Last Tuesday, the fire of anxiety among Nigerians about President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial list, which was sent to the Senate for verification, finally went down after the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki on the floor of the upper legislative chamber, unveiled the list.
Though Buhari had, through his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari and Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang submitted the 21-partial ministerial list to Saraki in Abuja, many Nigerians, even after the senate president confirmed the receipt through his tweeter handle, many Nigerians were still sceptical of the authenticity, until it was finally unveiled.
As expected due to the controversy generated by the list in some states, petitions against some of the nominees started pouring in barely 24 hours after it was unveiled. The first petition came from the Integrity Group in Rivers State against former Governor Rotimi Amaechi, who was accused of N70 billion fraud, and therefore asked the Senate not to clear him.
Another petition laid before the upper legislative chamber during the week came from the Southern Kaduna Coalition against Senator Amina Ibrahim, which the pressure and public interest groups claimed is not an indigene of Kaduna State.
It urged the President in the seven-page petition signed by its Coordinator, Barrister James Kanyip, to the nominee, a minister from her state, Gombe and not Kaduna, her state of marriage.
When the senators resumed for legislative business of the day, last week, it was the Senate Minority Leader, Goodwill Akpabio that in a jovial and at the same time with all seriousness inquired about the ministerial list from Saraki.
President Buhari had in a ministerial list read on the floor of the Senate yesterday by the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, nominated 21 nominees across 21 out of the 36 states as a partial ministerial list for Senate’s approval.
Though President Buhari as stated in the letter containing the list, explained that the list of 21 ministerial nominees is a partial one, but the PDP senators led by the Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom North West) kicked against the submission, arguing that the President had been given more than enough time by Nigerians to come up with full cabinet list.
Akpabio, who anchored his argument on constitutional point of order, cited sections 14(3) and 147(2) of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria to urge the Senate to demand for the remaining list of the ministerial nominees from President Buhari before approval of the nominees already sent.
According to him, since section 14(3) of the constitution states that every state of the federation must have a member in form of a minister at the federal cabinet. President Buhari should be called upon by the Senate to forward the remaining list for all to see in line with the constitutional provision.
“The Senate needs to urge the President to send the remaining list , so as to confirm that all the states of the federation have been taken care of, as far as ministerial appointments are concerned, more so, when Nigerians have given him more than enough time to do these appointments.
“ This is even more necessary in view of the fact that going by four months it took the President to come up with this partial list, if needed pressure is not mounted on him, it may take him another four months or more, to come up with the additional list”, he said.
However, the Senate President in his response urged Akpabio and the other PDP senators to give President Buhari the benefit of the doubt over his promise of bringing the remaining list.
However, shortly after the plenary, Akpabio and the Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang came to address newsmen where the Minority Leader made a U-turn when he expressed satisfaction with the ministerial list sent by the President.
Akpabio said PDP as opposition party believes in the unity of Nigeria and anything that will improve the living standard of Nigerians.
“We will do our best to ensure robust debate, fine-tune the policies of the APC administration to better the lots of Nigerians, and to ensure that Nigeria gets out of the current economic doldrums. So far, on a personal note, I am impressed with the list that was sent by the President”.
“I believe that he has kept to his word by ensuring that we sort out a lot of people of integrity that can salvage the country. But of course, the Senate will still do its work of screening and re-screening, and I pray that more than 70 or 80 percent of the list should pass through,” he said.
Also speaking, Senator Ita Enang said, “Part of our job is to do a lot of reach out and reach out to all the sections. And the past is gone, this is a new beginning.”
Among the 21 ministerial nominees whose screening would start from next week Tuesday as announced by the Senate President, were former governors of Rivers State, Rotimi Ameachi; Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola; Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi; Anambra State, Senator Chris Ngige and Ebony State, Ogbonaya Onu.
Others are: Abubakar Malami (Kebbi State), Senator Hadi Sirika ( Katsina), Senator Aisha Alhassan (Taraba), Lai Mohammed (Kwara), Adebayo Shittu (Oyo) , Solomon Dalong ( Plateau), Audu Ogbeh (Benue), Ahmed Ibeto (Niger State), Udo Udoma (Akwa Ibom ) and Kemi Adeosun (Ogun).
Also on the list are the former Chief of Army Staff, Bello Abdulrahman Danbazzau (Kano), the NNPC Group Managing Director, Ibe Kachickwu (Delta), Osagie Ehanare (Edo), Sulaiman Adamu (Jigawa), Amina Ibrahim (Kaduna) and Ibrahim Usman Jibril (Nasarawa).
However, Buhari had earlier named himself as the petroleum minister. This is similar to what former President Olusegun Obasanjo did when he was in power. His Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, confirmed Buhari’s decision when he spoke to AFP news wire in New York few days to the September deadline given by the president for the submission of his minister’s list to the Senate.
This actually led to divided opinions among Nigerians, but one major issue that came up on the matter was whether Buhari would be part of the screening by the senate as widely reported in the media. But the senate spokesman, Senator Dino Melaye said the president would not be screened like his nominees.
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 (PDP Plateau South), 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.
“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,” Nwaboshi stressed.
In his own reaction, Senator Foster Ogola (PDP Bayelsa West), said “President Buhari should justify why he wants to be ministers of petroleum and if he wants to be minister of petroleum, can he come to the floor of the Senate for screening?
“That is another issue, but it may not what he wants to do because he has appointed the group managing director of the NNPC to be among the list.
“He is the president and so, I defer his right and privilege to him. But what we are saying is in as much as he wants to be minister, does it mean that his state would not have another minister or have a minister or will his state present two ministers?
“Talking about the equality of states under the constitution is another issue in this country, but like I said earlier, I give him his own right and privileges as president of the country but there should be no time delay in bringing the names of the remaining ministerial nominees from the states that are omitted.
National Secretary of the Labour Party, LP, Barrister Kayode Ajulo, described the list as more or less , a mockery of Nigerians’ intelligence by the President.
Ajulo who spoke through a telephone interview with newsmen in Abuja, regretted that after wasting four months, Mr. President emerged with the same set of people he has been working with.
He said, “My reaction is to ask about the angels President Buhari promised us initially. If you remember, he stated that he was going to bring a new set of people who are clean who are clean but as it is now, it has shown that Mr. President is playing on the intelligence of Nigerians”.
“It is a mockery of Nigeria’s intelligence because after wasting our time, he has brought this list. They have been with him and some of them have issues of corruption hanging around their necks. I wonder the reason it should still be the same set of people and that is why we need to ask ourselves some questions.
“This government is very cloudy and things are not going well. That is the way I look at it. When I heard Audu Ogbeh, I thought they were talking about his son because he has a son who belongs to our generation. It would have been better than the father,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Senate has said the screening of the nominees would begin on Tuesday. Melaye told newsmen that the Senate is relying on provisions of section 147(3), section 14(3), section 65 of the Constitution for the screening”, maintaining that those provisions would be strictly observed.
The senate spokesman, who also informed that section 120 of the Senate’s standing rules which requires that a minimum of two Senators from the state of a nominee must have subscribed to their nomination, would be strictly enforced.
Part of the stringent conditions set ministerial nominees, which he said were drawn from the 1999 Constitution as amended, include proof of assets declaration, endorsement by two of three senators from each state and evidence of Nigerian national, among others.
According to Melaye, the Senate would uphold its convention on insisting that two senators from the state of any nominee must accept the nomination before he or she could be screened.
The senate spokesman, particularly maintained that nominees, who have held political offices in the past, must show certificates of assets declaration issued by the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, while calling on all nominees to as a matter of urgency forward 115 copies of their curriculum vitae, CV each to the senate before Monday.

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