Ministerial Nominees: The rigorous screening starts

senate-boko-haramTHERE is arguably no better place to fix your gaze today than the Senate Chambers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Every indication points to the fact that the atmosphere will be febrile and upbeat.Anxiety will run deep among the ministerial nominees, about 21 of them, whose fates are in the hands of the “distinquished” senators.

The screening which begins about noon today will be like no ministerial screening before now.Not even in the 7th Senate under David Mark did we witness what we are about to see live on television today.

This is because the 8th Senate under the leadership of Dr.Bukola Saraki has introduced stringent conditions for the nominees.Are these smart moves or landmines to scuttle the ambitions of some prospective ministers nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari? Time will tell.This is why politics is not like management. It is not given to simple theorising.

Neither does it favour subtlelety.And that is the rub in the screening.
When new conditions are introduced and perhaps deliberately made to be complicated and even loose (depending on what the Senators intend to achieve), alarm bells are bound to ring.

But,we better wait and see. Providing a detailed explanation after an executive session last week on how the screening would go today, the procedures and conditions that the nominees are required to meet, chairman of the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Media and Publicity, Dino Melaye disclosed a number of issues that had to do with the approach, the procedure for the screening of the nominees.

He said two broad modalities were developed:first criterion is using the constitutional provisions as stipulated in the 1999 Constitution (as amended). This, Melaye says, is the fundamental procedure for the screening of ministerial nominees.Senator Melaye, we all know, is a talker and a tackler. These conditions suit his combative nature, a carry over from his storied career in the House of Representatives.

Second criterion is a consideration of Section 147 (3)and (5). This section of the Constitution stipulate s the qualifications a ministerial nominees must meet before being confirmed as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

If the aforementioned conditions were the only hurdles before the nominees, many of them would not have entertained much fear. But, the niggling worries now are the new Senate Rules that were suddenly put in place.

First, is Section 120 of the Senate Rule which states that “the Senate shall not consider the nomination of any person who has held any public office as contained in Part 11 of the fifth schedule to the Constitution prior to the time the nominee was nominated,unless there is a written evidence that the nominee has declared his assets and liabilities as required by section 11(1) of part 1 of the fifth schedule to the Constitution.

All nominees, we are told, shall be requred for scrutiny by the senators and show certificate of clearance from the Code of Conduct Bureau.

But, that is not all. The nominees are also required to submit themselves to “finger print clearance by the Force Criminal Investigation Department of the Nigeria Police Force”.

A clean bill will also be sent on each nominees by the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission which is reported to be investigating each nominee. Accontability and transparency of every nominee is said to be the driving force in this respect. Really? No problem.

But, by far, the most controversial stringent condition, which I consider as the landmine to decapitate an “unfavoured” nominee is the new rule that each nominee must receive at least the support of two senators from their states as well as a clean bill from the Senate Public Petitions Committee. Sen. Samuel Anyanwu (Imo) chairs the Committee. The Committee has received a flurry of petitions in the past week. More petitions are pouring in.

This condition, one must say, is sadly, one of the things that make our politics a fun to follow.It is not unkind to say that this is a condition targeted at some persons. For instance, we know that the conflict between one of the nominees and former governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Amaechi and his successor, Gov. Nyesome Wike, is a war without end, at least for now. Arguably, if stopping Amaechi to become a minister is the only accomplishment of Wike, that will be considered by him as no small feat. The hurried release last week, of the report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the sale of key assets of the state government during Amaechi’s administration, less than a week to the ministerial screening, should be seen as a carefully calculated strategy to scuttle Amaechi’s chances. Last week, Sen. George Sekibo from Rivers submitted a petition against Amaechi. If the support of at least two Senators from a nominee’s state is enforced, Amaechi’s fate is sealed.
Petitions have also been lodged against the nominations of Alhaji Lai Muhammed, APC National Publicity Secretary from a pressure group from Kwara state, Muhammed’s state of origin. The group from Kwara South claims that Muhammed “belongs to Lagos”, not Kwara state.
Similar petitions have also been written against the nominees from Ogun (Mrs Kemi Adeosun), Adebayo Shittu (Oyo) and Mrs Amina Mohammed on the alleged ground that she is not an indigene of Kaduna State. In view of these stringent conditions, can the Senate put aside petty interests and put national interest above other thing else?

I don’t even believe the assurances given by the Senate President at Ikene, Ogun State, over the weekend, that due consideration will be given to competency and integrity of nominees. Rather, I see the screening exercise as a golden opportunity of Senators loyal to the Senate President to extract their own “pound of flesh” from his trial before the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB). The trial resumes next week.

Therefore, the stringent conditions for the ministerial nominees could be a deft political strategy to twist the arm of President Buhari. With the ruling APC sharply divided, and the opposition PDP cashing always in on the split within the APC in the Senate, Buhari may wait much longer to put an Executive Council in place.
And that will hamper his agenda for change. Who says our politics is not interesting. -The Sun

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