nominees begged their colleagues not to question them, or wasted time praising them to the high heavens.

Without getting into all the other messy pitfalls of this loosely-defined screening, this structure creates an environment where nominees aren't actually screened.

ADVERTISEMENT

Senate President Godswill Akpabio has especially come under fire over his moderation of the process, with his penchant for blocking legitimate questions posed to nominees and getting them out of the line of scrutiny and out of the chamber as quickly as possible.

For example, Mohammad never actually answered any of the first three questions posed to him because his fourth question, which he chose to answer first, pointed out that he failed to submit an academic document which put his subsequent qualifications into serious question.

"I didn't (want to) bother you with much much much certificate(s), but I know I have the qualifications for that," he offered as a tame excuse.

After a weak rebuke, the senate president ushered him out the door with a promise to submit the document at a later date, but without needing to return for screening.

ADVERTISEMENT

So, there are two problems here: one caused by the president's office, and another one of the Senate's own making. The National Assembly, and the president, can solve both problems.

It's not asking too much for the president to clearly state the intended ministerial portfolios of the nominees. It would be weird if you went to a job interview completely unaware of what the exact role is, and even weirder if your interviewer is equally clueless.

Due to how arbitrarily long presidents used to take before submitting a ministerial list, the National Assembly amended the constitution to force presidents to submit the list within 60 days of taking office. President Muhammadu Buhari, notorious for taking his time with submission, signed the amendment two months before he left office in May 2023.

ADVERTISEMENT

There's no reason lawmakers should not have made the portfolio amendment at the same time, but it's never too late to do the right thing — as long as it means we won't be back here again in 2027.

The screening of every single nominee in front of 109 senators has long left room for an inefficient system. Not nearly enough senators get to ask questions, and they have a large volume of nominees to screen that the process is rushed and the whole point is defeated.

If presidents are constitutionally compelled to attach portfolios to their nominees, the Senate can fix this second problem by having them screened by standing committees who are smaller in size and can conduct more pointed screenings before making recommendations to the Committee of the Whole.

ADVERTISEMENT

Under this kind of system, a nominated Minister of Finance is screened by the Senate Committee on Finance and then presented for confirmation, or rejection, before the Committee of the Whole.

It goes without saying that the Senate's "bow and go" policy, reserved rather broadly for nominees who are former lawmakers and executives to dodge questions, needs to be dropped.

Senator Akpabio kept repeating throughout both days of screening that senators were conducting serious business, but each time, it felt like he needed to say it to help himself believe it. Everything that played out was contrary to what was falling out of his mouth and didn't serve the interest of the Nigerian people.

ADVERTISEMENT

For the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to get only the best members, ministerial nominees must be screened through a rigorous system that a great majority of the Nigerian public can agree with.

It's really not rocket science. Unless the idea is for this to be, and remain, a confirmation ceremony, a political formality instead of a screening to serve the nation's interest.

JOIN OUR PULSE COMMUNITY!

Unblock notifications in browser settings.
ADVERTISEMENT

Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or:

Email: eyewitness@pulse.ng

Recommended articles

Police officers on bikes start 24-hour patrol of Third Mainland Bridge

Police officers on bikes start 24-hour patrol of Third Mainland Bridge

Gov Eno spends ₦120bn on road infrastructure in Akwa Ibom in 1 year

Gov Eno spends ₦120bn on road infrastructure in Akwa Ibom in 1 year

Don’t allow PDP go into extinction in Nigeria’s politics – Chieftain begs members

Don’t allow PDP go into extinction in Nigeria’s politics – Chieftain begs members

Anambra govt hands over teacher to police for beating 8-year-old pupil to coma

Anambra govt hands over teacher to police for beating 8-year-old pupil to coma

Lawyers go extra mile to defend criminals in court because of money - Chief Magistrate

Lawyers go extra mile to defend criminals in court because of money - Chief Magistrate

Kano mosque attack not related to terrorism or politics, Gov Yusuf

Kano mosque attack not related to terrorism or politics, Gov Yusuf

Reps surprised by reported state of presidential air fleet, probe challenges

Reps surprised by reported state of presidential air fleet, probe challenges

Jonathan’s call for truce in Rivers crisis commendable - PDP chairman

Jonathan’s call for truce in Rivers crisis commendable - PDP chairman

Rivers Crisis: Councillors accuse LGA chairmen of plotting instability

Rivers Crisis: Councillors accuse LGA chairmen of plotting instability

Pulse Sports

Tobi Amusan second, Brume Ese picks Olympics ticket, and other Nigerians excel at Atlanta City Games

Tobi Amusan second, Brume Ese picks Olympics ticket, and other Nigerians excel at Atlanta City Games

Caicedo, Kudus or Garnacho: Who should win EPL goal of the season?

Caicedo, Kudus or Garnacho: Who should win EPL goal of the season?

'I want to be beautiful' - Sha’Carri Richardson on why she keeps long nails

Osimhen: PSG set for life after Mbappe with 200 BILLION NAIRA move for Super Eagles star

Osimhen: PSG set for life after Mbappe with 200 BILLION NAIRA move for Super Eagles star

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT