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• PDP senators question non-submission of full list
•Opposition parties express disappointment
Following the release of 21 names of ministerial nominees sent by President Muhammadu Buhari to Senate President Bukola Saraki last week, Nigerians would still have to wait for at least another two weeks for the Senate to conclude its screening and for Buhari to announce the portfolios they will be assigned.
On the list read by Saraki during plenary yesterday were Abubakar Malami (SAN) (Kebbi), Lt.-Gen. Abdurahman Bello Dambazzau (rtd) (Kano), Senator Aisha Jumai Alhassan (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 were Mrs. Amina Mohammed (Kaduna), Dr. Osagie Ehaneri (Edo), Dr. Emmanuel Kachikwu (Delta), Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Mr. Suleiman Adamu (Jigawa), Mrs. Kemi Adeosun (Ogun), Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu (Abia), Hon. Ahmed Isa Ibeto (Niger), Ibrahim Usman Jibril, Senator Hadi Sirika (Katsina) and Senator Udoma Udo-Udoma (Akwa Ibom).
Confirming THISDAY’s story yesterday, Saraki said the Senate would start screening of the first batch of 21 nominees next Tuesday and advised them to submit their credentials ahead of time.
Should the Senate conclude its screening next week, their portfolios, THISDAY learnt, will not be made public until their swearing in at the inaugural Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting of this administration penultimate Wednesday.
A review of the background and track records of some of the nominees, however, may provide some insight into the ministries they will head: Fashola is most likely to be assigned an infrastructure-related portfolio such as the Ministry of Works or the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
If he gets the FCT ministry, he will be the first person from the South to serve as its senior minister.
Amaechi is likely to head the education ministry, Kachikwu may get the petroleum resources ministry while Malami may get the nod as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation.
Senator Sirika, a trained pilot, is likely to head the aviation ministry; Mrs. Adeosun, a banker, may be assigned the finance portfolio; Ogbeh, a big time farmer, could put his experience to good use in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; Senator Ngige, a medical doctor, may head the health ministry; while Dambazzau with his military background is likely to get the defence ministry.
Fayemi, with a post-graduate degree in international relations may oversee the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alhaji Mohammed may head the information ministry, while Udo-Udoma whose vast experience as a commercial lawyer and senator during which he chaired the Committee of Appropriation, is also a top contender for either the justice or power ministries.
After their names were read out by Saraki, nonetheless, senators on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) protested the non-submission of the full list of ministerial nominees to the upper parliamentary chamber.
Leading the protest, Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, said failure by the president to present the full list, as was the practice in the past was antithetical to the promise of change the president made to all Nigerians.
“If you notice from the list, this is no real change. We expected a wholesome list and not partial list,” Akpabio said.
But Saraki swiftly rose in defence of the president, saying if the president had kept his word by sending the list before the end of September, the minority leader had no cause to worry and that he would send the remaining names as soon as possible.
Almost re-echoing the sentiments of its senators, the opposition PDP and Labour Party both dismissed Buhari’s ministerial nominees, as announced by the Senate yesterday, as nothing to be excited about.
PDP, in a statement issued by the National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh said: “By a mere look at the list, one can tell that there is nothing to be excited about, especially considering the length of time it took the president to come up with it.”
It further said that from the list, “it is hard to put a finger on why it should take any serious-minded and focused government, six months after its election to assemble such a regular team.”
The party said the list and the length of time it took have further confirmed the fact that the APC-led administration is driven by propaganda and deceit, a development that raises doubts on the sincerity of its anti-corruption crusade.
On his part, the National Chairman of the Labour Party, Alhaji Abdulkadir Abdulsalam expressed disappointment over the list presented at the National Assembly last Wednesday.
Against the background of expectations that the ministerial team will comprise highly respected and credible professionals, Abdulsalam said most of those that made Buhari’s team were “far from being the clean Nigerians as flaunted by the administration”.
Speaking in an interview with THISDAY in Abuja, Abdulsalam said that most those on the list are analogue politicians “who have nothing to contribute to the change agenda”.
“For us in Labour Party, we do not see anything that resembles change as far as the ministerial team is concerned. Imagine bringing someone who served in the government of the late Sarduana of Sokoto to serve as minister in 2015 – Buhari has nothing to offer Nigeria.
“There is no promise of change at all, all these people are analogue persons who cannot bring about any change under the current dispensation,” he said.
On the fight against corruption, Abdusalam said most the former governors on the list of nominees were being investigated by the anti graft agencies.
“What does Buhari mean when he brought all the (former) PDP people into the much-flaunted change administration? Most of the ministerial nominees are on the indicted list of the EFCC.
“That is to say that the change that the APC and Buhari promised Nigerians is nothing but a fluke and fraudulent. If this was the list that Buhari kept to his chest for five months, then be sure that the balance that makes up the 36 may never come out in good time.
“It is also very unfortunate that Nigerian youths who make up the greater percentage of our population and who voted for Buhari massively were not give their due share in the ministerial nomination,” he said.
Despite the disappointment expressed by some, the Senate yesterday assured Nigerians that the screening of ministerial nominees will be devoid of ethnic or religious colouration.
Briefing newsmen after yesterday’s plenary, Senate ad-hoc Committee Chairman on Information and Publicity, Senator Dino Melaye, said the screening exercise will be done on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
He dismissed the statement by a PDP senator that the president must appear before the Senate for screening as petroleum minister-designate, describing it as baseless.
He noted that every petition that comes against any nominee’s appointment would be treated on its merit, adding that the screening will be more thorough if the president offers to send the portfolio of each nominee. He also said the screening would be aired live on the television.
“The screening exercise would be taken live on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and it would not be tele-guided by political or religious affiliations. We are not going to screen President Buhari but ministerial nominees.
“The insinuations that he will be screened as Minister of Petroleum is baseless and untrue. It’s a product of the imagination possibly from people with inordinate ambitions.
“All petitions received would be treated accordingly. I cannot say how many petitions had been treated. Petitions on nominees will form the basis for the screening.
We would be able to do a better job if the president should furnish us with the list of ministerial nominees and the portfolio he wishes to assign to the nominees. It will help us to do a better job,” he said.
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